According to data from the Central Statistical Office (GUS) approximately two million Poles live abroad. The question often posed is whether having so many people abroad is beneficial for Poland. Alexander Łaszek, an economist, believes that, “It all depends on the kind of people who left. For those who could not find work or had jobs which required lower qualifications than they actually had, it is a positive phenomenon, as it reduces social tensions and budget costs. However, when smart people who have good job prospects in Poland leave, the economy begins to suffer, as these people represent human capital which directly contributes to the development of the country. Additionally, the fact that many people still send money to Poland is positive”. Research suggests that some of this money is invested into new businesses and education. According to GUS, emigration in Poland affects mainly small towns and villages, mainly from the Eastern part of the country. “It’s a real problem, as the Polish authorities are not able to create such attractive conditions in Poland’s larger cities as, for instance London. In some respects the British capital is, paradoxically, more accessible to Polish people the capital Warsaw. Salaries in Polish cities will not reach the level of those in Great Britain for a long time to come. The authorities can, however, facilitate the process of finding a job by improving transport or encouraging the emergence of a commercial market of apartments to rent,” says economist Alexander Łaszek.
Other experts are worried about how this mass emigration will affect Poland and, more worryingly, what will happen if the two million emigrants never return. Alexander Łaszek continues, “If they do not come back Poland will obviously lose out, as these large resources of people are of productive age who would be paying taxes in Poland. The negative impact on the public finances is additionally reinforced by the fact that pensioners are unlikely to migrate. Thus, the number of beneficiaries does not change, while the number of people who do not pay taxes decreases”. Plans are already afoot to reverse this process and somehow encourage people to move to Poland, although experts believe this will not be easy. “If Poland cannot make its own citizens stay, how can it be perceived as a country worth moving to?” says Alexander Łaszek. It has been claimed that Ukrainians will continue to come to Poland, but the fact is that Poland is becoming less attractive to them also. Łaszek maintains, “If anything, Poland is perceived rather as a stopover point on the way to Western Europe. Poland has to realise that without a strong economy the country will fail. The higher the standard of living in Poland, the easier it is to prevent people from abandoning their mother country, as well as attracting immigrants”. A decade ago, when Poland was preparing to join the EU, hundreds of thousands of young Poles were preparing to fly abroad in pursuit of a better life. Now, the discussion has turned to what Poland has lost and gained because of the mass emigration to other EU states.