Millions of east Europeans have left poorer countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania or Bulgaria in recent years for better-paid jobs in western Europe, leaving massive labour market gaps behind. But with prospects improving and wages rising due to a shortage of workers, official data show tens of thousands of people returning. Laura Frykberg reports.
It was thirst for opportunity, that led Imre Molnar to move from East to West. But the Hungarian and his partner soon realised chasing that dream wasn't the reality. So he returned, to open this tradional restaurant. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) WINE BAR OWNER, IMRE MOLNAR SAYING: "We found Switzerland very different, it's beautiful but the society is closed and we did not feel at home as we do here in Budapest." It's the right fit for many other Hungarians too. 17,000 returned last year, 2,000 more than a year earlier. Lured by rising wages, cheap living and of course, the comforts of home. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) BOSCH EMPLOYEE, MATE MUSKAT, SAYING: "My motivation for returning home was also that my family and friends live in Hungary and I am very fond of the country." Companies are also heading to the country. Robert Bosch hired 2,000 Hungarians last year alone. While service sector firm BlackRock opened a Budapest branch in January. The government leaving its door wide open for more investment. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FOREIGN MINISTER PETER SZIJJARTO SAYING: "I think that can be the only good instrument to convince Hungarians to come back or very skilled Hungarians not to think about leaving the country but working here in Hungary." The trend is the same in other Eastern European countries. More than 9,000 Bulgarians have returned each year since 2014, Poland also saw more coming in than leaving last year. The same can't be said for the once popular destination of Britain - The number of people heading there from the EU fell by 51,000 year-on-year.