Policies to encourage the return of emigrants

EU enlargement in 2004 has led to a substantial wave of migration out of Poland. Recent public opinion polls reveal that a large proportion of young people are seriously considering emigration as an option. In September 2006, the Institute of Public Affairs presented public policy recommendations aimed at encouraging emigrants back to Poland.


Since 2004, large numbers of Polish workers have been leaving the country. According to a recent report (320Kb PDF) by the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), the number of Poles leaving the country in search of jobs has exceeded 1.1 million, with the main destinations being as follows: Germany (500,000), the United Kingdom (264,000), Ireland (100,000), France (90,000) and Italy (72,000).

Furthermore, public opinion research suggests that a substantial number of Poles aged up to 24 years consider leaving the country as an option: about a quarter of people in this group are open to the idea, according to a poll commissioned by the Civic Platform party (Platforma Obywatelska, PO); another poll by the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza suggests that even up to a half of this group are open to the idea.

In an attempt to tackle the problem, the Institute of Public Affairs (Instytut Spraw Publicznych, ISP) has prepared public policy recommendations commissioned by PO, the major opposition party, with the aim of encouraging emigrants back to Poland. The project results were published in September 2006 under the title Migrate, then come back (Emigrować i wracać (in Polish, 290Kb PDF)).

Maintaining links with home country

The project defines two sets or packages of objectives to be accomplished. The first package is aimed at maintaining links between the emigrants and Poland. In order to achieve this aim, the following actions are recommended:

Links with the Polish state

Initiatives under this heading include: launching a website Go and come back (Wyjazdy i powroty); expanding e-government so that more issues can be settled online; expanding the general scope of services (including e-services) provided by consulates; establishing telephone helplines to assist Polish citizens in need; and increasing the number of consulates and honorary consuls in locations with large Polish communities.

Involvement of expatriates in domestic public life

Political parties should maintain contacts with emigrants, through the establishment of an institutional network among Polish communities abroad. Voting procedures should be simplified, with new channels for voting, such as mail and the internet.

Better access to cultural resources

Suggestions under this heading include widening the formula for Institutes of Polish Culture; and introducing the idea of an international Polish day as a means of promoting national culture.

More educational opportunities

Education initiatives could include: the launch of language courses, including online courses; development of educational TV programming; introduction of Polish language classes to public schools in places with large Polish communities; and more involvement on the part of Institutes of Polish Culture in language teaching.

Activities of the third sector

It is important to build partnerships between Polish and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in given countries, and cooperation between the Polish government and local NGOs: assistance provided to Polish citizens by the NGOs should be financed by the Polish government.

Offering incentives for emigrants to return

The other set of objectives aims at devising incentives to encourage emigrants to return to Poland. In order to achieve this aim, the ISP recommends the following measures.

Information for potential returning emigrants

The Go and come back website should serve as a channel for disseminating information on living and working conditions at home; consulates and embassies should be given responsibility to supply information; and special units should be created in state labour offices for returning emigrants.

Assistance in job seeking and business start-up

Initiatives under this heading include: using the Go and come back website to post job offers; removing procedural barriers hampering recognition of employment abroad for social security purposes; simplifying procedures concerning business registration and relocation; establishing a venture capital fund to provide support for returning emigrants willing to invest in Poland; and introducing new legal measures enabling transfer of non-registered income, for example from work in the shadow economy.

System of housing funds

A system of housing funds should be created to offer saving programmes for housing purposes.

Incentives for selected professional categories to return

Professional groups prone to emigration should be offered incentives to return and/or to discourage them from leaving: for example, medical professionals working in public healthcare should be given pay increases, and ‘flexicurity’ should be promoted for nurses in order to combine flexible work options with job security. Student grants at medical universities could be offered on the condition of the beneficiaries remaining and working in the country for a given period (e.g. five years) after graduation. Moreover, young researchers should be provided with increased funding for research and development.


Who’s still afraid of EU enlargement (320Kb PDF), Brussels, ECAS, 2006.

Emigrować i wracać [Migrate, then come back] (in Polish, 290Kb PDF), Warsaw, ISP, 2006.

‘Młodzi chcą stąd wyjechać’ [The young want out of here], Gazeta Wyborcza, 4 September 2006.

‘Wyjeżdżają głównie młodzi’ [Mostly the young are leaving], Rzeczpospolita, 13 September 2006.

Jan Czarzasty, Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) and Warsaw School of Economics (SGH)

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