Poland’s booming economy means workers stay at home

By Dorota Bartyzel and Eamon Quinn

Surging pay, Brexit and record-low unemployment in Poland have transformed what was once one of Europe’s most mobile workforces.

Warsaw, Poland

Since it joined the EU in 2004, about 2.6 million of Poland’s 38 million people emigrated, leaving behind low wages and double-digit unemployment for more lucrative jobs in western Europe.

But Poland’s unemployment rate has fallen to 3.6%, below Ireland’s 5.6%, and one of the lowest in the EU.

And years of economic transformation have combined with the UK’s plan to leave the EU — Britain was once Poles’ favoured destination — for the EU’s biggest eastern economy.

Now nine out of 10 Poles reject the idea of emigrating, according to a survey published by Work Service.

That’s the most since the recruitment firm began the poll four years ago, when a fifth of the population was considering leaving.

Almost 40% of those surveyed cited “attractive workplaces” in Poland as the main reason they wanted to stay home.

“For the first time in the history of our surveys, we see a single-digit number of Poles thinking about working abroad,” Work Service chief executive Maciej Witucki said.

“Undoubtedly, it’s thanks to the improving situation on the labour market, which is not only weakening interest in foreign jobs, but it’s making people simply reject that idea at all,” he said.

Average salaries have risen at an annual pace of 7% for the second year running, bringing the average pay at large companies to about 4,000 zloty (€931) a month.

Of those 9% of Poles in the survey who were considering moving abroad to work, only a third said they might go to the UK. Now the favourite destination is neighbouring Germany, followed by Norway and Sweden, according to Work Service.

Census 2016 showed there were there were 535,475 non-Irish nationals in the Republic, or around 11.6% of the population. UK, Spain, Romania and Poland were among the largest nationalities.

“The Polish population in Ireland nearly doubled between 2006 and 2011 and then remained almost unchanged between 2011 and 2016, with 122,585 to 122,515 persons respectively,” the CSO said.

Bloomberg and Irish Examiner

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