Western Europe loses its gloss

May 27 2008 by Derek Torres Print This Article

Back when the European Union put on weight a few years ago by adding a substantial number of nations to the family, many Eastern Europeans were thrilled with the news. After all, this meant the opportunity to move within Europe and find better opportunities than those that were available at the time.

But fast forward a couple of years and the tune has changed drastically.

After a surprisingly brief honeymoon period in the UK, Eastern Europeans are flocking back home in droves. As a result, UK permits for Eastern Europeans are at their lowest level in six years.

So, what is it that brought about this change? Would it be the outrageously high cost of living in the UK? Perhaps too many of these nations' best and brightest left companies back home in a lurch? You're bang on if you think both are right.

Only a year ago, it was commonplace to see lawyers and PhD students cleaning hotel rooms in London. Yet their absence from the home workforce forced a lot of business owners to admit how hard they were hit and make some big workplace changes.

Poland, for example, has dramatically increased wages for many white-collar workers as well as enhanced their workplace benefits to bring Polish business more into line with western European expectations.

In light of how relatively quick progress is being made in Eastern Europe, it makes me wonder whether or not we're right to continue to use strikea as an effective way to bring about social and work reforms. Perhaps it would be better instead just to use the power of the brain drain and try and make management get it done (and continue making buckets of cash) without us.