About 1.95 mln Poles lived abroad in 2007, more than double the figure in 2004, the year Polish membership in the EU allowed Poles to begin working in some EU countries.
The number of overseas Poles surged by a half million in 2007, partly because The Netherlands joined the United Kingdom and Ireland in opening their employment markets to Poles.
The continuing stampede abroad was a key factor in Poland’s population dropping for a 10th straight year, from 38.3 mln in 1997 to 38.1 mln in 2007.
About 1.6 mln of the 1.95 mln overseas Poles lived in EU countries in 2007, the Central Statistical Office in Warsaw reported.
The United Kingdom, which opened its labor market to Poles earlier than any EU country, had 580,000 Poles. Neighboring Germany had 450,000.
Demographics experts believe the number of Poles overseas will increase in each of the next three years ? until 2010 ? then begin decreasing. They caution, however, that it depends on economic developments in Poland.
The surge in emigration since EU membership has been rooted in high unemployment in Poland and much higher overseas wages.
Because the average wage in Great Britain and Germany is four to five times higher than in Poland, many emigrants under 30 see no point in returning to Poland soon.
In fact, one in four Poles in the United Kingdom say they will never return, according to a Center for International Relations survey.
Those who have not ruled out returning say it will depend on economic and social conditions in Poland. The survey also showed that most Poles in Britain work in jobs well below their qualifications and earn less than British citizens. Many also don’t take part in British cultural life, concentrating on earning and saving as much as possible.
They send a big chunk of their savings back to Poland ? an estimated 4.1 bln euro in 2007.
While that money is a big boost to Poland’s economy, overseas earnings may become even more important in years to come, as Poles with substantial sums from abroad return to start businesses.