2001 volume 33(6) pages 1101 – 1123

Cite as:
Williams A M, Baláz V, Kollár D, 2001, "Coming and going in Slovakia: international labour mobility in the Central European 'buffer zone'" Environment and Planning A 33(6) 1101 – 1123

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Coming and going in Slovakia: international labour mobility in the Central European 'buffer zone'

Allan M Williams, Vladimír Baláz, Daniel Kollár

Received 19 October 2000; in revised form 21 March 2001

Abstract. The collision between economic systems after 1989 led to significant new forms of mobility. East Central Europe became a legally and institutional ly constructed 'buffer zone' between Western Europe and the CIS, Commonwealth of Independent States -- the former USSR. The opportunities for and costs of migration in the buffer zone were shaped by the 'double territorial shock' of the transition: reinterationalisation and the withdrawal of massive state intervention in support of regional convergence. The authors provide a comparative study of mobility and migration into and out of the buffer zone, through case studies of Ukrainians working in Slovakia, and Slovakians working in Austria. Whereas the Ukrainians are largely confined to the secondary-labour market, the Slovakians are found in both segments of the dual labour market. This leads to different implications in respect of `brain drain' and `brain waste' of international skilled-labour mobility, as well as amplifying income differences. The overall effect in both cases is to contribute to the reproduction of economic inequalities in the buffer zone, and this is explored through an analysis of savings and investment and future employment intentions. The conclusions are particularly pessimistic in respect of the wage differentials required to persuade Ukrainian migrants to return to their country of origin.

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