The BBC’s documentary The Poles Are Coming, which is due to be shown next week, may already be out of date. Recent evidence shows that the Poles are going or, at least, not coming in the numbers they were a couple of years ago.
This is hardly surprising. Improvements in Poland’s economy, together with an economic downturn and rising prices in the UK, make this country look less attractive to Polish workers. Eastern European migration was always market related. The Poles and others from the new EU countries are not entitled to benefits. They will only stay here for as long as they can earn considerably more in the UK than they can at home. That balance has now started to shift.
Employers that relied on a supply of skilled and relatively cheap labour will have to look elsewhere. They might have to raise wages to attract skilled workers or do something really radical like invest in skills training to bring less skilled employees up to scratch. Many employers are unprepared for the disappearance of this able and willing labour pool. We may yet find ourselves in the strange position of having an economic downturn and a skills shortage in certain sectors, at the same time.