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12-03-13 Letter From Poland - Smart, Young, Unemployed--And Leaving

12-03-13 Letter From Poland - Smart, Young, Unemployed--And Leaving

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Published by William J Greenberg
Demographers are describing this mass migration of young, educated Poles as the fourth great exodus in Polish history. The first two happened after failed attempts to improve people's lives: following Poland's attempted independence from Russia in the 19th century, and after communism was instituted after the Second World War. The next wave of emigration happened when the communists pushed out dissidents. Now, people are being pushed out because they have no other economic options - and because they were taught to pursue their own individual success instead of worrying about societal good.
Demographers are describing this mass migration of young, educated Poles as the fourth great exodus in Polish history. The first two happened after failed attempts to improve people's lives: following Poland's attempted independence from Russia in the 19th century, and after communism was instituted after the Second World War. The next wave of emigration happened when the communists pushed out dissidents. Now, people are being pushed out because they have no other economic options - and because they were taught to pursue their own individual success instead of worrying about societal good.

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Mar 23, 2013
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LETTER FROM POLAND: SMART, YOUNG, UNEMPLOYED--AND LEAVING TUE, 3/12/2013 - BY PAWEL WITA  The unemployment rate for young educated Polish people will hit 30% this year. ButPoland remains one of the quietest countries in the region. Nobody protests,because people are leaving.Anita Budner comes from a small town in western Poland, but has restarted her lifein Hamburg, Germany. Budner didn't picture herself leaving her homeland. Yetdespite having a good education and a university degree, the lack of opportunitiesin Poland pushed her to go abroad. And she is not alone."Here in Germany right now there is a huge debate to increase the minimum wagefrom 5 euros to 8.50 euros per hour. I would be incredibly happy if I could find any job in Poland for Germany's current minimum wage,” Budner said. The minimumwage in Poland is 2.50 euros per hour, and there isn't a politician who wouldconsider increasing it.
 
 The generation of Anita's parents taught their children that if they got a highereducation they'd have a bright future. Unfortunately, the labor market didn't shiftwith the huge influx of educated Polish graduates flooding the market. True, theirchildren received an education, but there were no places for them to use it. Thepromise of social mobility through education was a lie. Yet, the parents of Poland's young people shouldn't be the ones to blame. Poland'seconomy enjoyed a huge market advantage for many years due to the country'slow labor costs. This didn't change even as the number of young people with highereducations increased to an unprecedented level: from 10% of the populationholding university degrees in 1997, to 21% in 2011. Despite the tremendouseducation shift in just over 10 years, though, the Polish economy itself did notchange. Instead of innovations, it stayed focused on manual labor.So what are these tens of thousands of educated young people to do? In 2004, theygained a new opportunity. Poland joined the European Union and the commonEuropean market suddenly began to open up. Thousands of jobs across Europebecame available for Polish people, particularly for the young and well-educatedwho sought to benefit from their knowledge, training and skills, which they couldnot do in their own country.And the results of this wave of emigration is reflected in the numbers. In the fouryears after Poland joined the EU, the unemployment rate decreased from more then20% to less then 10% - partly because of economic growth, but mostly because of emigration. The Polish media claims that between the years 2004 and 2008, an estimated 2.2million Polish citizens left the country. In a country of 38 million, that means that 6%of the entire population left in the span of four years. There's no single or easy reason to explain why people are leaving en masse from acountry that has seen considerable economic growth in recent times. And it isn't asthough they don't face great challenges in the countries where they settle. Thelanguage barrier is significant, and there is no guarantee that their Polish degreeswill help them land good jobs. The British press is full of anecdotes about Polishwaitresses with MBA diplomas.But the reality for many bright young Poles is that their country simply can't providethe opportunities that they can find elsewhere. “I really miss Poland, but there areno prospects. How long would I have to struggle there to be independent?” saysBudner.Her words are confirmed by the numbers; self-sufficiency remains out of reach forthe majority of young people, as 56% of young Poles between the ages of 20 and 34are living with their parents. Even in America, which is experiencing the highest

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