More than 2.3 million Romanians and 533,000 Bulgarians aged between 20 and 64 were living in another European country last year, according to a report by the EU statistics agency.
A fifth of Romanians, a sixth of Croatians and an eighth of Bulgarians between 20 and 64 years old resided primarily in another EU country in 2017, said a report by the EU statistics agency Eurostat that was published on Monday.
The figures - 19.7 per cent for Romania, 14 per cent for Croatia and 12.5 per cent for Bulgaria - are several times higher than the average for the EU, which stands at 3.8 per cent.
This represents an increase of 2.5 per cent from 2007, before the EU’s three newest members joined the bloc.
However it is not only skilled and highly-educated citizens who have been leaving the three countries for other EU states.
A much larger proportion of those living abroad have only primary education, while the numbers of highly-educated people living abroad are similar to the numbers of those living at home.
The employment rate among EU citizens living away from their home countries stood at 76 per cent in 2017, ranging from 82.9 per cent for Slovenes, 79.8 per cent for Croats, 71.2 per cent for Romanians and 68.7 per cent for Bulgarians.
This is comparatively higher result than the EU average employment rate of 72 per cent for people of active age. Citizens of Romania and Croatia are much more likely to be employed if they live abroad rather than at home, although Bulgarians are almost equally likely to have a job at home as abroad.
Employment rates for 'mobile' EU citizens have increased faster over the last decade than for the total population, the Eurostat report says. Low-skilled EU citizens living abroad have systematically higher employment rates than the unskilled workforce in their home countries, it adds.
The countries with the least mobile populations in the EU are Britain and Germany, with an average of around one per cent of their citizens living abroad.
In numerical terms, the countries with most citizens aged 20-64 living abroad in 2017 were Romania (2,366,000 people), Poland (1,762,100 people), Italy (1,099,700 people), Portugal (847,700 people) and Bulgaria (533,900 people).
Romanians also tops the chart when it comes to an increase in emigration – over the past decade, the amount of Romanians living abroad increased from 12.3 to 19.7 per cent.
Although the report states that, on average for the EU, those living abroad in another EU country were more likely to have attained tertiary level education than those residing in the country of which they are citizens, this does not apply for all nationalities.
The proportion of Bulgarians and Croatians with a university diploma working abroad is slightly higher than among the active population within the countries themselves, while for Romanians the level is almost the same.
This means that the three countries do not only send their most educated citizens abroad.
The reverse phenomenon is much more visible – the proportion of Bulgarians, Croatians and Romanians with only primary education who live abroad substantially exceeds the proportion of people with the same level of schooling who remain in their home countries
Just 16.7 per cent of Bulgarians only had primary education in 2017, while almost twice as many who live in another EU country - 36.3 per cent - only went to primary school. The percentage difference for Romania and Croatia is not as pronounced, but the trend is comparable.