Labour Market Hierarchies between Intra-EU Migrants: Why do Mobile Workers from the EU-West Obtain Better Jobs and Wages than those from the EU-East?

Janine Leschke*, Silvana Weiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article examines hierarchies of recent intra-EU migrants from EU-West (EU15) and EU-East (New Member States 13) countries in Western European labour markets. We use data from the European Labour Force Survey 2014 special module on migrants and their descendants to analyse how different skill levels, reasons for migration and, concurrently, different job-search strategies shape hierarchies in labour market outcomes as captured by wages and occupational status. Our analyses reveal that recent EU-West migrants have jobs with higher wages and higher occupational status than recent EU-East migrants. The former are more likely to be highly skilled and more often had already found employment before migrating through job ads or direct employer contacts. EU-East migrants, by contrast, are more often medium skilled and found employment after migrating by using social networks. Different skill levels, migration motives and job-finding methods account for differences in wages and occupational status between the two groups. However, even when all of these factors – as well as individual and labour market factors – are controlled for in the regression analyses, labour market hierarchies remain significant, indirectly indicating discrimination. Overall, our results show that free labour mobility creates new hierarchies between mobile EU-West and EU-East workers in Western Europe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number16
Pages (from-to)4092-4119
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 23 May 2023


  • Intra-EU migrant
  • Job search
  • Occupational status
  • Social networks
  • Wages

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