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Economic emigration: where are Poles going?

6 Oct 2017 10:39|Andrzej Tomasik

When a Pole decides to work abroad, the most common choice of country is Germany. The Polish Public Opinion Research Centre's (CBOS) survey shows that for the past 10 years, the largest number of economic emigrants from Poland have been moving to their richer neighbor to the west. Language skills significantly increase emigrant’s chances of finding a better job.

Praca w Niemczech

Germany's average monthly salary of 3.7K EUR is leading the pack in European countries. This argument, combined with a location as an immediate neighbor stimulates Poles to look for employment in Deutschland.

Netherlands advance and the Czech Republic debuts

In third place among the most popular economic destinations is The Netherlands. Last year, it employed 20% of Poles that are working abroad. Only a few years ago, our compatriots preferred the Italian market to the Dutch one. In 2011, 11% of Polish emigrants earned money in Italy and now, last year, only 5% of them chose that market. Poles were a little more interested in jobs in Belgium and Ireland, and comparable attention was directed to the US and Czech Republic, which in 2016 for the first time were ranked on the preferred countries' list by Polish employees. Although Czech companies do not pay as well as German businesses, in terms of work there are other arguments: a stable labor market, safety, health care on a high level and record low unemployment in the Czech Republic. In the case of a language barrier, it is easily overcome if Poles and Czech citizens show a willingness to communicate. This is why the southern direction of economic relocation may soon reach much more than 5%. Nowadays, factories located in the Czech Republic - e.g. car components factories - publish job offers in Polish and they try to find people willing to work who live near to the Poland-Czech border.

Youth does not know borders

After Poland's entrance into the European Union (2004) and the opening of EU markets, opportunities to take a legal position abroad increased significantly. Many decided to benefit from this advantage and the subject of economic emigration has become widespread among us.

The CBOS survey shows that young Poles do not need to be persuaded to travel to Ireland or other countries. Almost half (45% of surveyed people) of those aged 18-24 do not reject the idea of travelling for economic reasons, and 27% openly claim that they intend to apply for a job abroad.

Young people are clear that Europe is the most attractive due to wages. "...half of Polish families have to stand on their tiptoe for what lies on the floor for a Dutch or Norwegian family,” comments X-men on the forum of the Internet portal zinfo.pl.

In border-towns, many Poles work in neighbouring Goerlitz daily. They explain that it is worth spending an hour or two getting to work in exchange for earning three times more than they could in Poland so they can then allow themselves the perks of holidays, shopping, restaurants and cars.

More than two million Poles abroad

When CBOS asked, "Why are you looking for a job abroad?" people's answers included: low wages in Poland - 62%, gaining new experience and getting to know the world - 12%, lack of work in Poland - 11%, desire to gain professional experience abroad - 10%, and joining a friend or family member - 2%.

What is the scale of the phenomenon that we are talking about? According to data from the Polish Central Statistical Office in 2015, approx. 2.4 million people lived outside of our country. The largest number was in the UK at 720k and slightly less in Germany - 655k. Following those two countries, the difference was already huge: 112k in the Netherlands, 111k in Ireland and 94k in Italy and 84k in Norway.

From the CBOS survey, it can be concluded that of the vast majority of the aforementioned Poles that emigrated, 2.3-2.6 million are young people. Poles over 55 years are hardly willing to leave Poland in search of employment in another country.

Germany is still a good choice

"The German labour market is still attractive. Recent statistics show that there are almost 44.3 million people employed in Germany, which is nearly 700k people more than a year ago. In the same period, 171k professionally inactive people found a job, and now the number of unemployed people is twice as low as, for example, 10 years ago. In August this year, employment increased by 106k, compared to the previous month," says Bartosz Grejner, Conotoxia analyst. "If we look at the last 10 years, the number of employees paying social contributions at German workplaces has increased by 16.2%. The increase in employment among foreigners was impressive in that period, as it amounted to 75%," adds the analyst.

Want a better job? Learn new languages

"Statistics from the German labour market emphasise the need to have extra language skills. The employment rate among immigrants with basic German skills (according to Destatis) amounted 52.3%. The proportion of people fluent in this language has already been increasing to 77.3%, and is already approaching the employment rate of German nationals. The relationship between employment level and language proficiency is even more evident in the statistics carried on women. Basic knowledge of German guarantees a job to only 36.1% of female immigrants. Improved knowledge of the language increases the proportion to 72.2%, i.e. so exactly twice," the analyst points out.

Better knowledge of German may significantly increase economic emigrant’s chances of finding a more lucrative job. Immigrants with basic knowledge of the language in 43% of the cases get the lowest job position, and only 8.7% get more professional ones. "These proportions change significantly as language proficiency increases. First generation Polish immigrants using fluent German language, occupy only 14% of the less lucrative positions, whereas 30% of them have highly qualified jobs," explains the Conotoxia analyst. He summarizes: "Although it is generally accepted that a job depends on skills, education and experience, a lack of language skills can compromise the chances of a satisfactory job, even if the other criteria are met."


6 Oct 2017 10:39|Andrzej Tomasik

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