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Poles in Ireland, UK following jobs elsewhere

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-31

With a considerable slowdown in Ireland and Britain's construction industry, fears of unemployment are forcing Polish workers to consider returning to their homeland, or seek work in other EU countries.

Up to 400,000 of the estimated 1.2 million Poles living in Britain and Ireland could lose their jobs as the global financial crisis hits the building and service sectors, according to a Polish expert.


"Roughly a third of the Poles in Great Britain and Ireland could become jobless as the crisis unfolds," Professor Krystyna Iglicka, a demographer with the Warsaw-based independent Centre for International Relations, told AFP.


"But it's uncertain whether this will result in mass returns to Poland," added Iglicka, who is also an advisor to the Polish government. "There are as yet no signals that Poles are returning home en masse."


"Of course there is the normal circulation of Polish workers across the EU labour market, with some returning to Poland while other are taking jobs abroad, in Scandinavia, for instance," the expert said, noting the Netherlands was an increaseing draw for Poles.


She believes a clearer picture of the impact of the crisis on labour migration patterns after the end of year holidays when many workers visit family in Poland and assess job opportunities.


But Poles who have put down roots abroad, buying property and taking on mortgages, are unlikely to consider leaving, according to Iglicka.


The crisis hitting Europe is likely to compound the slide in earning power already felt by Polish migrants as the Polish currency, the zloty, has strengthened against the euro and the British pound.


"Of course skilled tradesmen who decide to return will be greeted with open arms, but unqualified labourers could join the ranks of the unemployed in Poland too," Iglicka said. Poland had a jobless rate of 9.3 percent in August.


"There is absolutely nothing indicating that the crisis is making Poles return home in large numbers," Maciej Ligus, editor-in-chief of the London-based Polish Express newspaper told AFP.


There are an estimated one million Poles living in Britain.


Hit by recession, Ireland has seen 30,000 construction jobs vanish over the last year impacting the estimated 60,000 to 250,000 Poles living there -- a large proportion of whom work in construction.


Around half of the estimated 15,000 Poles working in Iceland's once flourishing economy have fled the country as the economic crisis grows there, according to a Polish diplomat in Reykjavik.


Poland's dynamic building sector has suffered a labour squeeze as qualified tradesmen flocked to better paying jobs abroad since the country joined the EU in 2004.


Tradesmen are in especially high demand as Poland builds stadiums and public facilities for the 2012 European football championships it is to co-host with Ukraine.

Date created : 2008-10-31