Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

EU's Most Mobile Workforce Becoming Less So as Home Jobs Beckon

  • Polish workers less keen to move amid record low unemployment
  • U.K. is top destination for Poles seeking to work abroad

Polish workers, for years the most mobile in the European Union, are losing their interest in moving abroad amid a renaissance on the nation’s job market.

A survey by Warsaw-based recruiting and human services provider Work Service SA showed on Wednesday that the number of Polish workers considering emigration dropped by more than a quarter in the past year. Among those willing to work abroad, the U.K. returned as the most sought-after destination, signalling a potential last wave of migrants seeking jobs in Britain before the island nation exits the EU, according to the study.

Since Poland joined the world’s biggest trading bloc in 2004, an estimated 2 million Poles moved to other EU nations in a bid to improve job prospects and increase salaries. But with Poland’s $477 billion economy expanding 4 percent, unemployment at a post-communist low of 7.7 percent and salaries rising more than 5 percent in the last 12 months, the incentive to uproot and move is declining, especially for the better educated, Work Service said.

“To a large extent, this is an effect of improving conditions on the Polish labor market,” Maciej Witucki, chief executive officer at Work Service, said in an emailed statement.

Over the past 12 months, the number of Poles considering emigration dropped by 5 percentage points to 13.7 percent, according to the survey. More than third of workers aren’t considering emigration because of “attractive work conditions” in Poland, it said.

Emigrant Profile

Even as the number of potential emigrants is shrinking, it still represents a pool of about 2.8 million people, or 9 percent of the nation’s adult population.

  • 19 percent of those seeking to emigrate would prefer working in the U.K., five percentage points more than in the September survey and the first increase since 2015, even as Brexit makes longer-term living conditions there more uncertain
  • 40 percent are 18-24 years old, a 10 percentage-point increase from last year
  • 59 percent are employed, signalling that their plans to quit and work abroad post a “serious risk for the Polish labor market already suffering from labor shortage,” Work Service said
  • 53 percent earn no more than 2,000 zloty ($528) per month
  • Work Service’s poll was conducted by phone among 662 adult Poles between March 27 and April 2. Its margin of error is 3.9 percentage points
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