Officially there are 761,000 registered inhabitants of Krakow, Polish-language newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reports – of which 607,000 pay taxes. But the true number is much larger.
How much larger? It is difficult to tell. Sociologist Paweł Kubicki estimates that there are 300,000-400,000 students, recent graduates, and others who live in temporary, shared spaces, which makes them unlikely to register with the city. On top of that there may be close to 100,000 immigrants, most of which are Ukrainian. Then there are the tourists – 12 million visited Krakow last year alone.
As an urban center, Krakow has the perfect recipe for large numbers of unregistered inhabitants. It has several large universities which draw students from all around the country and beyond. The multinational corporations and tourist industries rapidly growing in Krakow attract a great deal of foreign workers. It’s a natural focal point for Ukrainians, who starting last year have been allowed to travel visa-free to Poland. And, obviously, it has a great deal of attractions for various types of tourists and visitors, some of whom stay for weeks or months, few registering (or even knowing that they should).
So, who cares?
City planners, for one. It creates many headaches for civic bureaucrats who base decisions about public transport, construction, and accommodation of public buildings and offices on population estimates. The next time you find yourself having an attack of claustrophobia on a groaning tram, it might be because it was never designed to contain so many passengers. Not to mention the fact that Krakow may miss out on some tax revenue.
Furthermore, if poor urban planning decisions are made, it can drive up rent and property prices for everyone, and could even lead to a housing crisis and/or increased homelessness among these unregistered people who – as is the case with many students and immigrants – often lack financial resources or a support network.
Kubicki also told Gazeta Wyborcza that he fears that residents who lack a strong connection to Krakow are unlikely to participate in local politics, culture, or community bonding – a dearth of civil society which influential Polish sociologist Stefan Nowak termed a “sociological vacuum.”
Bogusław Kośmider, chairman of the city council, believes one way to encourage Cracovians with impermanent addresses to register with the city is to promote use of a Krakow Resident Card. He plans to introduce added advantages for cardholders such as discounts for public transport and cultural institutions.
If you want to register with the city (in Polish, get zameldowanie), you can do it in several locations throughout Krakow. Technically it’s a legal requirement, although, since there are no longer penalties for failure to comply, Krakow officials are counting more on your sense of civic duty. That, and it can facilitate other sorts of government dealings, such as obtaining a PESEL.
Agata Pankow contributed to this article.