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Agnieszka Fihel, Paweł Kaczmarczyk. 2023.

Emigration From Post-Communist Central Europe After 1989 Interpreted Within the Aspirations/Capabilities Framework


Comparative Population Studies. 48, (Oct. 2023)

This article belongs to a special issue on “Demographic Developments in Eastern and Western Europe Before and After the Transformation of Socialist Countries”.


In the period of post-communist transition, Central Europe witnessed complex and multifaceted mobility processes; permanent outmigration, of an ethnic or labour-related nature, coexisted with temporary, seasonal, or cross-border movements and an increasing influx of foreigners. To study these complex processes, we have chosen to apply a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than limit conceptual considerations to one theory of migration determinants. We focus on eleven post-communist countries that joined the European Union (EU-11) and on the period extending from around 1989, covering the EU’s eastward enlargement, to the present. The aim of this study is twofold: first, we propose a general conceptual framework, based on the aspirations/capabilities approach, to present the main determinants of emigration from this part of the European continent. Second, in relation to each determinant, we formulate research questions postulated by selected theories of international migration and present the evidence, based on existing empirical studies, that addresses these questions. The paper contributes to the literature by providing a broad interpretation of post-transition mobility and pointing to commonly overlooked explanatory factors. We highlight the importance of economic factors that have enhanced and directed the outward migration from the EU-11 to selected EU member states and selected economic sectors; in particular, as regards capabilities, these factors include the lifting of labour market restrictions, high demand in the secondary sector of labour markets, and the roles of migration networks and the migration industry. Emphasis is also placed on aspirational factors, such as labour market failures and the substantial aspirational gap resulting from improvements in high educational attainment in the countries of origin. The aspirations/capabilities approach serves well as a general framework of migration determinants, but its explanatory power is enhanced by reference to other, more specific theories of migration. We show that a combination of the complementary approaches provides a more refined and in-depth picture of migration from the region.

Słowa kluczowe

Migration theories, Migration determinants, Post-communist transition, Central Europe, European Union