Poland has the European Union’s third highest employment rate for immigrants from outside the bloc, according to new figures from Eurostat. The share of non-EU citizens aged 20-64 in employment was 78% in Poland last year, behind only the Czech Republic (82.4%) and Lithuania (80%).

The lowest numbers in the EU were found in France (51.4%) and Sweden (50.9%), reports the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Recent years have seen Poland experience an unprecedented wave of immigration, with the country issuing more residence permits to non-EU citizens than any other member state for each of the last three years.

By the end of 2020, around 725,000 foreigners were registered in Poland’s social insurance system, with almost three quarters of them from Ukraine.

Immigration has been driven by the country’s booming economy – which grew an average of almost 5% annually in the three years before the pandemic – and also by struggles of some firms to find native workers due to Poland’s own mass emigration and declining demographics.

Data for 2019 show that 86% of residence permits issued to non-EU citizens in Poland were for employment reasons, more than double the figure of 41% for the EU as a whole. Whereas France issued 34% of permits for family reasons and Sweden 48%, in Poland the figure was just 2%.

Even the pandemic has not discouraged new arrivals. The number of foreigners with residence permits in Poland reached 483,000 by May this year, which was 5% higher than in January and 13% up since the start of 2020. (The actual number of foreigners living in the country is likely to be over two million.)

Poland issues EU’s most residence permits to immigrants for third year running

The latest EU-wide data, for February 2021, show that Poland had the lowest unemployment rate of any member state, at 3.1%. Last year, the Polish province of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) recorded the lowest unemployment rate in the EU, at 1.8%.

Yet while the Polish labour market has absorbed many migrant workers, a large proportion of them work on temporary contracts – as do many natives too.

According to Eurostat, 40.6% of non-EU workers in Poland have temporary employment, which is the highest figure among all member states. Almost 18% of Poland’s native-born workers are also temporary employees, the second highest share in the EU.

Main image credit: Mariusz Cieszewski/Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Flickr (under CC BY-NC 2.0)

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