Warsaw, 25th August 2023
Memorandum of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers: pro-demographic policy should not be abandoned, but without economic immigration, Poland will not maintain the pace of development
- Poland is one of the countries with the lowest fertility rate not only in Europe but also in the world. Demographic problems lead to problems on the labour market and with the social security system.
- Currently, migrants from Ukraine are helping Poland in its fight against labour market problems. However, many of them choose other Western European countries and Canada. Moreover, one should be aware that after the end of the war in Ukraine, many of them will return to their homes.
- Poland must pursue a prudent migration policy, open to foreigners from various parts of the world, especially from areas that are culturally close to us.
- It is also necessary to ensure safety. Foreigners who commit crimes and people who entered our country illegally should be deprived of the right to reside in Poland.
Poland is currently facing one of the greatest challenges in terms of society, the labour market, social security, and the economy as a whole. This problem concerns the country’s constantly and significantly worsening demographic prospects. The fertility rate among Polish women in 2022, according to the latest Statistics Poland report “Poland in numbers 2023”, amounted to 1,261. To achieve simple generation replacement, this ratio would have to come up to 2.1. This report indicates that the Polish birthrate last year was already -3.8 per 1,000 inhabitants. This is the worst result in the post-war history of our country and puts us not only among the countries with the greatest demographic problems in Europe, but also in the entire world.
Demography directly affects the labour market. As the ManpowerGroup report “Talent Shortage 2023” shows, as many as 72% of organisations in Poland have problems with filling job positions with new employees with required skills and competences. In practice, this translates into hundreds of thousands of job vacancies that could contribute to economic growth in our country. Staff shortages therefore translate into lost benefits for all of us.
So how shall we counteract demographic problems? A reasonable pro-family policy is certainly necessary, which will provide real support and encouragement for Polish families in decision-making with regard to children. However, even with a particularly good policy in this field, its effects will be noticeable on the labour market in 20 years at the earliest. Another way is to use one’s own resources, i.e. increasing the professional activity of, for example, women who often stay off the labour market for a long time due to caring for children and the elderly. Finally, labour shortages on the market can be filled very quickly and effectively thanks to migration policy. As indicated by the Polish Economic Institute, the total impact of labour migration in 2022 contributed to a one percentage point growth of the Polish GDP, and the labour market was able to handle migrants from Ukraine very well. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, there are approximately 1.4 million of them in total in our country (mainly women and children).
Current unemployment in Poland is at a record low. According to Eurostat, it amounted to 2.7% in April 2023 and was the lowest in the entire European Union (the Czech Republic achieved the same level of unemployment). It may seem that this is great news, because usually only high unemployment is associated with problems. Unfortunately, such a low level of unemployment means for the economy that there are problems with unfilled positions. This is what is happening in Poland.
More than 30 years have passed since the Polish transformation. Our country has put those three decades to effective use and has become one of the largest economies in the European Union. Just as Poles once emigrated en masse to Western European countries, today our country has become a place where foreigners come to look for work. In many industries (such as transportation or construction), foreigners make up a significant share of employees, and they form the vast majority of staff in many companies. Moreover, despite the influx of migrants, the unemployment rate has not been increasing for a long time and remains relatively stable and very low. This means that our labour market is still very receptive, and migrants are usually employed in positions that cannot be filled by employees from Poland.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was certainly an opportunity to supply our labour market with refugees who are culturally close to us and want to integrate with our society. Unfortunately, they are increasingly choosing other Western European countries, mainly Germany and Canada. These countries accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants, offering them very favourable social programs, training and language courses. Furthermore, they largely attract specialists, people with the highest competences, who are very much in demand on the labour market of these countries.
Poland certainly benefits from the good image we have managed to create in connection with helping refugees since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Cultural and geographical proximity and similarity of languages also work to our advantage. However, in the long term, this is not enough.
If there are no migrants on our market, who currently constitute a huge added value for our economy, Poland will have to consider profoundly grave consequences. Already two years ago, the Statistics Poland did forecast that with current demographic trends, the population in Poland will decrease by 4.4 million. Unfortunately, the latest data shows that it may be even worse. In April 2023, only 21,000 children were born in Poland. This is an inglorious record in the history of the central statistical office’s measurements. Today, such a difficult demographic situation translates not only into problems on the labour market, but also in the entire social security system. The migration of Ukrainian citizens has been a kind of lifeline.
Nevertheless, one should be aware that when the war in Ukraine is over, many of the country’s citizens will return to their homes. Moreover, many countries have already noticed an opportunity to attract Ukrainians to their labour market and offer them much better conditions than Poland (Germany and Canada mentioned earlier). To prevent the very serious consequences of the depopulation of our country and the aging of our society, we must act today to introduce a long-term and systematised migration policy.
Sensible migration policy
Today, the main sources of migration to Poland are our closest eastern neighbours – Ukraine and Belarus. These are people who are culturally close to us, perfectly assimilate into society, and are willing to work. That is why other countries tempt them with increasingly attractive offers. Taking into account the risk of a decrease in the number of migrants from beyond our eastern border, we should look for other directions today. We cannot view every migrant as a potential threat. However, we should focus on attracting people who will add value to our economy and society. People who want to work, learn, integrate and start families. People who see going to Poland as a chance for a better life.
Poland should be open to migrants from various parts of the world, although of course it should not forget about security. Therefore, illegal migration should be firmly prevented, as it could result in people arriving in our country whose activation on the labour market would be extremely difficult and who could constitute a significant burden on the social system.
Certainly, with refugees from Ukraine increasingly choosing Western Europe or other Western countries such as Canada, Poland must focus on attracting citizens of other countries that are culturally closest to us. Therefore, greater openness to Belarusian citizens seems to be a logical solution. Many of them have Polish roots, and a significant part of society is against the policy of the Belarusian authorities and is looking for a chance for a better life. Migration to Poland, a culturally close country with a similar language, but a lot better economically developed, may certainly be such an opportunity. Belarusian citizens currently do not have the freedom to move within the European Union and take up employment like Ukrainians, so it may be easier for Poland to keep such migrants on the market and encourage them to settle permanently. Poland should therefore consider introducing mechanisms to ease obtaining the right of residence and work permits, similar to those introduced for Ukrainian citizens. The simplified method of reporting the employment of a Ukrainian citizen works particularly well in practice and can be successfully used in the case of Belarusian citizens. Of course, we must take into account matters related to security arising from the fact that the Belarusian authorities are not favourably disposed towards our country. Therefore, certain security considerations must be kept regarding migration from this country.
These issues should be reflected in migration regulations, which should provide a chance for foreigners to start working easily, without many of the existing complicated procedures. Although it should be emphasised that Poland has made noteworthy progress in this area in recent years, many entrepreneurs and foreign workers still stress the fact that obtaining a work permit is excessively burdensome.
It should be highlighted that migrants who are culturally close to us are certainly of the greatest value to our society and the labour market. The experience Poland has had in recent years clearly shows that people from Ukraine and Belarus find their place in our society and on the labour market very well. Taking them in does not add significant social costs, and at the same time allows us to effectively combat labour market and demographic problems.
Nevertheless, as shown in the earlier point, it is necessary to be open to other directions of migration. However, this may create certain social and security risks that must be counteracted. Certainly, every person wishing to move to Poland should undergo a thorough verification, including their criminal record. Moreover, if such a person, while already in Poland, breaks the law (commits either a crime or a misdemeanour in accordance with the provisions of the Penal Code), in particular any crime against life and health or a crime of a hooligan nature and as part of recidivism, they should be deported without any possibility of return to Poland.
Another issue is allowing only legal migrants into our society. Any person who crosses our border illegally should be at once turned back and deprived of the opportunity to return to Poland, also legally.
Many countries currently offer very extensive social programmes for migrants, which are intended to encourage foreigners to settle in this country. This approach makes it possible to attract both people who want to work and settle in a given country, but it also encourages people who only care about obtaining social benefits. Therefore, any social incentives should focus on providing a chance for development on the market and quick assimilation, and not on offering an extensive social system – according to the principle of giving a fishing rod instead of a fish.
It is also important that migrants have easy access to language courses and vocational training. For the vast majority of them, their first job involves performing so-called “simple jobs”, but in order for them to be motivated to stay in Poland, they should have the opportunity to develop professional competences to have a chance for a better job in the future.
Finally, it is important to focus on attracting and keeping highly skilled professionals. For this to happen, it is necessary to ensure their qualifications obtained in their country of origin are easily recognized in Poland. Many industries in Poland urgently need to fill staff shortages with such specialists. Health care is but one example of an industry that has been struggling with personnel shortages: doctors, nurses, paramedics etc. for years.
The demographic problems of our country translate into many aspects of life of our society, especially the labour market and the social security system. One of the ways to counteract the effects of depopulation is to shape a prudent and effective migration policy. A policy that, on the one hand, will be open to migrants and give them a chance for professional development, and on the other hand, will ensure the security of our borders and citizens.
Find out more: 2023.08.25 Memorandum of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers: pro-demographic policy should not be abandoned, but without economic immigration, Poland will not maintain the pace of development