One million workers in 2023: A result of the Polish economic miracle?

Expat news
  • people walking in the street of Warsaw
    Margy Crane /
Published on 2023-02-06 at 12:00 by Asaël Häzaq
One could call it the "Polish economic miracle". With sustained growth and low unemployment, the country presents many benefits for foreign workers. The war in Ukraine has also played a major role in the increase in the number of migrant workers. But what are the opportunities available for foreigners in Poland?

The impact of the war in Ukraine 

The Polish Social Insurance Institution (Zakład Ubezpieczeń Społecznych - ZUS), responsible for Social Security in Poland, has disclosed its latest data on foreigners' registrations in the national social security system. The figures exceeded 1 million for the first time in December 2022, peaking at 1.06 million foreign workers registered with the Polish social security system. ZUS President Gertruda Uścińska states that foreign workers now account for 6.5% of the total number of insured, which represents a 22% rise compared to January 2022.

The significant increase in the number of foreign workers is largely explained by the international context. The war in Ukraine has compelled thousands of Ukrainians to flee their country and seek refuge in Poland. In January, the Polish Foreigners' Office, a government agency, announced that 1.66 million foreigners held residence permits in Poland, of whom the vast majority were Ukrainians (1.36 million, or 86%). Poland has indeed "granted the most temporary protection to Ukrainians " (according to Eurostat). Law and Justice, the ruling nationalist party that had refused to take in Syrian refugees in 2015, conversely opened its borders widely to the neighboring country.

Economic immigration and Polish-Ukrainian relations

Although the war in Ukraine explains the increase in the number of Ukrainians in Poland, immigration goes back to the 1990s. After the fall of the communist bloc, many Ukrainians came to work in Poland, where wages were higher. At the same time, many Poles left to work elsewhere in Europe. 

On May 1, 2004, Poland joined the European Union (EU), which enhanced its attractivity and caused it to become a land of immigration. Since 2014, the number of Ukrainian workers in Poland has been steadily on the rise. In the Foreigners' Office 2020 report, it was stated that 95% of them had a job in the territory. As a matter of fact, a year before, Polish companies delivered 330,000 work permits, of which more than 70 percent were issued to Ukrainians.

A growing labor market

Alongside Ukrainians, Belarusians, Germans, Georgians, Russians and Turks, there is also an increasing number of Indians and Vietnamese coming to work in Poland. With strong growth in 2021 (+5.7%), the country's economy is dynamic and has made up for the 2020 slump (-2.5%). The war in Ukraine and inflation are slowing down activity without crippling the economy. Instead, in 2022, growth soared to 4.9%, exceeding the government's 3.3% target, and the unemployment rate stood at 5.2% in 2022. This is among the lowest rates in the EU and points to sectors under pressure and needing manpower. 

Manufacturing, healthcare, trade, IT, construction and automotive are among the sectors that are recruiting. Poland is looking for engineers, skilled workers, technicians, drivers, office workers and teachers, all of which are profiles that represent a wide range of opportunities for foreigners. In fact, Poland needs international talent to support its growth.

What are the benefits of working in Poland?

Adam Glapiński, president of the Polish Central Bank (Narodowy Bank Polski - NBP), talks about the "Polish economic miracle". In an interview with the French newspaper l'Opinion on November 10, 2021, the president of the Central Bank praised the Polish efforts, which are gradually aligning the country with wealthy European countries. Since joining the EU, Poland's GDP has increased by 90%. This accomplishment is particularly important considering that the country has endured "two world wars and several decades of communism." For Adam Glapiński, Poland's success lies in "the ambition and hard work of Poles."

Work and career prospects! That's what attracts more and more foreign talent to Poland. Located in the heart of Europe, the country has been a member of the EU (since 2004) and is part of the Schengen zone (since 2007). It has a stable and diversified economy, and many foreign groups are betting on the country's future by investing there. In 2021, foreign direct investment (FDI) totaled an all-time high of 23.5 billion Euros. Many foreign professionals are therefore drawn to Poland by the presence of these large corporations. More and more of them are coming from Western Europe, namely from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, etc.) and from outside Europe too (Turkey, India, Vietnam, etc.). 

Poland is taking advantage of its popularity to convey a very clear and compelling message: coming to work in Poland means getting a stable, well-paid job and enjoying good living conditions. The only concern is the influence of the extreme right-wing party in power (reversal of social advances, democracy, and freedoms). On the economic side, the country has been consistently thriving for the past 25 years and has become a European economic powerhouse that expects to grow further in the years to come.

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