A Brief History of Migration and Remittances in Poland


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Poland has a population of around 38.3 million people, positioning it as the 8th most populated country in Europe. Its climate is largely temperate and seasonal, with relatively warm summers and cold winters. Although Poland is widely known as a net migration country, its favorable economic conditions are pulling in an increasing number of migrant workers.

As part of our Brief Histories series, here we delve into Poland’s migration flows and their impact on remittances to and from the country.

Poland’s migration flows

Since 2004, many Polish migrants have moved to other countries within the European Union, particularly to France, Germany, and the UK, according to the World Bank. These are among the sixteen EU countries that signed bilateral agreements with Poland on seasonal employment. An estimated 4.3 million Poles have been recorded as living abroad.

Poland is increasingly becoming the chosen destination for many immigrants in search of job opportunities.

Owing to strong emotional ties between Polish migrants and their families back home, a significant proportion of them choose not to settle in their host country permanently. Many prefer instead to emigrate for up to six months for seasonal work, returning back to Poland for the remainder of the year.

Although Poland is typically known in the west as a predominantly migrant country, the tide is turning. Poland is increasingly becoming the chosen destination for many immigrants in search of job opportunities.

In 2017, Poland issued more visas to foreign workers than any other country in Europe. During that year alone, more than 680,000 foreigners were granted legal residency in Poland, a significant proportion of them from Ukraine. An estimated one to two million Ukrainian citizens currently work in Poland, many of which live there temporarily to meet seasonal employment needs.

The geographical proximity between the two countries, coupled with low travel costs, give Ukrainians more freedom to emigrate for short term periods. From the Polish city of Lublin, for example, a bus service runs 17 departures per day to Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, affording Ukrainians more flexibility to return home to their families for large portions of the year.

Poland also counts with a fair share of immigration from countries like Germany (81,779), Belarus (81,363), and Lithuania (54,057).

It is also becoming increasingly common in Poland to see immigrants from South Asian countries, particularly Indians and Nepalese.

Impact on remittances in Poland

Polish immigration to other European countries has brought with it an increased volume of remittances. The highest volumes are sent from Germany (US$2.1 billion) and the United Kingdom (US$1.1 billion). In 2019, an estimated of US$6 billion were sent in remittances to Poland.

In correlation with the more recent migration flows to Poland, Ukraine is now the biggest recipient of remittances compared to all other European countries, according to figures from the World Bank. This is reflected in money transfers totalling around US$ 14.4 billion made in 2018 from Ukrainians in Poland.

Poland is no longer associated solely with high migration flows. Rather, it has become a country of choice for many migrants looking to make a better life for themselves and their families. The lower travel costs and cultural proximity between Poland and its neighboring countries offers migrants greater ease to move back and forth for seasonal work. This trend has led to a growth in money transfers, providing a higher standard of living for recipient-families. Ultimately, the relationship between show positive economic benefits for both sending and receiving countries.

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