Immigrants in Poland. Earnings and unemployment

11.02.2019 15:00|Marcin Lipka

"For the first time the Polish Social Insurance Institution, ZUS, has published a comprehensive study on immigrants in Poland. It shows that they earn less than Polish citizens. Additionally, among the Ukrainians and Belarusians staying in Poland, there is a meagre unemployment rate. In turn, the IMF data shows a strong, positive influence of immigrants on the Polish GDP, which unfortunately may soon be over," writes Marcin Lipka, Conotoxia Senior Analyst.

According to a study published a few days ago by ZUS ("Foreigners in the Polish Social Insurance System"), at the end of Q3 2018 there were 569,000 foreign employees reported for pension and retirement insurance in Poland.

Compared to 2014, there was an increase of approximately 445,000 people. The biggest change concerned the citizens of Ukraine. In less than four years, the number of contributors increased from nearly 50,000 to 425,000, i.e. over 8 times more.

Looking at the age of the immigrants, they can be a significant support for the ageing Polish society. The majority of people coming to Poland are young or very young. At the age of 19-44, there are as many as 430,000 people, i.e. 75% of the population that has flocked to Poland. They have many years of professional activity ahead of them, and if they stay, they could start families, which would at least partially reduce the effects of the expected demographic catastrophe. The percentage of women who came to Poland in the age range of 20-24 is more than twice the amount of that in the whole population.

Unemployment at 0.24%. Earnings lower than that of Poles

How much do immigrants earn in Poland? We can get quite accurate estimations from the ZUS study.

According to ZUS, the average monthly base for pension and disability insurance contributions in nine months of 2018 was 2,800 PLN, and in the case of all insured persons - 3,600 PLN. Therefore, wages and salaries may be a little over 20% lower among immigrants than for Polish citizens.

An interesting aspect of the Social Insurance Institution report may also be the number of unemployed immigrants. At the end of September, it was 1345 people compared to less than 570 thousand employed. As a result, the unemployment rate is about 0.24%. In Poland, the unemployment rate for people aged 25-49 (i.e. the age at which the majority of visitors are) was 3.5% in Q3 2018, according to Eurostat data.

This could be the end of a positive wave

The intense inflow of immigrants over the last few years has had a very positive impact on the Polish economy. According to the IMF report on Poland published in February (Article IV consultation), employment growth in 2017 amounted to 1.4%, but when we add the inflow of people from Ukraine, the number of people working increased by 2.8%, i.e. twice as much as in the case of Poles alone.

The Fund points out that much higher salaries attract Ukrainians to Poland. In the purchasing power parity (i.e. wages and living costs in both countries) in Poland, they are three times higher than in Ukraine. The IMF stresses that the inflow of foreign workers to Poland also supports consumption, even though most of the remuneration is sent abroad.

Taking into account the IMF and GUS data, the positive impact of migration on GDP growth in each of the last three years can be evaluated at about 0.5 percentage points. Unfortunately, a lot of evidence suggests that this positive trend may quickly stop, as the latest ZUS data published at the weekend by PAP shows that the first decrease (by 20 thousand) in the number of Ukrainians paying contributions in Poland took place at the year-end.


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