“Poles already know the European labour market. We’re not expecting an exodus,” Fedak said in an interview with the Polish news agency PAP. “Above all, it’s those who work illegally in Germany who’ll want to legalise their employment,” she said.
With a population of 38 million, Poland was by far the largest of the 10 mainly ex-communist states that joined the European Union in 2004, a decade after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
In the wake of EU entry, more than a million Poles are estimated to have left for Britain and Ireland, which along with Sweden opened their labour markets immediately to citizens of new member states.
Despite Britain and Ireland’s slumps – in contrast with Poland, which was unique in the 27-nation EU in maintaining growth during the crisis – Poles have not headed home in droves.
The mass departures have instead given way to what experts dub “revolving-door migration,” where Poles live and work between their homeland and other EU nations at various times.
Germany was among the EU members that opted to delay opening their markets to the newcomers, and some experts have suggested it could prove a new magnet.
Michal Boni, a senior aide to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, recently said that 100,000 Poles could move after May 1.
Fuelling such suggestions, Germany’s employers’ federation earlier this month said that the country’s astounding economic rebound could cause labour shortages in key sectors, as Europe’s biggest economy grapples with the consequences of an ageing population.
Despite the labour restrictions, Poles have not been shut out by Germany.
According to various estimates, between 300,000 and 400,000 already work there in seasonal jobs, for example in the farm and construction sectors. The EU giant of 80 million is home to two million people who consider them Poles, including migrants and their descendants, according to Warsaw-based diaspora body Wspolnota Polska.