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The Emigration/Immigration Balance | Poland |

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The Emigration/Immigration Balance

Stefan Alscher

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If we look simply at the "numbers", emigration clearly outweighs immigration. Discounting seasonal workers from neighbouring states to the east, there are hardly any immigrants to be found in rural areas.

However, the multicultural nature of some districts of Warsaw and other major cities is an indication that immigration is on the rise.

Figure 1: Major destinations of emigrants in 2006 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Since 1 May 2004, the Republic of Poland has been a member of the European Union. In addition to the developments mentioned which indicate Poland is becoming a destination country for migration, increasing temporary work migration, so-called circular migration, has also been observed. This includes Polish citizens who work predominantly in Germany, as well as citizens from countries of the former Soviet Union who work in Poland. This circular migration among migrant Polish workers, however, is by no means a new phenomenon, but has been observed since as early as the 1980s. In addition, since Poland joined the EU, its workers have increasingly migrated to other EU states, in particular the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Figure 2: Emigration and immigration, 1960-2006 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

Between 1980 and 1989, an estimated 1.1 to 1.3 million Polish citizens were considered long-term emigrants (residing in a foreign country for at least a year), not taking into account the several hundred thousands of ethnic Germans (Aussiedler) who do not appear in the official statistics. Although the number of immigrants to Poland has increased since the beginning of the 1990s (see figure 2), the migration balance has continued to remain negative. In 2006 emigration from Poland increased sharply. Whereas between 1990 and 2005 the number of emigrants was approximately 20 000 to 25 000 people per year, this number rose in 2006 to nearly 47 000 people (migration balance 2006: -36 100 people). This corresponds to an increase of 111% compared with the previous year.

This high increase is based primarily on the migration of Polish workers to the United Kingdom, one of the countries that immediately opened its labour market to citizens of the accession countries. According to data in the Labour Force Survey carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in the third quarter of 2006 about 438 000 Polish citizens spent more than two months abroad. Compared with the corresponding quarter in the previous year this represents an increase of 128 000 people. If we consider not only Polish citizens but also people of Polish descent, according to Polish state estimates, the Polish diaspora (the so-called Polonia) comprises between 15 and 18 million people worldwide.



  1. For further information about the free movement of workers in the context of the EU's eastern expansion in 2004 see Heinen, M. and Pegels, A. (2006): "https://EU Expansion and the Free Movement of Workers: Do Continued Restrictions Make Sense for Germany?".

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