Polish migration to Germany, Austria unlikely to spiral

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The number of Poles heading to Germany and Austria in search of jobs is unlikely to spiral after they fully open their labour markets to Polish citizens on May 1, a researcher said Thursday.

"One should consider three scenarios foreseeing the scale of migration for employment to Germany and Austria," Izabela Grabowska-Lusinska of Warsaw University's Centre of Migration Studies told the Polish news agency PAP.

The first, she said, was that figures would barely change from those recorded in 2009.

That year, 415,000 Poles went to Germany, with 350,000 of them working in seasonal jobs, for example in the farm and construction sectors. Some 100,000 headed to Austria.

The second scenario would be that tens of thousands of Poles move from Britain to Germany, as the former remains in the economic doldrums and the latter rebounds from the global crisis.

"The last variant, as foreseen by the Polish-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is that the numbers from the first scenario could even double, although this is rather unlikely as Polish migration capacity is on the verge of exhaustion," Grabowska-Lusinska explained.

With a population of 38 million, Poland was by far the largest of the 10 mainly ex-communist states that joined the European Union in 2004, a decade after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

In the wake of EU entry, more than a million Poles are estimated to have left for Britain and Ireland, which along with Sweden opened their labour markets immediately to citizens of new member states.

Despite Britain and Ireland's slumps -- in contrast with Poland, which was unique in the 27-nation EU in maintaining growth during the crisis -- Poles have not headed home in droves.

The mass departures have instead given way to what experts dub "revolving-door migration", where Poles live and work between their homeland and other EU nations at various times.

Germany and Austria were among the EU members that opted to delay opening their markets to the bloc's newcomers, and some experts have suggested they could prove new magnets.

© 2011 AFP

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