>Warsaw Voice: Polish government to lure migrants home

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Just as a follow up to my earlier post on CEE politicians fishing for ex-pat votes, I see the latest issue of the Warsaw Voice carries the following story by Andrzej Ratajczyk:
“Luring Back Expat Workers
10 October 2007
As the country starts to suffer from labor shortages, the government is trying to entice expatriate Poles back home.With the economy growing at more than six percent and investment soaring, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract suitably qualified staff even though unemployment is still hovering around 12 percent. This is partly because thousands of Poles have gone abroad in search of greener pastures since several EU countries opened their labor markets to them. This has depleted some rapidly expanding industries and several regions of manpower despite wages having grown substantially.Foreign investors pumped 6.2 billion euros into Poland during the first half of this year, 27 percent more than over the same period last year. Foreign corporations created more than 31,000 jobs in Poland last year, more than anywhere else in Europe, according to Ernst & Young, and companies with foreign capital employ around 1.2 million people.More than 50 percent of the companies recently surveyed by KMPG are directly affected by labor shortages and half of them have lost staff to better pay and development opportunities abroad. What employers most need is people qualified in information technology, finance and logistics. The country is also short of machine operators, construction site workers, electricians, locksmiths and other skilled laborers. Poland is lacking around 300,000 skilled workers, mainly in the construction and services industries, according to the Migration Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy.The ministry estimates that 1.2 million Poles are working abroad, mainly in Britain (310,000), Ireland and Germany (160,000 each). “According to our research, 20 percent of the 1.2 million Poles working abroad intend to return home, 20 percent want to stay abroad for good, and the remaining 60 percent are undecided,” said Labor Minister Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska during a recent conference on labor emigration. “We want to encourage them to come back. The average age of Poles working abroad is 26 and most of them are doing jobs for which they are overqualified. If Poland can offer them the right opportunities then they will return.”The ministry has drawn up a program entitled “Return” which provides a range of incentives for returning Poles to start up their own businesses. These include a two-year exemption from paying income tax and contributing to disability pension and labor funds. Old age pension contributions will also be reduced by a third for those who work in firms employing fewer than nine people. Applicants must have been abroad for at least a year to be eligible.”It’s vital that we encourage people to come back now as people make that decision of whether to stay or return during their first five years in a foreign country,” said Kluzik-Rostkowska. “This means that young Poles will be weighing up whether they want to return to Poland over the next two or three years.” Kluzik-Rostkowska says that family policy and the labor and housing markets will have to be improved if emigrants are going to be lured back. The ministry has set up websites (www.powroty.gov.pl, http://www.migracje.gov.pl and http://www.polacy.gov.pl) outlining basic information about the countries where Poles are working as well as the employment situation in Poland. The ministry will also be setting up an EU-financed online employment bureau at the end of the year where employers will be able to post job vacancies and applicants will be able to submit their CVs.The ministry is also planning to open special informational and advisory outlets at Polish embassies in the countries where most Poles are working, to hold job fairs and promotional activities for emigrants, and to develop Polish education abroad so that emigrants do not lose their ties with their homeland.The government’s efforts are driven by a number of factors not least of which is a desire to staunch the burgeoning brain drain. Lower GDP and higher inflation are the main long-term costs of economic emigration, according to a ministerial report on the subject.Reducing unemployment through emigration will strengthen the bargaining power of workers, and this may increase wages pressure in the current climate of rapid economic growth.Migration has its upside too. Monetary transfers to Poland stimulate the economy. The influx of foreign currency strengthens the zloty, improves the current-account balance, and makes Poland appear less risky in the eyes of foreign investors.Other benefits include increased demand for Polish exports, more business contacts and the work experience brought to Poland by returning emigrants.The main benefit of emigration, however, is a fall in unemployment.”
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