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Bulgarian and Romanian immigration to boost UK tech economy

When January 2014 rolls around, 29 million Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will have free right to passage across the European Union – able to settle and work in any country they choose – without the need for additional documentation. Many to the right of politics are concerned, but KitGuru caught up with the Business Development Manager for IDG Publishing in Bulgaria and she had a more positive view.

More than most countries, the United Kingdom has been built on immigration. At various times during the last ice age, it has been connected to mainland Europe by ice and immigration was a case of ‘walking across from France and avoiding being eaten’. Then we have the numerous invasions by Vikings and others – leading up to the full French invasion around 1066. From there to the present day, each generation has brought a new wave of people – all of whom have integrated smoothly into the evolving concept of Britishness.

But there is also resistance.

As each generation of migrant worker settles, they normally take the more basic roles. Sometimes because of a superior skill set – but often because they are prepared to work harder for less money.

And they are driven.

The natives (an ever changing concept) always seem ‘softer’ and less willing to push hard in order to achieve success. The newcomers work harder. This leads to cries of ‘They are taking our jobs’ and ‘Taking over our neighbourhoods’. In reality, the existing people are doing fine and soon move on to new areas and their children – armed with language skills – climb the social ladder – and progress is made.

We're wondering how many will give up the horror of Bucharest for the, er, wonder of London

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Next January, when the Romanian and Bulgarian people arrive, the same cycle will be played out – probably with the Polish complaining about the ‘taking of the jobs and neighbourhoods’. But what of the benefits?

“When they first arrive, most of the purchases made will be sent back home”, said Yanka Petrovska, International Business Development Manager for IDG/ICT in Bulgaria.

“But since prices are high in the UK, initially there may be a tendency to buy second hand IT to ship back home to Romania or Bulgaria”, she explained.

We asked about salary differences and now understand that the average monthly salary in most of Romania is around €90 (around £80) – which will create quite a shock for any migrants picking up work in/around London.

Here in the UK, the minimum wage is close to €8 an hour – so working a 10 hour day will give you the ‘complete monthly income’ for a Romanian back home.

Work hard, every day in the month without a break, and you can ship back 30 month’s salary – twelve times a year. The red line on the following chart indicates the average Romanian salary.   Imagine if you could spend a few hours on a plane and arrive in a country where the average salary for someone in McDonalds was £250,000 a year.

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That’s going to be a stack of ‘well received cash’ back home, by anyone’s standards. But while ‘Helping those back home’ will be a primary concern – soon after it will change.

Yanka told us that after the initial rush to send money home, the new arrivals are likely to focus on themselves more.

“Migrants arriving in Britain will buy TV sets, notebooks and smartphones for their own use”, she said. And that is likely to rise even more once they have established a UK base and begin to generate a positive credit rating.

KitGuru says: Initially, there will be a drain of revenue to the East, but with a 30x ration on salaries it won’t take long for ‘back home’ to be doing fine. All indications are that by 2015, the UK will be enjoying a solid surge in both sales and house prices due to the influx of more workers from Bulgaria and Romania. We’re left wondering which migrant population will cause the Romanians and Bulgarians to cry “They’re taking OUR jobs” a few years later.

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