Migrations from Poland since EU accession

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Migrations from Poland since the fall of Communism and the EU accession
Emigracja na pobyt czasowy 2004-2012.jpg
Migration, in thousands from Poland in 2004-2012 after Poland's accession to the European Union, according to Central Statistical Office, 2013. [1]

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, the nature of migration to and from Poland has been in flux. After Poland's accession to the European Union and accession to the Schengen Area in particular, a significant number of Poles, estimated at over two million, have emigrated, primarily to the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Ireland. The majority of them, according to the Central Statistical Office of Poland, left in search of better work opportunities abroad while retaining permanent resident status in Poland itself. [2]


After Poland joined the EU, Poles acquired the right to work in some EU countries, while some of the members implemented transition periods. The UK, Ireland, Sweden and Malta allowed Poles to work freely without any limitations from the start. Peaking in 2007, almost 2.3 million Poles lived abroad, [1] mostly in Western Europe. This has been the largest wave of economic migration of Poles abroad since the Polish emigration to the United States in late 19th and early 20th century, which is estimated to have brought between about 1.5 million, [3] [4] and 3.5 million Poles to the United States. [5]

Numbers of Polish

Emigration of Poles, relatively modest in the first decade or so after the fall of communism in 1989, [6] increased significantly in the late 1990s, with the share of emigrants in the overall Polish population growing from 0.5% (~100,000) in 1998 to 2.3% (~600,000) in 2008. [7] [8] The percentage of young people attending university has also increased dramatically since 1989 resulting in a 'brain overflow' by the time Poland joined the European Union in 2004. The number of young adults speaking English doubled in just one decade between 1996 and 2008. [9]

Since the opening of the labour market following Poland joining the European Union in 2004, [8] Poland experienced a mass migration of over 2 million abroad. [5] As of 2011, 52 out of 1,000 Polish citizens have lived outside the country; [10] estimated at 2.2 million by the Polish Central Statistics Office (GUS), and 2.6–2.7 million by the journalists. [5] [11] GUS statistics estimate that the number of long term Polish immigrants abroad have risen from 0.7 million in 2002 to a peak number of almost 2.3 million in 2007, [1] and has since declined to 2 million by 201011. [10] It has remained relatively stable at that level for a short period, following the uncertainty of Global Recession of 200708, [12] By December 2015, 12% of Polish labor population left for UK to work there. [13]

According to a 2013 survey, approximately 14% percent of adult Poles have worked abroad since 2004 (approximately a quarter for over a year); 69% have a family member of a close friend who lives abroad, and approximately 24% are open to immigration. [14] Majority of Polish migrants or those considering leaving are young; according to a 2014 survey approximately 90% of Poles under 34 have considered some form of migration. [11] Over the past decade or so, there has been a visible trend that migrants are increasingly likely to be young and well-educated. [7] [11]

Polish-born people in employment in the UK, 2003-2010 Polish-born people in employment in the UK 2003-2010 - chart 2369a at statistics gov uk.gif
Polish-born people in employment in the UK, 20032010

According to poll from 2007 for around 29% of Polish emigrants their job abroad is the first job they had in life. [15]

Professor Krystyna Iglicka has estimated that up to half a million Poles emigrated in 2013. [16] As of 2011, approximately 80% of Polish emigrants settle in the countries of the European Union. [10] As of 2013, the largest group of modern Polonia can be found in the United Kingdom (550,000), [17] followed by that in Germany (425,608), [5] [17] and in France (350,000 as of 2012). [17] Significant Polish presence can also be found in Ireland (115,000 as of 2013), in Italy (94,000 as of 2011), and in the Netherlands (103,000 as of 2013). [5] [10] [18] As of 2011, the largest groups of recent Polish emigrants outside EU were those in the United States (243,000) and in Canada (52,000). [10] The number of Poles in Norway, itself not an EU member, has significantly increased recently (from 43,000 in 2011 to 71,000 as of 2013). [5] [10]

Different regions of Poland have significantly different emigration patterns; as of 2011 the voivodeships of Poland with the highest number of emigrants were the Opole Voivodeship (10.6%), Podlaskie Voivodeship (9.1%), Podkarpackie Voivodeship (8.4%) and Warmińsko-mazurskie Voivodeship (7.5%), contrasted with much smaller emigration percentage from Mazowieckie Voivodeship (2.8%), Łódzkie Voivodeship (2.9%) and Wielkopolskie Voivodeship (3.1%). [7] [10] Overall, the emigration is higher in the poorer, eastern region of Poland. [19]


Primary reasons for the migration are economic. [2] It has disproportionately affected young Poles, in their 20s and 30s. [10] [11] [18] Reasons for the migration include higher wages offered abroad, [5] and the difficult situation of young people in the Polish labor market, [6] [10] related to the increase in levels of unemployment during the global Great Recession of 2008. [20] [21] Due to a large increase in the number of Poles attending universities after the fall of communism, the supply of educated workers exceeded the domestic demand and as a result many young Poles migrated to the west. [2] According to a survey conducted in 2011, 33% of those questioned pointed to higher wages as motivation for emigration and 31% to unemployment, with 3% stating professional development and 16% declaring family reasons. [22]


There are concerns about the effect of long term immigration patterns on the demographics of Poland, such as depopulation of regions that do not attract young people. [10]

Positive consequences of the migration include gains in skills and familiarity with global culture. [10] [11] Estimates also suggest that the emigration raised wages for those workers who stayed behind, contributing about 11% of total wage growth between 1998-2007. [23] The migration has also been associated with lowering of unemployment in Poland and remittances of approximately 41 billion euros in the Polish economy. [12] [24]

Returning migrants

With better economic conditions and Polish salaries at 70% of the EU average in 2016, the emigration trend started to decrease in the 2010s and more workforce is needed in the country, so the Polish Minister of Development Mateusz Morawiecki suggested Poles abroad should come back to Poland. [25]

See also

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