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Anti-immigrant Poland actually loves cheap foreign workers

The ultra-nationalist All-Polish Youth organization marching in November 2015. (Photo credit: Lithium1989/Wikimedia Commons)
The ultra-nationalist All-Polish Youth organization marching in November 2015. (Photo credit: Lithium1989/Wikimedia Commons)

Even as Poles stream out of their own country for higher-paying jobs elsewhere in the European Union and abroad, Poland has become one of the world’s most coveted destination for economic migrants.

This is happening despite the rise of the right-wing Law & Justice Party, which has exploited anti-immigrant sentiment to gain power — but has also thrown the doors open for workers from South Asia, from other former Soviet republics, and elsewhere.

This also brings its own risks, as unscrupulous employers and jobs agencies are able to exploit Asian workers, willing to work extremely long hours.

Economic migrants flooding into Poland also include millions of Ukrainians, Belarussians, and others from the former Soviet republics, all willing to take lower-paying jobs than Poles.

Immigrants from Ukraine, for example, account for 11 percent of Poland’s gross domestic product. according to a study by the National Bank of Poland.

In 2017, Poland issued more visas to foreign workers than any other European country, though the majority of them — 85 percent — went to Ukrainian Christians.

Yet those visas also included 20,000 Nepalese, 8,000 Indians and 8,000 Bangladeshis.

Despite the anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s the bread and butter of the ruling Law & Justice Party, Poland’s prime minister and investment & development minister have both admitted that fulfilling the nation’s labor demands remains a challenge, and that foreign workers appear to be the solution.

This massive influx from across the world is rapidly turning anti-immigrant Poland into a multi-ethnic society.

Sources: Equal Times (advocacy press, Belgium), Emerging Europe (U.K.), Poliico, Financial Times (U.K.)

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Mark A. Bonta

Cultural geographer and educator Mark A. Bonta covers ecology, democracy, local self-reliance and community-based solutions to global problems.
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