Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ironic Migration: Poles Return To Britain

When the financial crisis hit, Poles hurried home. Poland weathered the storm well. The dark times are over:

The primary reason for migrating is a chance to get paid far more than you do in Poland, even if it means coping with a higher cost of living,” said Maciej Bukowski from Warsaw’s Institute of Structural Research.

The average Polish salary comes to little more than £635 a month, compared with almost £2,000 in Britain, and with the price of food and amenities on the rise, Poles have little money left to spend.

“In Poland I worked for a security company and earned about £153 a month,” said one migrant called Barbara who has lived in England for seven years.

“When I arrived in the UK I worked as a cleaner and I’m now the director of the company. In Poland, if I wanted to pay all the bills and have little left over for fun I worked out I needed £765 a month.”

On top of poor salaries, Poles also want to get away from the red tape they say stifles careers and opportunities in the former Communist state.

“People want a better life,” said Professor Krystyna Iglicka and expert in demographics who has studied Polish migration to the UK.

“They don’t want to live in Poland: a country where reforms are stopped by bickering, entrepreneurs are blocked and at every step you encounter bureaucracy.”

Almost a decade after Britain opened its doors to Poles, many towns and cities now have established expat communities.

With most Poles knowing somebody who lives in Britain, moving there and finding work and accommodation presents few barriers.

Emphasis added. I could highlight the network migration and exceptional geographic mobility. Here we have a leading indicator of recovery. More interesting to me, given my fascination with Enrico Moretti's book ("The New Geography of Jobs"), is the attraction to the UK and the ironic geographic arbitrage in play. Moretti explains that living in spiky cities is the way to go despite the high cost of living. The Polish migration supports the claim.

The attraction isn't low cost of living and/or high quality of life. Amenities don't matter. It's upward mobility, stupid. Portland is great if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. For those with a fire in their bellies, life is elsewhere and you'll do anything to get there. Paying through the nose for the privilege isn't a problem. Cool cities need not apply.

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