Between 300,000 and 400,000 Poles may leave to work Germany from May 1, when Poland’s western neighbour lifts labour market restrictions for Polish nationals.
A further few thousand of people are expected to emigrate to Austria, the other European Union country that on May 1 will abandon the work permit requirement from citizens of EU countries that joined the bloc in 2004. Britain requires that nationals of those countries register until the end of April 2011, while all other members of the bloc have offered unrestricted access to their job markets to EU nationals from the states which joined the bloc seven years ago.
Germany and Austria have been relaxing their work permit policy, allowing many Polish nationals to start working there even before the countries are required to lift all labour market restrictions
The language barrier will also be a discouraging factor, Deputy Labour Minister Marek Bucior wrote. German isn’t as popular or universally taught in Polish schools as English.
The new wave of emigration from Poland will be below the workforce drain in 2004-2008, when 2.2 million, according to government estimates, left the country mostly to Britain and Ireland, some never to come back. Particularly in Britain, Poles could earn much more than in Poland when in 2004 they could get 7 zlotys for one pound. The zloty has in the meantime grown stronger and the pound has weakened. Working in Britain has lost much of its appeal.
When Poland joined the EU, registered unemployment was around 20%. After some time in single digits amid post-accession boom, Poland’s registered unemployment rate was at 13.2% in February. Survey-measured unemployment, a more credible figure that shows the percentage of people actively looking for jobs, is lower. The average pay in Poland remains below the average for the western part of the EU, but so is the average cost of living.
Fluent English speaking Poles with trade skills are also looking at working in Australia and many come to the UK to perfect their English before looking to work down under.
Author: Chris Slay
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