Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ironic Talent Migration: Germany To Poland

The Great Recession has had a major impact on migration patterns. Some of the more interesting changes concern Germany, which is an unintended theme this week. As I would expect, people followed established pathways:

With a growth rate of 1.7% in 2009, Poland was the Eastern European country least affected by the crisis. Even the tragic air crash which caused the death of most of the political elite responsible for this success has not put a brake on the Polish economy. As a result, thousands of East Germans are now traveling east and crossing the river Oder in their quest to find jobs.

According to official figures, there are more than 2,500 Germans working in call-centres, construction and other industrial sectors in the city of Szczecin and the surrounding area, but unofficial reports are citing much higher numbers. A German skilled worker can earn about 1,000 euros a month in Poland, which is not stellar, but better than nothing. A stone’s throw away, in the German district of Uecker Randow, the rate of unemployment now stands at 20%.

This latest phenomenon is further proof of a counter current in the flow of migration. The 1950s and 1960s were marked by the arrival of Turkish and Greek workers in Germany, but now the economic crisis has encouraged German migrants to seek work in Poland and also in Turkey.

I'm quite familiar with the German-Poland border and the economic linkages across the Oder. In 2003, I spent three weeks in Frankfurt (Oder). The T.I.R.E.S. (Transnationalism, International migration, Race, Ethnocentrism and the State) program straddled the border, which we crossed every day thanks mostly to our residence in university dorms located in Slubice (Poland). A brief aside, I also attended the TIRES Summer Institute in Miami the previous year. Here is a picture of me doing interpretive dance during my research presentation revealing the human rights geography of high seas interdiction.

Poland was set to join the European Union and there was concern that Poles and Ukrainians would flood Germany. Truth be told, the Poles were already there in strong numbers. That did little to quell the nativist scapegoating. Now the flow has reversed. Can anti-German xenophobia in Poland be far behind?

No comments: