With companies short of staff, more people have been coming to Poland to work. Last year, Poland gave over 300,000 work permits to foreigners, which is a huge increase from the year before.

Like other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland has faced a labor shortage in recent years. With unemployment extremely low, many Polish companies have been struggling to find qualified workers. If the shortage worsens, it could hamper the country’s economic growth, specialists in the country and abroad have warned.

Companies have responded by hiring people from abroad. In 2018, Poland issued 328,768 work permits, 40 percent more than the previous year and almost five times more than in 2015, according to the Central Statistical Office (GUS).

Issued be regional officials (voivodes), the permits allow people from outside the EU to work legally in Poland (they also require a visa or other valid document).

The permits were issued to citizens of 125 countries, with over 70 percent going to Ukrainians, the largest non-EU group working in the country. People from Nepal (6.1 percent) and Belarus were next, followed by India and Bangladesh, reflecting the recent increase in labour migration from South Asia to Poland.

Men or women?

Most of the migrants were men, with over three-quarters of the permits issued to them. They worked in four main sectors: administration and support, construction, industrial processing and transport or warehouse management.

In terms of destinations, by far the most permits – almost a quarter of them – were issued by Mazowsze, the region around Warsaw, followed the western region of Wielkopoznań, where many factories are located and unemployment tends to be lowest.

Ticking timebomb

While the number of permits issued could increase this year, experts note that the challenge for Poland will be to continue attracting workers from abroad and encouraging them to stay.  

“Poland could also face severe labor shortages if foreign workers were to leave in response to new opportunities elsewhere in the region,” the IMF noted in a press release earlier this year. 

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