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The changing health status of economic migrants to the European Union in the aftermath of the economic crisis
  1. Ester Villalonga-Olives1,2,
  2. Ichiro Kawachi1
  1. 1Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Institute for Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ester Villalonga-Olives, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Landmark Center West, 401 Park Drive, 4th floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA; ester.villalonga{at}

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Trends in migration in the European Union

Migration flows have changed in the European Union (EU) since the beginning of the worldwide economic crisis in 2008.1 Eurostat estimates indicate that net migration (statistically adjusted for total population growth) increased in the region throughout the 1990s and peaked in 2003. Since then, it has declined. During 2011, there were an estimated 1.7 million immigrants to the EU-27 member states from a country outside the region. Additionally, 1.3 million people previously residing in an EU-27 member state migrated to another member state. As a result, 16 out of the EU-27 member states reported more immigration than emigration in 2011, but in 11 out of the 27 member states emigrants outnumbered immigrants. Therefore, in total, compared with 2007, the year just before the economic crash, immigration into EU member states is estimated to have decreased by 6% and emigration to have increased by 13%.1

In 2012, there were 13.6 million persons living in EU-27 member state with citizenship of another EU-27 member state. The citizenship structure of the population of non-nationals living in the EU varies greatly between member states. It is influenced by factors such as labour migration, historical links between countries of origin and destination and established networks in destination countries. Figures 1 and 2 show the countries that had a highest share of migrants in the EU-27 and the main countries of origin of non-nationals originating from another EU-27 member and from non-member countries.

Figure 1

Share of foreigners in the resident population in the EU-27 countries; 1 January 2012.

Figure 2

Main countries of origin of non-nationals in the EU-27; 1 January 2012 (data are given in million).

Who is a migrant? Conundrums of definition

The interpretation and comparability of data about migrants and their health status is fraught with difficulty. First, definitions vary on just who is considered an ‘immigrant’. For example, in Germany, people …

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  • Contributors EV-O and IK contributed to conception of the manuscript and wrote the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.