Structural features of return migration to Poland

Generally, the profile of return migrants reflects the structure of migration from Poland. As estimated by Fialkowska and Szczepanski (2012) on the basis of LFS data, return migrants who came back to Poland after 2000 are younger and better educated than the population without migration experience. The largest differences were found with respect to the attainment of tertiary and primary education (24.4% for returnees vs. 14.9% for non-migrants; and 8.7% for returnees vs. 27.2% for non-migrants, respectively). With respect to other socio-demographic characteristics, return migrants also tend to be male and single (Fialkowska and Szczepanski, 2012).

According to the 2008 LFS, only 35% of return migrants stayed abroad for a period longer than one year, which again reflects the structure of recent outflows characterised by a significant share of temporary migrants. Most of those coming back to Poland returned from Germany (more than 30%), the United States and the United Kingdom (about 11% from each country) (CSO, 2008). The share of returnees from EU countries, including the United Kingdom, was as high as 60%-70% (depending on the period) and significantly increased in recent years. Anacka and Fihel (2012a) offer a different perspective. They performed a detailed analysis of migrant selectivity, comparing emigrants and returnees. This kind of analysis is extremely useful, as it may point to possible causal factors related to return migration. Table 5.2 presents the most important findings of this analysis.

Table 5.2. Selected characteristics of emigrants and return migrants


Emigrants (%)

Return migrants (%)

Selectivity index1




  • 61.1
  • 38.9
  • 64
  • 36
  • 0.05
  • -0.07

University degree Secondary

Level of education Secondary vocational Vocational Prima ry

  • 14.1
  • 14.1 30
  • 33.4
  • 8.4
  • 10.2
  • 12.9
  • 29.7
  • 38.6
  • 8.5
  • -0.28
  • -0.09
  • -0.01
  • 0.16
  • 0.01

Type of settlement Urban Rural

  • 57.1
  • 42.9
  • 43.2
  • 56.8
  • -0.24
  • 0.33








Country of destination


Netherlands Spa i n Sweden

United Kingdom Norway United States

  • 80.8
  • 2
  • 2.4
  • 3.4 23.3
  • 1.3 6.6 8.9
  • 4.8
  • 2.9
  • 1.4 22.8
  • 1.8
  • 11.8
  • 82.6
  • 1.4 2
  • 3.8
  • 30.9
  • 1.3
  • 3.7
  • 9.8
  • 5.5 3.1 1.7 18
  • 2
  • 8
  • 0.02
  • -0.3
  • -0.18
  • 0.12
  • 0.33
  • -0.01
  • -0.43
  • 0.1
  • 0.13
  • 0.1
  • 0.2
  • -0.21
  • 0.09
  • -0.33

1. The selectivity index compares the proportion of return migrants falling in each category with the respective proportion among migrants abroad (who did not return to Poland).

Source: Anacka, M. and A. Fihel (2012), “Return Migration to Poland in the Post-Accession Period”, in J. Leschke, B. Galgoczi and A. Watt (eds), Migration and Labour Markets in Troubled Times, Ashgate, Aldershot.

No significant differences between migrants and return migrants were found with respect to age or sex. In contrast, marked differences were noted with respect to education -the difference between migrants and return migrants was greatest with regard to vocational education (in favour of returnees). Interestingly, among returnees there was a clear overrepresentation of those originating from villages and small towns, which is not necessarily in line with commonly expressed expectations concerning potential return migrants who were supposed to target rather large cities with efficient labour markets (Kaczmarczyk and Okolski, 2008). On the other hand, selectivity indexes for destination countries (countries of residence before return) reveal the highest propensity to return among migrants to countries such as Italy, France or Germany, suggesting that recently observed return migration is mostly a product of pre-2004 migratory waves and does not involve the most recent outflows.

With regard to the geography of the phenomenon (which seems crucial to migration policy and initiatives targeting returnees) clear patterns of selectivity have been observed. Figure 5.2 presents selectivity index values by geographical region (vovoidship). Three groups of regions have been identified: “pulling regions” (with SI>0.1), “pushing out regions” (SI<-0.1) and “unspecified regions” (-0.1

Figure 5.2. Return migrant selectivity index by geographical region, Poland

Source: Author’s calculations based on Anacka, M. and A. Fihel (2012), “Return Migration to Poland in the Post-Accession Period”, in J. Leschke, B. Galgoczi and A. Watt (eds), Migration and Labour Markets in Troubled Times, Ashgate, Aldershot.

As shown in the above figure, Polish regions differ greatly with respect to selectivity of return migration. On the one hand, there are regions where the share of returnees is higher than that of emigrants such as Lubelskie, Podlaskie, Swi^tokrzyskie and Wielkopolskie. On the other hand, in such regions as Sl^skie, Mazowieckie and Pomorskie, the percentage of returnees is lower than that of emigrants (Anacka and Fihel, 2012a). This pattern contradicts expectation. In fact, the share of return migrants is lower in regions with relatively well developed labour markets and large cities (Warsaw, Katowice, Gdansk). The fact that the regions attracting returnees are those with relatively long traditions of emigration and not necessarily those with strong pull factors, offers additional support to the hypothesis that what we are witnessing is the return of people who left Poland prior to EU enlargement

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