Matching the skills of return migrants to labour market needs in Poland

Pawel Kaczmarczyk

Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw

The chapter looks at the phenomenon of recent return migration to Poland with special emphasis on the labour market performance of returnees. The chapter examines the post-2004 migration in terms of its characteristics, including the extent to which it has been temporary migration, and assesses the share of the population with migration experience. Differences between migrants and those without migration experience are examined, and a distinction is made returning migrants who left before or after 2004. The impact of migration experience on labour market outcomes is examined, including in terms of unemployment and entrepreneurial activity, and some explanation for this impact is provided. The chapter concludes with a discussion of policies to support returning migrants and lessons from these programmes.


Poland is undoubtedly an emigration country, with a century-old tradition of international emigration. The country witnessed transcontinental migration to the United States, large flows of labour migration to Western European countries prior to World War I, significant outflows during the Solidarity era and numerous “incomplete migrants” in the 1990s.1 Even so, accession to the European Union marks a turning point in migration trends from Poland. The post-accession years saw a spectacular increase in the scale of Polish emigration which, in the regional context, can only be compared to that of Romanian citizens. The increase in the number of Polish migrants abroad (reaching roughly 7% of the total population in 2007) was accompanied by growing public interest in migration as a socio-economic phenomenon. Massive emigration after EU enlargement sparked an intense debate about (expected) return migration and its impacts. The chapter will assess the scale and structure of recent return migration to Poland and the performance of returnees in the Polish labour market. Special emphasis will be placed on skill transfer and the match between migrants’ skills and labour market needs, with an eye to policy implications. The chapter hypothesises that due to particular features of recent migration from Poland (temporary, labour migration, significant scale of underemployment abroad) well-tailored migration policies would be needed to efficiently improve labour market performance of returnees upon return.

This chapter examines the scale and structural features of return migration to Poland, especially short-term or circular migration practices. It then looks at the labour market re-integration of Polish returnees, and explores the issue of “social remittances”. Finally, it summarises official programmes and initiatives which aim to create incentives for returnees and / or to improve their return to Poland.

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