Intra-EU Migration & Poland

Effects, Risks and Chances for Poland and its Citizens as a Major Sending Country

Seminar Paper, 2018

26 Pages, Grade: 1,3



List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 Fundamentals of Intra-EU Migration
2.1 Intra-EU Migration and its Legal Basis
2.2 History of Intra-EU Migration
2.3 Basic Effects of Intra-EU Migration
2.4 Motives and Barriers for Intra-EU Migration

3 The Influences of Intra-EU Migration on the Economy of Poland

3.1 History of Intra-EU Migration for Poland

3.2 Data of Intra-EU Migration for Poland

3.3 Drivers and Barriers for Migration from Poland

3.4 Costs and Risks for the Economy of Poland

3.5 Benefits and Chances for the Economy of Poland

3.6 Government Activities Concerning Poles Abroad

4 Conclusion


List of Abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

List of Figures

Figure 1: Basic effects of intra-EU migration

Figure 2: Migration hump model

Figure 3: Emigration, immigration and net migration between 2000 and 2014

Figure 4: Emigration and immigration for Poland between 2000 and 2014

Figure 5: Unemployment rate in selected EU countries between 2000 and 2019

1 Introduction

Though, there has been migration since the beginning of human life and migration within Europe is nothing new, the quantitative degree and even the reasons for migration within Europe have changed. One reason for that is the right of free movement within the EU, which was used by a total of 11.8 million people in 2016.[1]

However, the public debate on migration in Europe is primarily focusing on international migration from non-member states. In recent years this was dominated by the topic of the refugee crisis, which led to less attention for intra-EU migration. Nevertheless, intra-EU migration is a main cause for the high number of new immigrants, at least for Germany and the United Kingdom (UK). In Germany, it has increased noticeable in recent years, while migration from non-EU countries has decreased. One of the most represented foreign communities in receiving countries are often Poles. Back in 2017 for example, Germany had more immigrants coming from Poland than ever before. They sum up to 866 thousand, more than 1 % of the overall German population . [2]

The enlargement of the European Union (EU) in 2004 and the connected freedom to work in other EU countries was one of the most important stimuli for emigration in Poland´s latest history. Even before the EU, there were high numbers of emigrants leaving Poland. But the accession greatly enhanced migration, leading Poland to be one of the largest emigration countries within the EU. Even though the peak of emigration was reached in 2007 with about 1.8 million migrants, there are still many Poles going abroad to live and work there. In 2015 alone 123 thousand people have left Poland.[3] Nevertheless, the Polish economy is one of the fastest growing among EU countries and its unemployment is reducing, too. In fact, Poland was the only country in the EU, which has avoided recession the years after the financial crisis in 2009.[4]

These issues lead to the question of the effects of mass intra-EU migration for Poland´s economy as a major sending country and the impacts on Poles, both, those staying in Poland and those who are living abroad. Also, it is interesting to know why so many Poles have left or want to leave Poland. To answer this question, this seminar paper will in the first part give the required fundamentals of intra-EU migration and following that, will assess the effects, risks and chances for the sending country Poland and its citizens. After giving an insight into government activities concerning Poles abroad, the seminar paper gives a conclusion on the impact of intra-EU migration for Poland and its citizens.

2 Fundamentals of Intra-EU Migration

2.1 Intra-EU Migration and its Legal Basis

The European single market gives EU citizens the right to work in any EU member state based on the right of free movement and is guaranteed through article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. The legal basis for intra-EU migration is part of the concept of the four basic freedoms of the EU single market: free movement of goods, services, capital and persons. Countries and employers receiving intra-EU migrants must give them the same rights as their domestic citizens, leading them to be treated equally to domestic workers. Even close family members, who are citizens of third countries have those rights. Also, EU citizens have the right to build up a business anywhere inside the internal European market and can remain in the territory of a member state after they have been employed there.[5]

Limitations are justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health. However, the only specified restriction is considered for working in public administration. This restriction only affects official activities like police, military or judges. Migrants, who have not worked in a specific EU member state before, have no employee status. This means that they have no access to the social security systems in most member states (exception: e.g. Sweden). Only if they find legal work or have a certain period of payment, they will get access to welfare benefits and training activities.[6]

Across Europe migration happens at various points in people’s lives: the process of migrating includes students, workers and pensioners. While migration can be defined very differently based on its incentives, duration and location, this seminar paper will focus on the migration for labour reasons, in other words on cross-border labour mobility.[7]

2.2 History of Intra-EU Migration

Free movement has been at the core of the European integration project since the treaty of Rome in 1957, even though it was formerly intended exclusive for economically active people. The first large migration between member states of the EU happened between 1955 and 1970. These times were presented by high economic development and high demand for labour in the central-western European countries. At that time there was the precursor's version of the EU, which main objective was the creation of a customs union and a single market. Since there was not the same right of free movement like we have it today and a part of the immigrants came from non-EU member states, countries made recruitment agreements with sending countries like Greece and Turkey. The oil crisis beginning in 1973 ended the guest worker programs and labour migration dropped.[8]

In principle EU citizens have the possibility to work in other EU member states since the completion of the customs union in 1968. But since opening the domestic labour markets immediately was not possible, the member states agreed on transitional periods. Until 1961 EU countries could prefer domestic workers and migration was only possible, when it was permitted. This led to very limited labour migration, since countries used migration only to fill gaps in bottleneck sectors. By 1964 this discrimination was not allowed anymore, but EU citizens still had no right to choose their work place in other countries by themselves. Instead, only labour administrations could convey jobs to foreign workers. In 1969 EU citizens finally gained the right of free movement. But there was still an opportunity for countries to avoid intra-EU migration to protect their domestic labour market until 1992. With the EU enlargement of the south in 1981 (Greece) and 1982 (Spain and Portugal) some main sending countries of the years before became EU member states. Even after transitional periods (1987 respectively 1992), there was no influx of migration. On the contrary, there was a trend of return migration. The reasons were improved political and economic circumstances leading to better living standards and welfare entitlement in those countries. Also, there were structural changes in the receiving countries which led to less job opportunities and job loss for migrants.[9]

Since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, there is the legal concept of an EU citizenship. Moreover, it finalized the right of free movement for people, which today enables more than 500 million EU citizens to work and live in any of the 28 member states, regardless of whether they are economically operating or not. The only exclusion here is Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013 and whose citizens have still restrictions to work in Austria. In 2016 a total of 11.8 million people used the right of intra-EU mobility.[10]

2.3 Basic Effects of Intra-EU Migration

According to basic theoretical assumptions, migration is overall positive for both, sending and receiving countries. However, the benefits are not evenly distributed and distinguish strongly between certain groups.

Theoretically migration can lead to a convergence of working conditions and wages, if migration takes place from countries with lower wages and higher supply of labour to a country with higher wages and a lower supply of labour.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Basic effects of intra-EU migration

Source: Own illustration based on Molle (2006), p. 114.

This procedure is illustrated in figure 1. The graph on the right shows the development for the sending country. Due to the loss of supply in labour due to migration, the supply curve moves from S to S-m (orange supply curve), meaning that fewer people are willing to work at any given wage level. Wages will rise due to the leave of a significant number of workers, but also will lead to less demand for workers. If there is a shortage of labour, employers will have to attract workers with better working conditions, e.g. fewer working hours or higher wages. The opposite will happen in receiving countries (graph on the left). With migration the supply of labour is higher (orange supply curve), leading to more people working and forcing the wage to be lower than without migration. Since most EU countries have minimum wages, this effect does not occur. Nevertheless, it is likely that the growth in wages will be slower than without migration. It may also lead to more unemployment, since migrants are substitutes for native workers.[11]

The migration hump model shown in figure 2 can help to understand migration by visualizing the relationship between income and emigration. As wages increase, migration starts to rise until the point of income equality. When there are no wage differences, migration will drop, and the sending country may become a receiving country.[12]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2: Migration hump model

Source: Own illustration based on House of Commons International Development Committee (2004).

2.4 Motives and Barriers for Intra-EU Migration

Motives for intra-EU migration vary greatly. A basic distinction can be made by push and pull factors, which basically contain several economic, demographic and social issues of the sending and receiving country. Push-factors are determined by the sending country, creating incentives to leave it, while pull-factors emerge in the receiving country, which make it attractive for people to migrate to this country.[13]

Push factors for intra-EU migration include: Poverty, differences in income, low income in general, the lack of job opportunities, bad working conditions and the change in culture or mentality.[14] Pull factors include political and economic stability or growth in relation to the sending country, better job and income opportunities, better working conditions, geographical proximity to the sending country, access to better education and research opportunities and the presence of acquaintances or relatives in the destination country.[15]

It was found that the difference in income between member states is the most important driver for intra-EU migration. Other important drivers are better job opportunities and labour market conditions. The amount and the availability of social benefits for migrant workers also influences the migration patterns, since benefits are paid through taxes. This may influence the skill structure, since low skilled migrants may be pulled more by benefits while high skilled ones are more likely to be pulled by lower taxes.[16] People migrate not only because of economic reasons, but also out of desperation or dissatisfaction with their current situation. Other factors are the level of political freedom, living costs in general, regulations and the encouraging of migration in destination countries.[17]

Despite these drivers, there is quite little intra-EU migration within the EU compared to other integrated labour markets, like the United States of America (USA). To understand this, we need to focus on the barriers of intra-EU migration.[18]

Barriers to migration are as broad as its motives. They include language and cultural differences, love of one's native country, environmental conditions, family ties (especially presence of small children or relatives in need of care), loss of friends, homeownership status, costs of mobility, problems in transferring and establishing of benefits, lack of transparency of job opportunities, working conditions in other EU countries and the lack of academic recognition of diplomas and other courses of study.[19]

At least some of these barriers can be reduced with modern technology and the process of reducing costs in communication and mobility. However, language is a huge barrier for migration. It has a direct impact on the job and income opportunities abroad. Migrants are in competition with native workers, who have an advantage in language skills. This leads migrants with no or few language skills to work in activities, where only few language skills are required (e.g. construction).[20]

Differences in real estate prices can be a barrier for people with the status of homeownership. If a real estate could only be sold for a very little amount of money and a migrant cannot find a suitable housing in the destination country, it will inhibit migration.[21] Another kind of barrier is the loss of insider-advantages, like company and location-specific knowledge, social capital and a supporting social environment. Because these insider-advantages are growing over time, older people have more barriers to migrate.[22]

Even though the EU tries to get rid of problems in recognition of qualifications, this is still a barrier for migration. While there is already recognition for doctors, nurses, lawyers and architects, there are still many professions and qualifications without recognition left. Also, benefits regulations diminish intra-EU migration. An unemployed person, who moves to another member state can receive unemployment benefits for up to three months. If he does not find a job until then, he has no right for benefits in the destination country.[23]

3 The Influences of Intra-EU Migration on the Economy of Poland

3.1 History of Intra-EU Migration for Poland

With the enlargement of 2004 and 2007 about 100 million people have joined the EU, increasing the population by about a third. These countries had much lower income per capita than the old member states, what raised fears from an influx of migrants. To protect their own labour markets and to avoid negative influences for domestic workers some old member states, e.g. France, Austria and Germany, insisted on transition periods. These allowed them to build up barriers for migration for up to seven years, e.g. to obtain permits to work in a certain profession or to stay longer than three months. Although Germany had imposed transitional measures, it still had a high grade of immigration from Poland, but they organized it within special programmes and it contained a high grade of seasonal workers. Ireland, Sweden and the UK imposed no barriers. As a result, the UK and Ireland had to deal with a large scale of migration from Poland, since migrants had difficulties migrating to other countries like Germany or Austria. Therefore, the magnitude of migration was much higher than they first assumed. Also, the migration structure was unusual for its high percentage of young and high skilled workers. Furthermore, most Poles migrated to get work, not to get social benefits. In 2006 many other old member states (e.g. Finland, Spain, Italy) lifted their restrictions or reduced them (e.g. Denmark, France, Netherlands). In 2008 France opened its labour market to Poles and other migrants from the first east enlargement. After reaching the maximum duration of transnational measures in 2011, Germany and Austria lifted restrictions for migrants from Poland as last member states.[24]

3.2 Data of Intra-EU Migration for Poland

A certain problem about actual data of intra-EU migration is that consistent, reliable sources and numbers are missing or are hard to find. The only official statistical source is the central population register which is supervised by the Central Statistical Office of Poland. In the following, there are certain analyses based on this source. But there is a serious problem due to applied definitions: a person is counted as emigrant if he delists himself from the permanent place of residence in Poland. An immigrant is a person who came from another country and has registered himself as permanent resident.[25]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3: Emigration, immigration and net migration between 2000 and 2014

Source: Own illustration based on data of Statistics Poland-Online (2015).

Figure 3 illustrates the emigration, immigration and net migration for Poland between 2000 and 2014. In no given time there was a positive net migration. This means that Poland had a significant loss of population between 2000 and 2014, even though there was just little negative net migration between 2009 and 2012. Clearly, Poland´s population has decreased the years after accession, but even before there was a significant number of migrants. According to the Central Statistical Office about 1.02 million poles have left the country for permanent residence between 1973 and 2014. The actual migration is likely to be much higher since the statistic does not measure temporary changes and many Poles still have a residence in Poland, even if they are working in other EU countries.[26] The estimated migrant numbers for 2004 are 750 thousand, while migration reached its peak in 2007 with 1.8 million and has declined since then until 2010 to 1.6 million.[27]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 4: Emigration and immigration for Poland between 2000 and 2014

Source: Own illustration based on data from Statistics Poland-Online (2015).

Figure 4 shows both, emigration and immigration for Poland between the years of 2000 and 2014 as well as the connected countries. Before EU accession most Poles migrated to Germany and the USA. This changed drastically after 2004, when the UK overtook Germany as main destination. After 2006 Germany was again the most selected country for emigration, followed by the UK. Ireland also had a significant share of migration from Poland regarding the moderate size of its population.[28] Most emigrants in 2016 went to Germany (37.1 %) followed by the UK (24.6 %) and the Netherlands (6.6 %).[29]

Immigration to Poland is an indicator for permanent return migration, since it shows the difference for permanent residence and most immigrants to Poland are Poles. Contrary to that, many Polish migrants just return temporary as they often work certain times abroad and return for holiday or as a break between periods spent in another EU country. In general, immigration has risen since the accession and reached its peak between 2009 and 2010, which is the time of the financial crisis. After that, it declined until 2013.[30]

As a matter of fact, emigrants from Poland have different characteristics (like age, sex and educational level) than the general society in Poland. First, emigrants from Poland tend to be younger than the average of 39 years for Polish citizen, while persons below 19 and above 60 years are underrepresented. The largest group of emigrants in 2016 was between 30-34 years old. The second most represented age groups were 25-29 and 35-39. Females also had high emigrating rates for the age between 15-19. After the age of 39 there is a sharp decline in migration, and after the age group of 45-49 migration is negligible.[31] Unlike the pre-accession period, where the share of female migrants was higher than that of men, the number of Polish female migrants in the post-accession period was in general lower than that of the men. Since 2009 the share of female migrants is decreasing further, in 2015 the share of male was two times the share of females.[32]

Also, the demographic mixture of migrants differs strongly in terms of age and education between the destination countries. In general, Polish migrants in the UK and Ireland are more educated, younger and from bigger cities in Poland than they are in other EU countries. Especially for migrants of 2004 to 2006 most migrants tend to be very young (on average 28 years), in other countries they were on average seven years older. The differences in education were even bigger. In 2009 Poles in Ireland and the UK had the highest share of tertiary education (26 % respectively 22.5 %). In Germany, it was only 6.1 % with a strong attraction of vocational education.[33]

3.3 Drivers and Barriers for Migration from Poland

As seen in chapter 2.4, the lack of job opportunities is a main driver for migration. Between 2001 and 2003 the unemployment rate (UER) in Poland was one of the highest among European countries, ranging from 18 to 20 %. At accession in 2004 it was 19.4 %. There were no job opportunities for many Poles, especially for younger, well-educated ones living in rural areas. These circumstances pushed many of them to other countries with lower UER, like the UK (4.7 %) and Ireland (4.5 %).[34]

One other major driver for migrants from Poland seems to be higher expected income in the destination countries. In 2004 wages were five times as high in Germany as they were in Poland, in Ireland 5.6 and in the UK even 5.8 times.[35] But wages have more than doubled between 2004 and 2018. The average monthly gross wage and salary in 2004 was about zł2298 (~ €488.74 based on exchange rates in 2004), in March 2018 it has increased to zł4886 (~ €1150.40). [36] But there are still huge differences at the estimated hourly wages and salaries (excluding agriculture and public administration) between Poland (€8.6) and the average of the EU (€25.4) for 2016. [37] Also, the minimum wage in Poland is still relative low with €502 compared to the main receiving countries UK with €1400 and Germany with €1498. [38] The increase of wages is mostly because employers fear that people migrate, and they lose their workers. It is quite reasonable that especially in bottlenecks like construction and transport wages have risen more drastically than in other sectors. Also, employers arrange trainings for workers, give them loyalty bonus, company cars and provide them a career path in the company to give them more incentives to stay.[39] The difference of income leads to another connected driver of migration. Polish e migrants want to help their families at home and send them remittances.[40]

However, younger migrants stated in a survey that non-financial drivers like their personal or professional development, the easier living circumstances, the acquiring of language skills, friends and a global lifestyle are also very important for them.[41]

Those benefits must be balanced against the costs of migration, which can be monetary and non-monetary. According to the Annual Report on intra-EU Labour Mobility


[1] Cf. Manning (2013), p. 3; Braun/ Recchi (2009), p. 85; Fries-Tersch et al. (2018), p. 12.

[2] Cf. Statistisches Bundesamt-Online (2018a); ibid. (2018b); Spiegel-Online (2018).

[3] Cf. Kaczmarczyk (2013), p. 112; Fries-Tersch et al. (2018), p. 112; Okólski/ Salt (2014), p. 4.

[4] Cf. Worldbank-Online (2018); Bogdan et al. (2015), pp. 1f., 78.

[5] Cf. Haase/ Jugl (2008), p. 1; Brasche (2013), p. 98; Baldwin/ Wyplosz (2012), p. 222.

[6] Cf. Molle (2006), p. 104; Castro-Martín/ Cortina (2015), pp. 109f.; Flanagan (2006), pp. 98f.

[7] Cf. Gold et al. (2012), pp. 75-77; Mavroudi/ Nagel (2016), pp. 4f.; Oltmer (2016), pp. 1f., 18f.

[8] Cf. Brasche (2013), pp. 106f.; Castro-Martín/ Cortina (2015), p. 111; Haase/ Jugl (2008), p. 1.

[9] Cf. Brasche (2013), pp. 103-107; Mayes (2011), pp. 121f.

[10] Cf. Castro-Martín/ Cortina (2015), pp. 109f.; Fries-Tersch et al. (2018), p. 12.

[11] Cf Molle (2006), pp. 113f.; Baldwin/ Wyplosz (2012), p. 214; Brasche (2016), pp. 101-103.

[12] Cf. Samuelson/ Nordhaus (2010), p. 248.

[13] Cf. Gold et al. (2012), p. 78; Mayes (2011), p. 122; Oltmer (2016), p. 11.

[14] Cf. Molle (2006), p. 111; Gold et al. (2012), p. 77.

[15] Cf. Galgóczi/ Leschke/ Watt (2009), p. 16; Gold et al. (2012), p. 78; Mayes (2011), p. 122.

[16] Cf. Flanagan (2006), pp. 97-99; Pszczółkowska (2015), p. 15.

[17] Cf. Fisher (2014), p. 124; Pszczółkowska (2015), p. 8; Mayes (2011), p. 114.

[18] Cf. Mayes (2011), p. 121; Brasche (2013), p. 107.

[19] Cf. Brasche (2016), pp. 99-108; Mayes (2011), pp. 114, 122; Fourage/ Ester (2009), p. 54.

[20] Cf. Brasche (2016), p. 107.

[21] Cf. Fourage/ Ester (2009), p. 54; Brasche (2016), p. 100, 107.

[22] Cf. Mayes (2011), p. 121; Brasche (2016), p. 100.

[23] Cf. Baldwin/ Wyplosz (2012), p. 233.

[24] Cf. Meardi (2009), pp. 103-107; Pszczółkowska (2015), pp. 1, 9; Fisher (2014), pp. 120f.

[25] Cf. Fihel/ Okólski (2009), p. 187; Anacka et al. (2013), p. 19.

[26] Cf. Pszczółkowska (2015), p. 5.

[27] Cf. Okólski/ Salt (2014), p. 4.

[28] Cf. Statistics Poland-Online (2015).

[29] Cf. Central Statistical Office (2017), p. 520.

[30] Cf. Fihel/ Okólski (2009), p. 212; Kaczmarczyk (2013), p. 112.

[31] Cf. Central Statistical Office (2017), p. 520.

[32] Cf. Beaumont et al. (2017), pp. 35f.; Anacka et al. (2015), p. 28.

[33] Cf. Pszczółkowska (2015), pp. 6, 11; Okólski/ Salt (2014), pp. 18-21.

[34] Cf. Fihel/ Okólski (2009), p. 203; Pszczółkowska (2015), p. 13.

[35] Cf. Pszczółkowska (2015), p. 13.

[36] Cf. Statistics Poland-Online (2018a); ibid. (2018b); Fxtop-Online (2018).

[37] Cf. Eurostat-Online (2017), p. 3.

[38] Cf. Eurostat-Online (2018).

[39] Cf. Meardi (2009), p. 112; Fihel/ Okólski (2009), p. 225.

[40] Cf. Fisher (2014), p. 120; Mavroudi/ Nagel (2016), p. 12.

[41] Cf. Milewski/ Ruszczak-Żbikowska (2009), p. 10; University of Surrey-Online (2006), pp. 2, 8.

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Intra-EU Migration & Poland
Effects, Risks and Chances for Poland and its Citizens as a Major Sending Country
University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim
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Poland, Migration, EU, European Union, Economics, Polen, Europäische Union, Volkswirtschaftslehre, Intra-EU Migration, Sending Country, four freedoms, emigration, migrants, economy, polish, unemployment, cross-border labour mobility, labour mobility, Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit, VWL, Immigration, Migrant, Arbeitslosenquote, Rosenheim, Europe, Europa, Osten, westen, Arbeitsmigration, Labour migration, Chances, Risks, The Economics of European Integration, brain drain, care drain, mobility, european integration, europäische integration, remittances, Union, Europäische, Essay
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Dominik Bachmeier (Author), 2018, Intra-EU Migration & Poland, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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