The U.K. is losing its appeal for Poles seeking work abroad.
While Britain is still home to more Polish expatriates than any other European country, Germany has become more of a lure, with about 41,000 moving there in 2015. That’s the fourth consecutive year that Europe’s biggest economy has been more attractive to them than the U.K.
In some ways, Germany’s desirability should be obvious. It shares a border with Poland, and the capitals Warsaw and Berlin are linked by intercity trains. That’s much easier than a plane or bus ride to the U.K., especially for temporary employees who shuttle there and back frequently.
But Britain has the advantage of language — Poles are much more likely to learn English at school than German — and wages that are generally about 30 percent higher. The so-called snowball effect also pushes family and friends to follow the path of the pioneers who’ve succeeded abroad.
Now the 720,000 Poles living and working in the U.K. face a new challenge: Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, which Poland joined just 12 years ago. Moreover, the vote has spurred incidents of aggression that sour the U.K.’s appeal.
“It’s hard to precisely assess the impact of hostility toward Poles,” said Piotr Kalisz, chief economist at Citigroup Inc.’s Bank Handlowy SA in Warsaw. “But these events will definitely be taken into account by Poles considering U.K. as their destination.”