7 JUN 2011
By Honor Mahony
EUOBSERVER / POLAND – Poland has been a relative bright spot in the dreary economic landscape of the European Union. But Poles have mixed feelings about life in their country and many are still going abroad to work.
Poles emigrated in their droves when their country joined the EU in 2004. By 2007, the peak emigration year, almost 2 million of them had left to find work elsewhere in the EU.
Many had taken advantage of Ireland and the UK's open-door policy to workers from the new eastern member states. Estimates suggest that in 2007, there were about 700,000 Poles in the UK and about 200,000 in Ireland – numbers far greater than had been predicted by politicians or experts.
The following year, the picture started to change. "In 2008-2009, a significantly lower emigration of Poles was recorded and also an increase in the number of workers returning to Poland," says a report by Institute of Social Policy at the University of Warsaw.
The figures coincided with the beginnings of the economic downturn. And many thought it marked the start of a trend. So figures published by the UK's statistical office last month came as something of a surprise.
They showed that the number of Poles emigrating to the UK rose again in 2010, having dropped the year before.
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