Reversing the Brain Drain: Poland Tries to Woo Its Young Back Home
Young Polish workers have flocked in the hundreds of thousands to the UK, Ireland and Sweden to find work since Poland's EU entry in 2004. Now Poland is faced with a serious lack of skilled workers and Warsaw wants to entice them back home.
Specialist Polish stores are cropping up all over the UK and Ireland to cater to the expat community, who are beginning to put down roots. Now Warsaw wants to attract its young people back home.
The Polish government announced this week that it was launching a package of incentives to get Poles to return home. President Lech Kaczynski told a news conference on Wednesday that "our main goal is to get as many of them back to their homeland." The government wants to emphasize that there are now more opportunities in Poland, with rising wages and less unemployment.
Polish officials fear those who have left, whose average age is 26, will settle down and raise children abroad, which could have a huge demographic and economic impact. According to a recent opinion poll, around 20 percent of Poles in Britain do not want to return home. But Polish hopes are riding on the fact that 20 percent say they would like to head back east, with another 60 percent unsure. Officials reason that they might be easily tempted.
With the election campaign hotting up in Poland, the labor shortage, which threatens to stall the country's strong economic performance, is becoming a key issue. And the parties are also campaigning hard for the votes of the huge number of expat Poles.
While the Kaczynskis are offering incentives to return home, opposition leader Donald Tusk of the Civic Platform is going one better: He plans to travel to the UK and Ireland to campaign in person.
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