Polish Wanderlust Cured With Jobs Boom as Workers Favor Home

Updated on
  • Almost 70% of Poles rule out emigration, Work Service says
  • Polish workers lured by growing wages, record-low unemployment

Workers prepare wall sections for pre-fabricated homes at a factory in Bielsk Podlaski, Poland.

Photographer: Piotr Malecki/Bloomberg

Polish workers, once among the most mobile in the European Union, are increasingly finding reasons to stay home.

With unemployment at a record low and companies planning to hire more workers, the number of Poles ruling out emigration soared to at least a three-year high, according to a survey released on Tuesday by Warsaw-based recruiting and human services provider Work Service SA. Among those willing to work abroad, the most sought-after destination is Germany, ahead of the U.K. and Norway.

“Economic expansion, coupled with very low unemployment, has gradually reduced Poles’ interest in emigration,” Maciej Witucki, chief executive officer at Work Service, said in an emailed statement. “The limited labor supply has clearly led to higher wage growth dynamics, raising questions about the extent to which the conditions could be attractive enough for Polish emigrants to return.”

Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, 2.6 million people moved to mainly western European nations, drawn by better-paid jobs and looking to raise their standard of living. On the home front, Polish companies are now under squeeze from the shrinking labor force, which is forcing them to raise wages at the fastest rate in five years.

The rising employment and salaries in Poland have made consumer spending a key driver of economic growth. Last quarter, gross domestic product jumped 4.7 percent from a year earlier, the biggest increase since 2011.

Almost 70 percent of respondents in the survey said their attitude toward the prospect of moving abroad is “definitely no.” That compares with 50 percent three years ago, when Work Service began to monitor migration preferences in Poland.

At the same time, almost 14 percent of workers are considering emigration, unchanged from six months ago but down from nearly 20 percent three years ago. More than half of the respondents currently in contact with Poles living abroad said they didn’t expect them to return even as the situation on the domestic labor market has improved.

The poll was conducted by phone among 636 adult Poles Sept. 12-16. Its margin of error is 3.9 percentage points.

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