1After 1989, the permanent emigration from Poland has been decreasing and replaced with various forms of short-term mobility (often described as ‘incomplete migration’). The change was brought forward by the facilitations of the cross-border movements for the Polish citizens introduced by the Western European countries in the early 1990s. Thus, the increasing mobility was linked to the increasing short-term labour migration. The pattern that emerged was of temporary migrations to the secondary labour markets. At the same time, the directions of mobility changed – the migration for the USA dropped, while the streams to the EU countries increased, thus diversifying the destinations.
2The enlargement of the European Union (EU) of 2004 was the major watershed in the post-1989 migration patterns of Polish workers, mainly for the sake of opening the new labour markets within the EU.
History of migration from Poland – A synopsis
3It is difficult to describe contemporary process of migration from Poland without saying what had happened in the past. Throughout the centuries Poland was a labour pool for the developed countries of the world (mainly the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and to less extend the UK).
4Over the centuries one can distinguish two types of Polish migrants: political dissidents wishing to avoid political repressions and labour migrants wishing to earn better wages.
The breakdown of ancient régime in Poland in 1989 means the new era, the new beginning in international migrations from Poland. Since 1989 one can distinguish couple of interesting trends [Iglicka, 2000; Okolski, 2001; Cyrus, 2006].
Table 1. shows that migration streams from Poland were intensified mainly in the 1950s and 1980s and it was strongly connected with the political situation at home. The decade of 50s was mainly a kind of continuity of post-war displacement policy of ethnic minorities. The 80s is a period of Martial Law in Poland, which pushed people to emigration. ‘Invisible, unregistered migration’ streams described the situation of Poland of that time. It is estimated that between 1.1-1.2 million people emigrated from Poland in the 1980s and only 27.000 were registered by the Polish registers [Okolski, 1994].
Table 1. Emigration from Poland 1951-2004 (‘000)
Number of officially registered migrants who left Poland
Source: Central Statistics Office (various years)
The first trend relates to a drop in emigrations from Poland as compared to earlier decades, since World War II.
The second trend of emigration from Poland is mostly related
to the duration of migration. Migrations from Poland of the transition period are predominately temporary and short-term [Cyrus, 2006], mainly to take up employment (registered and unregistered) and, especially in the 1990s, to make ‘social tourism’ in order to get social benefits in a receiving country. The biggest peculiarity of this period is pendular mobility, which reflects the movement of a swing. People, like on a swing, were pushed out from their homes in order to earn good money at the destination place and quickly pulled to their home places in order to spend money.
The third trend resolves the directions and thus migration tracks and relates to a shift from inter-continental to intra-continental migratory movements, namely within Europe [Cyrus, 2006]. In the 1990s the role of the USA had diminished, which was mostly caused by the restricted migration policy, diversification of migratory destinations within the European Union and the general political situation in the USA.
The fourth trend relates to diversification of migration directions within Europe, meaning within the European Union and the European Economic Area. During the communist period Polish people left Poland mostly for Germany, the United States and Canada.
The key hypotheses of this paper are:
1. New destinations are replacing old destinations (Germany has not predominated for the first time in the contemporary history of migration from Poland), yet with the proportional representations shifting (the United Kingdom and Ireland gaining).
2. The enlargement of the European Union in 2004 initiated the largest single wave of in-migration with Polesas the largest single national group of entrants that the British Isles have ever experienced.
3. Putting free movements of workers into practice with the biggest enlargement of the EU, which took place in May 1st 2004 by a group of countries (the UK, Ireland and Sweden) had helped to alleviate the scale of unregistered employment among EU 8 migrant workers1. Change is occurring mainly through the substitution of legal migration for illegal migration, with the young and the better-educated in the migration stream; and with those who migrate in the purpose of studying.
4. Workers from Poland who migrated to countries with unrestricted access to labour markets are more economically active, younger and better educated and less relying on migration networks than those on work permits in countries with restrictions.
Free/restricted movements regimes of the eu member states – An overview
5On the accession of eight Eastern and Central European countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia) to the EU in May 2004, the free movement of people from the A8 states was subject to transitional arrangements to restrict migration. The other two accession countries, namely Malta and Cyprus were exempted from these measures. EU 15 ‘restored to a variety of different restrictions ranging from limitations depending on sector or type of work, through quota arrangements, to work permits granted only when a national cannot be found to fill the vacancy’ [Traser, 2005, p. 6] applicable for period 2009 (up to 2011 in exceptional circumstances; 2+3+2 model). All EU 15 member states with exception of the UK, Ireland and Sweden imposed in 2004 restrictions on labor migration. The UK and Ireland opened their labour markets but restricted the access to welfare benefits; only Sweden offered A8 totally free movement regime: free access to labour market and welfare benefits [Stenning et al., 2006].
6The next group of countries, namely Spain, Portugal, Greece, Finland, Iceland (EEA), and Italy followed free movement regime in the access to labour market in May 2006. Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands decided in May 1st 2006 that restrictions will be alleviated gradually in the following three years. In September 2006, the Netherlands opened 16 sectors of its labour market to workers from the A8. Access to the labour market for workers from the new member states was also facilitated by Norway (EEA) and Switzerland (EEA). Austria and Germany decided to prolong restrictions to their labour markets for at least three additional years, and possibly until the end of transition period- 2011 at the latest. Germany however, continues to employ seasonal workers, mainly from Poland, in the agricultural and hospitality (hotels and restaurants) sectors [Kepinska, SOPEMI 2006].
Data sources on post-accession migration
7While analyzing migrations of the post-accession period, it is worth distinguishing and briefly describe the sources of data in order to avoid the methodological mistake of combining data on stock and flow (dynamics) of various sorts (the most common mistakes relate to the problem of combining administrative data with various public statistics or to relate data of case studies or Internet sources to general statistics). The only way to understand the portrait of post-accession migration is to make a constellation of data sources and treat them separately while remaining cautious of their origin and way of collection.
One of the most important sources of information on post-accession migrations are, apart from censuses (which are conducted very rarely, next round about 2010 in the EU countries), labour force surveys (LFS) of both sending and receiving countries. Administrative data, such as work permits, residence permits, identification and insurance numbers of the receiving countries, is only one part of the puzzle to the whole landscape of migration and cannot be compared and added to each other and to other sources of information on post-accession flows due to peculiarity of their systems of collections and aggregation. The difference between work permits data and registration data is crucial form the perspective of post-accession migration. Work permits, residence permits data inform us on the stock of migrants, while registration data, such as Personal Public Service Number in Ireland and Worker Registration Scheme in the United Kingdom inform us on dynamics of flow of migrants. Primary data sources of research institutions, may only deepen the analysis of certain case studies. But public opinion surveys may capture only the gist of migration process at the level of declarations of respondents.
In order to conceive the portrait of post-accession migration from Poland, the article presents the combination of data sources: from Polish Censuses and Labour Force Survey (BAEL) to Labour Force Surveys and administrative data (registration data) of countries receiving migrants from Poland
Post-accession migration from Poland – a portrait
8The portrait of post-accession migration from Poland is a mélange of continuity and change. The portfolio of countries receiving migrant workers from Poland is somehow revised after the biggest enlargement of the EU, which took place in May 2004.
9Migration from Poland has been increasing continuously since the end of the 1990s. The upward trend accelerated with the accession of Poland to the EU on May 1st 2004. Polish Labour Force Survey data reveal that in the third quarter of 2006, approximately 438.000 Poles stayed abroad for more than two months, about 128.000 more than in the analogical period of 2005. Most of these people migrated to get work (92 per cent in the third quarter of 2006), and they seem to be younger and better educated than the pre-accession migrants. Short-term movements continue to predominate, but recent data suggest that long-term migration is more and more important. Migration to the United Kingdom and to Ireland recorded the largest increases and dynamics. Despite labor market restrictions in the access to the labour markets for citizens of A8 Germany is still important destination [Kepinska, SOPEMI 2007]. Seasonal migration from Poland to Germany persists as a major migratory outflow - in first three quarters of 2005 approximately 305,000 contracts were issued for seasonal jobs in Germany, as compared to 307,000 in 2004 as a whole, and 292,000 in 2003 [Kepinska, SOPEMI, 2005].
Destinations of Migrants from Poland - What the Polish Data Revealed
10Polish Labor Force Survey data revealed that, similarly to 2005, the United Kingdom and Ireland registered the largest upward and the largest dynamics of migratory movements from Poland in the second and the third quarters of 2006 (table 2 and chart 2). In the Q2 of 2006 the number of migrants to these two countries increased in comparison with the second quarter of 2005 by 133% and 93%, respectively. In the Q3 of 2006 the respective increases were 112% and 117%. As a result, the number of migrants to the United Kingdom reached 121,000 in the Q2 and 146,000 in the third quarter of 2006, while there were 29,000 migrants to Ireland in the Q2 of 2006, and 39,000 in the Q3 of 2006.
Table 2. The distribution of the major countries of destination for migrants from Poland in the second quarter of 2000-2006
Source: Kepinska 2006, based on Labor Force Survey (BAEL)
11Germany seems to have lost its leading destination position in terms of migratory movement of the Polish people in the third quarter of 2005 when, for the first time, there were more migrants gravitated to the United Kingdom than to Germany. Table 2 shows that the proportion of migrants to Germany decreased in the second quarter of 2006 to 20%, from 25% in the second quarter of 2005, and in the third quarter of 2006 - 18%, as compared to 22% in the corresponding quarter of 2005 - the stock of migrants in Germany increased slightly, from 67,000 in the second quarter of 2005 to 79,000 in the second quarter of 2006. In the second quarter of 2006, migration from Poland to Austria had also increased (by 33%), the Netherlands (by 100%), and the United States (by 37%). Italy, Spain, France got lower interests of Poles in Q3 2004 than in the previous periods. However in the third quarter of 2006 Sweden recorded increases, which may reflect another kind of migration to Sweden, which is supposed to be short-term and of seasonal character. One can assume, the decline in the numbers of migrants to Italy is due to the outrage about work camps for Poles in Italy. Still migration stream from Poland is feminized, Polish women, who comprised 72% - 77% of all migrants to Italy in the second and third quarters of 2006, and who usually work in the domestic and health care sectors, reported an increase in the second quarter of 2006 in comparison with the corresponding quarter of 2005 (mostly so in the long-term outflow), and their number remained stable in the third quarter of 2006 in comparison with the corresponding quarter of 2005. Given that Italy has been a popular destination for migrants from Poland long before the opening of its labour market to workers from the A-8 countries, it is not unreasonable to expect that the numbers of migrants to Italy will fail to decline. [Kepinska, SOPEMI 2006].
New dynamics of migrations from Poland - Perspectives of the receiving countries
12Migrations from Poland after May 1st 2004 distinguish diversified dynamics of flow (not stock), pending on the receiving country. There is a visible shift of migrations from old to new immigration countries with the first one loosing (Germany) and the second ones gaining (UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands). These trends are proved in the administrative data of the receiving countries of the Polish migrants (Chart 1).
13Although the upward sloping of flow is an experience of almost every ‘new’ receiving country, the unprecedented growth of intensity of flow of migrants from Poland is manifested, after accession, mainly in the British Isles: the Great Britain and Ireland, which also relates to its seasonality of flows: shifts in summer and drops in the Christmas time.
Chart 1. Dynamics of migration from Poland after May 1st 2004 – Selected countries
AgrandirOriginal (jpeg, 1,6M)
Source: Own presentations based on Grabowska-Lusinka & Okolski 2008
Strategies of Polish people in the main receiving countries as hidden in the data sources of the receiving countries2
14The analysis of global strategies is worth starting with typology of migrants from Poland [Eadge, Drinkwater, Garapich, 2006] and their individual strategies. The superior strategy seems to be that of the ‘intentional unpredictability’ [Okolski, 2007 follows Eadge, Drinkwater, Garapich, 2006], explicitly meaning keeping each option open until other convenient perspective won’t appear (initiating migration, continuing migration, going up into ranks, inter-sectoral mobility, and return migration). This strategy, impossible to be applied in the pre-accession period due to labor market restrictions in place, is the post-accession phenomena. The strategy is also a cliché of free movement of labour within the EU and non-self constraining feelings of migrants. The dynamics of flow to the British Isles also mirror the strategy of intentional unpredictability, which often relates to the ‘on spec’, wait and see.
15Three other strategies implied [Okolski, 2007]: seasonal movements (resembles Piore’s birds of passage and was named as that of “storks”); one time migration with a robust intention of return and resettlement in Poland upon saving enough money to successfully invest there (named as “hamster’s” strategy); a strong intention to settle down in Britain and make a career and follow the pattern of natives (“stayer’s strategy”).
16Enumerated strategies may be a good point to analysis of global strategies – as hidden behind the statistics of the receiving countries. One may identify a lot of peculiarities in the data sources on the Polish migrants such as: sectoral strategy and Polish migration dense sectors; strategy of delayed spatial dispersion, strategy of latent depreciation of qualifications, ‘greedy for work’ strategy and family strategy.
Sectoral Srategy and ‘Polish Migration Dense Sectors’
17Post-accession sectoral allocations of migrants from Poland are circumstanced with constellation of both micro and macro factors such as: regulations/ deregulations in the access to the labor market/ sector, gender, nationality and migration networks. These determinants may favor migration density of Polish people in the certain sectors, which may, in some cases, also caused the ethnic concentration.
18One may assume that post-accession deregulations in the access to the labour market in selected countries might enhance sectoral de-concentration, which is not the post-accession case. In countries with unrestricted access to labour market, there is a small shift from agriculture to other sectors (e.g. Ireland) and new migration density in construction (e.g. Ireland and the Great Britain).
19There is also misleading motion on sectoral allocation in the Great Britain as visible in the data of the post-accession register ‘Worker Registration Scheme’ that Polish people are predominately employed in ‘Administration, business and management’ sector (Table 3).
Table 3. Sectoral allocation of migrants from EU 8 (%) in WRS, May- December 2006
All “A8” countries
Admin, Business & Management Services
Hospitality & Catering
Health & Medical Services
Retail & Related Services
Construction & Land Services
Entertainment & Leisure
Total Top Ten
Total – Other Occupations / Not Stated
Source : Home Office 2007.
20The other source of public statistics, Labour Force Survey, shows different sectoral allocation of Polish people in the Great Britain (Table 4).
Table 4. Total numbers and percentage of Polish people employed in the Great Britain according to sectors and gender
Sectors according to classification of 2003
Number of employed
% of employed
55 :Hotels and restaurants
63:Assisting in transports and travel offices
15:Production of ford and beverages
74 : Other
55 : Hotels and restaurants
74 : Other
85 :Heath and social services
Source : Fihel, Pietka 2007 based on Labour Force Survey.
21Why is there a discrepancy between the two sources of data? First of all, it relates to peculiarities of these two sources and secondly to the driving force allocating migrant workers in the certain sector. It has been recently discovered that recruitment agencies are pushing down migrants from Poland to sector “Administration, business and management”, even though the people are employed in agriculture or production sector but doing some administrative jobs.
22Cases of sectoral allocations of migrants from Poland in: Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands sustain the pre-accession status quo.
Strategy of delayed spatial dispersion
23Spatial allocation of Polish migrants in the receiving countries makes another important dimension for scientific inquiry of mobility: its change or status quo. The change of spatial allocations of migrants from Poland has been mostly an experience of new receiving countries and even less narrow category, those with the highest dynamics of inflow from Poland, namely the Great Britain and Ireland. This means countries with newly established migration networks. The status quo relates to countries with well established migrants’ networks apart from the level of deregulations in the access to the labour market.
24In those countries which have been experiencing the highest dynamics of inflow of Polish people since May 1st 2004, there may be visible an effect of delayed spatial dispersion of migration stream of the Polish people. At the initial post-accession period people mostly gravitated to metropolises, capitals and latter on, around mid-2005, have started dispersing spatially: initially to the suburbs of capital cities, then to further peripheries and finally started reaching the distant, entirely new, from Polish migration perspective, locations (such as e.g. Scotland in the UK and County Mayo in Ireland). The dispersion is much quicker and more intense in Great Britain, Ireland may experience some delayed trend and the country is more spatially diverged, which may consist stronger and well-established gravitation to the capital city (Map 1).
25Countries with well established networks both formal and informal such as: Spain, Italy, the Netherlands of new immigration countries and Germany of old immigration country, may sustain the pre-accession patterns of spatial allocations with one note that in Southern Europe there is strong density around and in big cities, even capitals and in Germany the Polish migrants are spatially allocated in more sustainable way across countryside.
26The spatial allocation of Polish people is also strongly connected with sectoral allocation, making migration geography more interesting. The phenomenon has been, until now, explored only in the Great Britain [Bauere, Densham, Millar, Salt, 2007], saying that there are localities with Polish dense sectors and localities with other EU 8 dense sectors, which means that certain sectors are occupied by Lithuanian and Polish people search for another sectors to and localities to be occupied (the rule is reciprocal and relates also to other nationalities of the EU8).
Map 1. Pre- and post-accession dispersion of Polish people in UK and Ireland
AgrandirOriginal (jpeg, 1008k)
Source: Own presentations based on various source
Strategy of latent depreciation of qualifications
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