Flourishing East European economies a blow for Dutch businesses: ABN Amro

Eastern Europe is flourishing, with falling unemployment and rising wages. While this is great news for countries like Romania and Poland, it is a blow to the Dutch business world. Especially for companies that are increasingly dependent on migrant workers, ABN Amro said in a new report on labor migration, RTL Nieuws reports.

Workers from countries like Poland and Romania are less and less willing to come work in the Netherlands. And that makes sense, according to the bank. Eastern Europe has had a number of years of economic growth, growing 4 percent on average in the region. Poland even recorded 5 percent of growth in 2018. 

The economic growth means that unemployment is falling. In all the countries in this region, unemployment is below the European average. In Poland, unemployment fell from 10 percent in 2014 to under 4 percent last year. And the tension on the Eastern European labor market is in turn driving up wages. According to ABN Amro, wages in Poland and Romania increased by 6 percent and 30 percent respectively last year. While in the Netherlands, wages increased by only 0.5 percent. 

Minimum wage, which many piratically trained labor migrants earn, increased in Eastern Europe by dozens of percentage points over the past years. For practically trained workers, it is therefore increasingly beneficial to work in their own country, instead of going to other countries like the Netherlands. As a result, the number of migrant workers in the Netherlands has been decreasing since 2014. And this while Dutch companies are desperate for workers, due to tightness on the Dutch labor market. A quarter of companies say that their growth is being hampered by staff shortages, according to the bank.

Statistics Netherlands previously calculated that the Dutch economy is short 50 thousand migrant workers. This could result in new migration flows, ABN Amro expects. People from Ukraine, the Balkans or Southeast Asia could fill the gaps in the Dutch labor market. Sectors may also invest in robotization and automation, so that staff shortages can be filled by machines.