SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland became the main sending country in Central Europe. Despite the lack of institutional barriers to settling in member states of the European Union since 2004, many Polish migrants continued to undertake temporary labour mobility including repetitive, back-and-forth moves. This article examines the relationship between migrants' back-and-forth international mobility and their activity in the labour market of the sending country. It describes changes in the labour market status of migrants engaging in repetitive migration, based on two surveys conducted in Poland in 2001 and 2007, complemented by qualitative follow-ups. The results show that migrants deploy various economic strategies: reconcile employment in both countries; abandon jobs in Poland; or only remain economically active abroad. In many cases back-and-forth migration led to being unemployed in Poland, which constitutes an important challenge for labour market policy.

Policy Implications
  • Local Public Employment Services (PES) should be able to distinguish unemployed persons who undertake repetitive, back-and-forth migration. Local PES should include profiles of unemployed persons and questions about migration experience and its character: labour/non-labour migration, short-/long-term, single/repetitive, etc.
  • For each unemployed person, the process of career guidance provided by the local PES should assess the possible impact of back-and-forth migration on the labour market situation in Poland.
  • The back-and-forth migration should be taken into account at the level of career guidance supplied by Career Centres at high schools and universities.

Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

As a result of its significant demographic potential, Poland became the main sending country in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) after the fall of the Iron Curtain. The scale of reported emigration – which officially varied between 18,000 and 27,000 persons annually in the period preceding Poland's accession to the European Union (EU) on 1 May 2004 (CSO 2010) – is, however, misleading. In reality, this figure applied solely to persons who deregistered from their permanent place of residence in Poland, while actual emigration levels comprised hundreds of thousands of persons annually (Frejka, Okolski and Sword, 1999). Institutional barriers introduced at the time by key receiving countries located in Western Europe and North America imposed a specific pattern of mobility on Polish nationals: migration comprised repetitive, short stays abroad that coincided with seasonal or temporary employment of migrants in agriculture, construction or domestic services (Fihel, Kaczmarczyk and Okolski, 2006). In order not to exceed the three-month (non-visa) stay in Western European countries, Polish nationals temporarily returned home only to re-embark, soon afterwards or following a short lag, depending on economic circumstances, on another trip abroad. Incomplete migration (Okolski, 2001a,b), a term coined to convey this unique phenomenon of back-and-forth, pendulum-like mobility, has been difficult to measure and can only be broadly estimated.

The enlargement of the EU in 2004 and the subsequent removal of the institutional barriers, which previously impeded the inflow of Polish workers into the EU, raised concerns in Poland that outflows of the workforce might become increasingly permanent. This concern has been partially justified: the number of Polish nationals staying abroad for at least three months increased from 786,000 in May 2002 to 2,270,000 in its peak at the end of 2007 (CSO, 2010). This should not be taken to mean, however, that all migrants left Poland permanently or indefinitely. Various studies on migrant Polish communities have highlighted the inherent unpredictability of migrant movements in relation to work and residential opportunities, e.g. migrant decisions whether to remain in the host country, return home or move to another country (CSO, 2010; Eade, Drinkwater and Garapich, 2006; Napierala and Trevena, 2010). Similarly, even return migration to Poland, estimated at hundreds thousands of persons, cannot be interpreted as a wave of returns “for good”: many returnees may have already left for abroad or could migrate again at some future date, depending on relative incentives to stay or depart and their success/failure at reintegration back home (Anacka and Fihel, 2012a, b). The concept of incomplete migration still fits in this context, as it allows for different types of mobility from Poland (Grabowska-Lusinska and Okolski, 2009), even despite lack of institutional constraints towards settlement in EU member states.

The aim of this article is to analyse the labour market behaviour of back-and-forth (pendular) migrants from Poland. By the back-and-forth mobility we mean repetitive international migratory moves which have taken place at least twice in a respondent's occupational path. In this context we wish to address the following questions:

Is it possible to combine temporary work abroad and stable work in Poland in the long term and if so, is this strategy specific to particular groups of employees or even occupational groups?

What labour market strategies are employed by migrants who decide to circulate between their country of origin and foreign destinations, in particular as they relate to employment, unemployment and economic inactivity (the latter defined as not working and not seeking for a job) in Poland? and finally

Can we assess the impact of the back-and-forth mobility on migrants' performance in the Polish labour market?

These questions have been addressed, to some extent, in previous research devoted to the economic activity of Polish seasonal workers. A study by Fihel (2004) showed that the possibility of moving annually and on a short-term basis to Germany may induce some migrants to abandon employment in Poland and instead to become exclusively dependent on income earned abroad. This article intends to supplement this research with the results of a study conducted in 2007 in four localities, both rural and urban, where high levels of migration (both short- and long-term) were observed.

In order to most effectively explore the labour market activity of migrants who engage in back-and-forth mobility, we apply here the labour market transitions analysis which illustrates the mechanism of repeating migration and its consequences for migrants' labour market state in their home country. We reinforce the results with an analysis of in-depth interviews with migrants, which in turn allows conclusions to be drawn about their performance and motivation.

Conceptual Framework

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

The conceptual framework of the article encapsulates two approaches: the analysis of labour market transitions and the concept of opportunity structure.

The labour market transition approach is a dynamic analysis of transitions that take place between three basic states: employment, unemployment and economic inactivity. Individuals who are active in the labour market are either employed (including self-employed) or unemployed. To be considered unemployed, an individual must engage in an active search for employment whether by responding to job offers, accepting job offers that differ from their experience and/or occupations to date, or accepting temporary employment (ILO, 1982). In this study, being registered as unemployed with a given labour office is not sufficient for the definition of unemployed as it does not conclusively prove a migrant's willingness and readiness to undertake employment. For this reason, and for the purposes of this study, we have broadened the definition of unemployed to include those who were not registered with local labour offices but who declared that they searched for jobs actively during the course of the week immediately preceding the survey's administration. Economic inactivity means neither not working nor looking for a job, which to some extent depends on one's age, health and phase of working life. Individuals who remain inactive are typically students, young mothers, housewives, pensioners and people receiving disability benefits, although they may also be persons who neither work nor seek employment for other reasons.

Transitions between these three basic states – employment, unemployment and inactivity – are therefore of particular interest to us in this study. A transition from one state to another may be associated with a particular stage in one's life when, for instance, high school or university graduates start searching for jobs or when older persons retire. However, they may also happen at any point in time when, for example, an employee loses a job and becomes unemployed. Generally though, in the short run, the number of transitions between labour market states tends to be small relative to the number of people in the labour force, providing that labour markets are stable and so are people's occupations and careers. These relatively minor fluctuations between labour market states, however, make it possible to observe more significant phenomena taking place at the macro- and microeconomic levels (Fuller et al., 2010).

Within the domain of migration studies, migrants' labour market transitions have been rather under-researched and, to date, have mostly focused on analyses of internal migratory processes (usually interstate migration within the United States). These studies can be divided into two categories: (1) Analyses that seek to explain to what extent unemployment triggers primary and subsequent moves (e.g. DaVanzo, 1978; DaVanzo and Morrison, 1981; DaVanzo, 1983) and their relationship to major occupational categories (e.g. Herzog and Schlottmann, 1984); and (2) Analyses relating to job-to-job labour market transitions through age- and education level-specific migration (e.g. Yankov, 2003). These, which are mostly based on longitudinal data from public statistics, appear to be strongly related to circular international migration, insofar as they conceive of migration as sequences of repetitive rather than “once-only” events.

The approach presented in this article considers migrants' transitions between labour market states (employed, unemployed and inactive) over three transition points in a sending country: before migration, after an earlier return from migration and after later return from another migration. This dynamic framework, informed by the back-and-forth character of the migration patterns under consideration, provides a long-term perspective on migrants' occupational paths. Thus, it is possible to investigate the relationship between spatial mobility of migrants and their activity in the Polish labour market. In particular, we are able to assess deactivation/ exclusion from the Polish labour market over the course of repeated migration occurrences.

The second theoretical concept used in this article pertains to the opportunity structure (Merton, 1996) involving mutual influence between structural context and individual actions where: (1) changing opportunities constitute objective conditions confronting individuals; (2) individuals take advantage of extant opportunities or face various impediments depending on their position in labour market; (3) these opportunities categorize individuals according to their class, gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion. This theoretical frame allows individual differentiation of social choices both intentional and spontaneous. However the opportunity structure is not a structure itself, but it sets up its limits – it can contain conditions to assist but also constrain individual actions. Therefore, the opportunity structure can be applied both to macro-social (large systems such as bureaucracy, the state, labour market) as well to the micro-social, individual conditioning. It can be used to explain “all kinds of socially motivated choice” in the social process of accumulation of gains and loses.

In social sciences research the concept of opportunity structure was mostly applied to problems related to social inequalities, poverty, underclass and socio-occupational mobility (Brüderl, Presendorfer and Ziegler, 1993). In migration studies, the concept of opportunity structure was used in relation to the problems of undocumented migrants' functioning in society and their criminal activities (Engbersen, van der Leun and de Boom, 2007) and in relation to the mobility of British youth (Jones, 1999). For example, Jones analyses the migration of young people from local communities where local structural disadvantages are factors not fully “recognized” as influences on migration decision, for educational as well as economic reasons. That situation especially concerns young people originating from countryside or small towns which are “socially disadvantaged” regarding the occupational opportunities they offer (Grabowska-Lusinska, 2012).

In this article the two conceptual frameworks complement each other. Labour market transitions of back-and-forth migrants take place in specific local opportunity structures. But labour market transitions of migrants are also influenced by external conditions and contexts as well as by the individual characteristics of migrants (such as age, gender, labour market position), their life choices, and opportunities.

Methodology

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

The analysis conducted for this article is based on two kinds of primary data sources. Firstly, quantitative data comes from two surveys conducted by the Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw: Seasonal Migrants' Survey 2001 and MPLM Survey 2007. Secondly, qualitative data are drawn from two rounds of in-depth interviews conducted as follow-ups to the two surveys in 2002 and 2008.

The seasonal migrants' survey 2001 referred to Polish migrants employed in German agriculture on a regular basis. The survey sample included 804 seasonal migrants randomly chosen from a database of 574,000 migrations registered by the official Polish labour offices between 1998 and 2000. The MPLM survey (2007) focused on migrations undertaken by members of four Polish local communities inhabiting small administrative regions (powiat) that experienced a high incidence of international migrations. In total, the samples included 1,200 households randomly selected at the level of NUT 3 (powiat). From these, 406 individuals engaged in migration were identified and interviewed; roughly one hundred migrants per location. The surveys utilized in this article are not intended to have their respective sampling procedures compared. Rather, they are intended to bring to light examples of the discrete and distinct behaviours of two migrant populations: the population of seasonal migrants only (2001) and the population comprising various types of migrants, with a predominance of back-and-forth migrants including seasonal workers (2007). Due to the disparate sampling frameworks, significant differences in the education levels and occupation structures of migrants are noticeable in both surveys.

In the qualitative follow-up to both surveys (32 in-depth interviews in 2002 and 30 in-depth interviews in 2008,) respondents were asked, among other things, to describe their job situation before migration, after their first trip abroad and (in the case of multiple migrations) after every subsequent move. Among the respondents were people representing all types of labour market states: employed, unemployed and inactive both before and after their move(s) abroad. Respondents were selected according to more or less diversified histories and complexities related to migration; they came from different survey locations and represented various occupational categories, depending on their responses to detailed questionnaires administered during quantitative surveys. Individuals who migrated only once were not included in the qualitative study.

Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

With regard to the labour market state of seasonal migrants before their first migration from Poland, the 2001 survey found that 57 per cent were employed, 25 per cent were unemployed and 18 per cent were not active in the labour market. The corresponding percentages in the 2007 survey were: 49, 19 and 32 per cent respectively. As noted earlier, transitions between labour market states are rather uncommon when individuals' occupational situations remain stable; this turned out to be also true for individuals engaging in back-and-forth labour migration. The majority of persons employed in Poland before their first migration maintained this state after their return (85% in both surveys, Table A1 in Appendix). Also, the majority of persons who were unemployed before their first migration did not find employment in Poland after their return (83% of the unemployed migrants in the 2001 survey and 61% in the 2007 survey). The same conclusion applies to persons who were inactive in the domestic labour market: in the 2001 survey 72 per cent of those inactive before their first migration were also inactive after their return and for the 2007 survey the corresponding figure was 66 per cent. In absolute terms, the largest transition between labour market states took place from employment into unemployment or inactivity. However, while in the 2001 survey transition from the employed state was channelled mostly (12 out of 15% of employed persons) to the unemployed state, in the 2007 survey it was directed mostly (14 out of 15% of employed persons) to the inactive state. In addition, the 2001 survey suggests that this result reflects the relative deterioration of the Polish labour market, which experienced an increasing rate of unemployment until 2004, especially among the young and less-educated. However, the in-depth interviews (see below) show that certain migrants left their Polish jobs deliberately to rely exclusively on earnings from short-term, back-and-forth mobility.

The analysis of labour market transitions was also performed before and after migrants' second migration. Interestingly, transitions between labour market states decreased in the case of the second migration as compared with the first. The groups of respondents who did not change their labour market states before or after their second migration became predominant: above all, this included persons employed (in both surveys), constantly unemployed (in the 2001 survey) and constantly economically inactive (in both surveys). Transitions took place at an apparently comparable scale in 2001 by flowing from unemployment to employment (10% of the unemployed, Table A2 in Appendix) and from employment into unemployment (7% of the employed). In 2007, the only noticeable transitions took place from the state of inactivity to employment (12% of the inactive). Interestingly, a more detailed analysis performed on the basis of the 2001 survey showed that economic immobility in Poland appeared to increase with every subsequent migration – including the third and fourth migrations – and that transitions between labour market states become negligible (Fihel, 2004).

Inspired by the American back-and-forth inter-state migration studies (DaVanzo, 1978; 1983, DaVanzo and Morrisson, 1981) we analysed the labour market state of migrants who undertook one migration only and those who engaged in repetitive migration (at least two times). The analysis shows that, among the single-move migrants, the proportion of employed versus non-working persons is close, but the former is slightly higher. This appears to confirm the findings of DaVanzo (1978, 1983) and others (DaVanzo and Morrisson, 1981; Herzog and Schlottmann, 1984) that unemployment or inactivity can be a cause of migration. In the 2001 survey, the lack of employment prospects in Poland was ranked the second most important reason for migration (according to 39% of respondents) just after the opportunity to earn additional income (according to 90% of respondents, where multiple answers could be given). In the 2007 survey – which, unlike the 2001 survey, comprised different forms of migration – 22 per cent of respondents declared that they went abroad due to the lack of employment prospects in Poland, and nearly 70 per cent were motivated by the prospect of earning more money.

The analysis showed that persons employed in Poland were very efficient about organizing their travel abroad and ready to subordinate their occupational activities to the demands of back-and-forth mobility. In-depth interviews with migrants, some excerpts of which are presented below, reveal migrants' strategies for combining their activities in the Polish and the foreign labour market.

Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

The point of the quantitative analysis was to learn more about labour market behaviour before and after the second migration. The fact that transitions between labour market states decreased in the case of the second migration as compared to the first shows that respondents who could not reconcile the demands of migration with those of labour market activity in Poland simply gave up on their employment abroad after their first migration, whereas those for whom temporary international migration fit into their labour market state in Poland continued to engage in back-and-forth mobility. This suggests the existence of different economic strategies that were used by migrants with regard to their activity within the Polish labour market.

As already stated, in both surveys the main reason for engaging in migration was the possibility of earning an income much higher than that possible to earn in their place of residence. Most respondents interviewed stressed that migration constituted the only opportunity to earn a satisfactory income in a relatively short period of time. Even in the case of respondents employed in their sending country, their regular income earned in Poland was insufficient to cover their costs of living or additional expenses, such as housing renovations or their children's education. Many respondents stressed the fact that, if their income covered all their expenses, they would never have engaged in back-and-forth migration. As becomes apparent from in-depth interviews conducted in 2008, persons engaged in migration were unable to earn more than 150 to 200 euros a month in their place of residence, and the income sufficient to discourage them from searching for employment abroad would have been at least twice that figure.

The profitability of repeating migration – in general, but also as confirmed by the surveys conducted in 2002 and 2008 – is mostly based on the divergence between the levels of income earned abroad and the living costs in Poland, the latter being incomparably lower than in receiving countries. Migrants tend to stay abroad for short periods of time, seek overtime work and minimize their expenses abroad. Income, according to their strategies, is to be spent in Poland, where its purchasing power is much higher. In both surveys, several interviewed respondents claimed that their incomes originated exclusively as a result of back-and-forth labour migration undertaken twice a year (trips of six to eight weeks duration), and that they did not have any other source of income and received no welfare benefits in Poland. They could never, however, afford settling down abroad and support themselves as seasonal workers.

Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

The qualitative analysis has identified four strategies of behaviours of migrants in the sending labour market which are combined with the local opportunity structures. The first strategy relates to the reconciliation of employment both in Poland and abroad. The second strategy involves relinquishing jobs in Poland in order to move more freely between places of residence and foreign labour markets. The third strategy involves labour market “activation” only when migrating, otherwise remaining inactive once home (e.g. housewives, pensioners and students). And the fourth strategy involves activation in the Polish labour market after or between migrations.

Strategy 1: Reconciling employment opportunities in Poland and abroad

Among the respondents there is a significant group of individuals who migrated during the holiday period, and who were either paid or unpaid. This situation, especially reflected in the 2002 field work, was associated with undergoing structural changes in state-owned companies, wherein employers took the migration situation for granted throughout the challenging economic environment. This was often the case for workers previously performing manual, routine jobs. This situation also created many opportunities for migrants to extend their migration period beyond that of simple, seasonal circulation, as illustrated by the follow-up interviews that were conducted in 2008.

I got a leave. ‘Mewa’ (textile state-owned company) was experiencing a complete decline at that time. So it was not a problem to take an unpaid leave. They (the managers) were sometimes forcing people to take unpaid leave. [M43Bi, 2002]

There are several occupations that allow for long holidays or – if an adequate replacement can be arranged – permit long periods of recreational or unpaid leave. This applies to farmers easily replaced by other members of the family, to drivers, nurses and to school teachers. A nurse interviewed in 2002 described a system of “migration-related shifts” that involved a group of nurses working in the same hospital, according to which a person who migrated seasonally to Germany was replaced by colleagues waiting for their own turn to migrate. In this case, migrants were obliged to negotiate unpaid leave with their employers and organize their replacements. In both studies, there was also a group of teachers (from various levels of education) who, during school holidays, regularly travellrf to work abroad, usually on a seasonal basis working for the same employer; sometimes over a period of many years.

I needed money, naturally. Because I have a regular job [as a teacher of music, art and Russian] and during the holidays I am free, I can work for myself (…). [BS301, 2008].

The analysis presented above, however, raises another question: How is the reconciliation of alternating employment in Poland and abroad possible over the long term? The answer to this question lies in the two strategies of back-and-forth Polish migrants, which are described below.

Strategy 2: Giving up jobs in Poland in order to engage in temporary work abroad

The in-depth interviews reveal that many Polish employers did not permit employees to take long leaves on a regular basis, year after year. All respondents who linked paid and unpaid leave in order to migrate eventually faced a radical choice: give up a steady job in Poland or give up the opportunities inherent in back-and-forth migration. Our analysis indicates that there was a group of migrants who chose unemployment and inactivity (whether post-move or between repeated moves) because they were unable to obtain unpaid leave from their Polish employers, or because they were victims of widespread layoffs before they migrated (a component of local opportunity structure). Alternatively, they may have been offered longer-term jobs abroad. Because they had previously been able to obtain/hold a job at the time of severe job shortages in Poland, they usually did not face significant dilemmas in deciding whether to quit their jobs at home to engage in back-and-forth mobility.

I was working for a housing cooperative; it had been eleven years when I left it. It was because I had started having problems with my holidays at this housing cooperative: I was either to quit the job and go to Germany or (…) work, and there was no unpaid leave. The amount of time that one is entitled to regular, paid holidays is clear. (…). No, no the boss didn't want to give me this [unpaid leave] and I went to a youth cultural centre for five years. Everything was all right but the last year the youth cultural centre also [said ‘NO’]. And [I quit the job at that time] and I have since started going to work abroad for three months [every year]. [M54Bi, 2002].

The studies show that there is also a group of migrants who claim that the scarcity of their job opportunities before their migration meant that they did not want to continue these jobs upon their return as their wages were at the lowest possible rates, sometimes partly or fully paid “under the table”. Especially after they received their remuneration abroad, they had difficulty in readjusting mentally to the Polish level of wages. Some migrants claimed to have deliberately made themselves inactive in the Polish labour market and said that their lost Polish wages were compensated by remittances from the work abroad.

I needed to terminate my job contract so that I could go abroad. In my job in Poland there were no prospects for better money, for anything. Everyone worked a lot, and more so than in jobs based on permanent contacts, but, well, the income was at it was [M37Br, 2002]

There are also some extraneous cases of people who registered themselves in local labour offices and went to work abroad regularly, engaging in back-and-forth mobility despite remaining registered as unemployed in order to get state-provided health insurance. The 2002 survey captured the case of a migrant who remained registered as unemployed in Poland for more than a year, and yet was able to present himself to the labour office every month. Such cases clearly show that migrants are sometimes skilful at taking advantage of “gaps” in the public employment service systems. Moreover, for many migrants, seasonal employment abroad became a priority as compared with gaining employment in Poland.

Some respondents registered as unemployed in their local labour offices did not take jobs offered to them by work advisors as they feared the reluctance of potential foreign employers to hire them (usually seasonally) while they were employed in Poland.

They were giving me jobs offer because I also went to the labour office. Once they offered me a job just before my departure and I said to them that I was leaving soon, anyway (…). I also said to them that if I told this employer that I intended to circulate, he would tell me that I was not for him.

Q: Then you didn't want to accept this job offer in Poland because an employer would not accept your seasonal employment in Germany.

No, I am sure, I would have had problems trying to go to Germany. He would almost certainly not have given me any leave. I would need to choose: either work abroad, or in Poland… And the money was incomparable in Germany versus in Poland. [M43Bi, 2002]

Strategy 3: Activity in the foreign labour market

Other reports of voluntary inactivity in the domestic labour market usually involved housewives and students. It especially applied to housewives who never worked in Poland or who only did so at the very beginning of their careers, usually before having children, and who suddenly decided to work abroad, whether occasionally or on a regular basis.

I worked here before (going abroad) for two months and I was not very well treated by my employer I said that it was not worth working for him. I worked, then quit and searched for some time, at first without any results, and then I decided to go abroad when an opportunity presented itself. (…) When came back I have never worked since. I had a small child. [BS106, 2008].

There were also cases of housewives who had always been inactive in the Polish labour market and were going to work abroad for a few weeks or months a year on regular basis, for many years at a time.

No, I never worked, never in Poland, whether for a private or state-owned company. My husband always worked. (…) And then my cousin arranged a job for me in a restaurant in Germany. (…) And it lasted till 2003 [from 1995]. Seasonally. Once a year. From the end of April to the beginning of July I was back. [BS101, 2008].

Q: And you did not try to find a job here, in Poland?

No, I hadn't searched for any job in Poland. I am just starting to search for a job now. [I didn't work in Poland] Simply because I felt comfortable. Because I earned money and then I was staying with the children at home; I minded the children. School and all that. [K36Bi, 2002].

Strategy 4. Activity at home after migration

As quantitative analysis demonstrated, there is also a group of people who started to be economically active in the sending labour market after undertaking back-and-forth migration. However, it is difficult to assess the direct impact of back-and-forth migration on the activating processes in the domestic labour market, as it concerns mostly students, recent graduates and people who accumulated sufficient resources and know-how to set up their own business back in Poland.

The above selection of cases clearly demonstrates the complex nature of migration strategies involved in pendulum-like movements that are otherwise not visible in quantitative analyses. Table 1 shows the four presented strategies as a four-quadrant matrix with the two axis showing the role played by back-and-forth migration as a labour market activating/deactivating mechanism in the home and sending country.

Table 1. Back-and-Forth-Migration as an Activating / Deactivating Mechanism in Sending and Receiving Labour MarketsThumbnail image of

Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Despite the lack of labour market restrictions in most EU member states, Polish nationals still tend to engage in temporary, back-and-forth mobility for employment. This repeating migration pattern is a beneficial financial strategy for those who cannot or – as in the case of students, housewives, or temporary-contract workers – do not want to find full-time employment in their place of residence. The remaining disparity between wages and price levels in Poland and in receiving countries, the seasonal character of labour demand in the agriculture and construction sectors and, finally, the significant costs of moving abroad with an entire family impede emigration on a settlement basis.

In this article, we specifically examined repeat migration efforts of contemporary Polish migrants within the analytical framework of labour market transitions and opportunity structure. Both the quantitative and the qualitative analyses utilized in this article shed light on the dynamics of back-and-forth migrants' labour market transitions and some of the behavioural and economic strategies underlying them. The vast majority of migrants did not change their labour market state after migration or in between repeat trips abroad; they either remained employed by the same employer or immediately got new jobs. However, the quantitative data resulting from both the 2001 and 2007 surveys were insufficient to illustrate how these individuals performed in the sending labour market and how they were able to reconcile regular employment in Poland with repeating, usually seasonal jobs, abroad. The qualitative analysis based on individual in-depth interviews unearthed the complexities of these behaviours.

Reconciling work in Poland with work abroad was possible only for certain occupational groups – and those were usually rather low-ranked on the occupational scale, and included positions for which employees are easily replaced. These professions included mostly blue-collar workers such as nurses, drivers, production workers, etc., and school teachers, who usually have no work obligations during the summer. These findings relate to Yankov's analysis (2003) of interstate migration in the United States, which assessed job-to-job transitions made by individuals with various occupational groups and different educational attainments. Our analysis tracked the phenomenon of job-within–job transitions, which means maintaining employment in Poland while also working abroad, specific to the Polish economic conditions. As demonstrated by the qualitative analyses presented in this article, these job-within-job transitions may result in a “chronic migrant” phenomenon (Morrison, 1971; DaVanzo, 1978) which involves a gentlemen's agreement between employer and migrant employee and may last for many years at a time.

The analysis also showed a specific group of people who deactivated themselves in the sending labour market in order to have unlimited opportunities to work abroad, even several times a year, and upon their return to the sending labour market resumed inactivity orientated to back-and-forth migration. Among the reasons for economic deactivation there were: the inability or unwillingness of former employers to give regular unpaid leaves, group dismissals and/or unwillingness on behalf of the potential employee to work at Polish wage rates having seen wage rates in Western labour markets. While some American studies suggest that unemployment may trigger migration (DaVanzo, 1978, 1983; DaVanzo and Morrison, 1981), according to our study, migration can also trigger post-move unemployment. This corresponds to the findings of Herzog and Schlottmann, 1984 who stated that post-move unemployment is mostly experienced by blue-collar workers. In the Polish case, the strategy of unemployment after or in between migration can be deliberate and a product of rational calculations of the effort and the income levels in Poland and abroad. These kinds of labour market behaviours may again also prompt a cycle of “chronic migration” (Morrison, 1971; DaVanzo, 1978) and a long-lasting withdrawal from the Polish labour market. In sum, the analysis presented in this article uncovered complex labour market behaviours underlying the migration movements. Why are these behaviours differentiated? Because back-and-forth migrants are embedded differently in opportunity structures, which means that (1) they have different access to opportunities, e.g. some may keep their jobs in Poland, some must quit the jobs or are fired due to repeat migration; (2) economic conditions limit their opportunities to make occupational decisions so they choose easy income-bolstering strategies even while inactive in the Polish labour market; (3) those who engage in back-and-forth migration usually hold low-level positions or at least have limited opportunities to earn better wages (e.g. nurses, teachers, and drivers).

The findings presented in this article bring needs for the new policy developments at the very grass-roots, meaning local Public Employment Services (PES). First, there is a need for local PES to include migration experience into profiles of persons unemployed. This is important to develop profiling instruments which will help to identify migration not only as an accident in a professional path but also as a stable pattern of back-and-forth migration activity. As proven in this article, such a strategy has impacts on labour market behaviours in the sending country. Second, the back-and-forth migration should be also taken into account at the level of career guidance supplied by local PES and Career Centres at high schools and universities. It is important to show pros and cons of long-lasting temporary, back-and-forth international migration and its impacts on developments of migrants' occupational paths.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix
  • Anacka M. and A. Fihel 2012aReturn migration to Poland in the post-accession period”, in B. Galgoczi, J. Leschke and A. Watt (Eds), Migration and Labour Markets in Troubled Times: Skills Mismatch, Return Migration and Policy Responses, Ashgate, Aldershot, 143168.
  • Anacka M. and A. Fihel 2012bSelektywność emigracji i migracji powrotnych Polaków – o procesie ‘wypłukiwania” [Selectivity of emigration and return migration to Poland], Central and Eastern European Migration Review, 1(1): 5768.
  • Brüderl, J., P. Preisendörfer and R. Ziegler 1993Upward Mobility in Organizations: The Effect of Hierarchy and Opportunity Structure”, European Sociological Review, (9): 173188.
  • CSO 2010 Informacja o rozmiarach i kierunkach emigracji z Polski w latach 2004-2009, notatka informacyjna z dn.24.09.2010 [Information on scale and directions of emigration from Poland in the years 2004-2009, a press release from September 24th, 2010], GUS, Warszawa.
  • DaVanzo, J. 1978Does Unemployment Affect Migration? Evidence from Micro Data”, The Review of Economics and Statistics, 60(4): 504514.
  • DaVanzo, J. 1983Repeat migration in the United States: Who moves back and who moves on”, The Review on Economics and Statistics, 65: 552559.
  • DaVanzo J. and P. Morrison 1981Return and Other Sequences of Migration in the United States”, Demography, 18(1): 85101.
  • Eade J. S. Drinkwater and M. Garapich 2006 Class and Ethnicity – Polish Migrants in London, CRONEM, London.
  • Engbersen G. J. van der Leun and J. de Boom 2007 The fragmentation of migration and crime in the Netherlands. Crime and Justice, 35(1): 389452.
  • Fihel, A. 2004Aktywność ekonomiczna migrantów sezonowych na polskim rynku pracy”, in P. Kaczmarczyk and W. Łukowski (Eds), Polscy pracownicy na rynku Unii Europejskiej, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warszawa.
  • Fihel A., P. Kaczmarczyk and M. Okólski 2006Labour Mobility in the Enlarged European Union. International migration from the EU8 countries”, CMR Working Paper no 14/72, available at http://www.migracje.uw.edu.pl/publ/193/
  • Frejka, T., M. Okólski, and K. Sword (Eds) 1999 In-depth studies on Migration in Central and Eastern Europe: the case of Poland, United Nations, New York, Geneva.
  • Grabowska-Lusinska I. 2012 Migrantow sciezki zawodowe bez granic [Migrants' boundryless careers], Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warszawa.
  • Grabowska-Lusinska I., and M. Okolski 2009 Emigracja ostatnia? [An ultimate emigration?], Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warszawa.
  • Herzog H. jr., and A. Schlottmann 1984Labour Force Mobility in the United States: Migration, Unemployment and Remigration”, International Regional Science Review, 9(1): 4358.
  • ILO 1982 Resolutions Concerning Economically Active Population, Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment Adopted by the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, October 1982, paragraph 10, International Labour Organisation, Geneva.
  • Jones G. 1999 “‘The Same People in the Same Places’? Socio-Spatial Identities and Migration in Youth”, Sociology, 33:1, 122.
  • Merton R.K. 1996 On Social Structure and Science, The University of Chicago Press, London, Chicago.
  • Morrison P.A. 1971Chronic Movers and the Future Redistribution of Population: A longitudinal Analysis”, Demography, 8(2): 171184.
  • Napierala J., and P. Trevena 2010Patterns and determinants of sub-regional migration: A case study of Polish construction workers in Norway”, in R. Black, G. Engbersen, M. Okólski and C. Pantiru (Eds), A Continent Moving West, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam: 5171.
  • Okolski M. 2001aMobilność przestrzenna z perspektywy koncepcji migracji niepełnej [Spatial mobility from the perspective of the concept of incomplete migration]”, in E. Jaźwińska and M. Okólski (Eds), Ludzie na huśtawce. Migracje między peryferiami Polski i Zachodu [People on the swing. Migrations from Polish peripheries to the peripheries of the West], Wydawnictwo Naukowe Scholar, Warszawa.
  • Okolski, M. 2001bIncomplete Migration. A New Form of Mobility in Central and Eastern Europe. The Case of Polish and Ukrainian migrants”, in C. Wallace and D. Stola (Eds), Patterns of Migration in Central Europe, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills/Basingstoke.
  • Yankov J.J. 2003Migration, Job change and wage growth: A new perspective on the pecuniary return to geographic mobility”, Journal of Regional Science, 43(3): 483516.

Appendix

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Circulatory Migration of Polish Nationals: Background
  4. Conceptual Framework
  5. Methodology
  6. Labour Market Transitions in the Sending Country: Empirical Findings
  7. Labour Market Transitions of Repeat Migrants: A Qualitative Approach
  8. Strategies of Back-And-Forth Migrants in the Sending Labour Market
  9. Conclusions
  10. References
  11. Appendix
Table A1. Labour Market State in Poland before and After 1st Migration in 2001 and 2007 Surveys
  LM state after 1st migrationTotal
employedunemployedinactive
  1. Source: Authors' elaboration based on data obtained from CMR surveys of 2001 and 2007.

Seasonal migrants survey 2001
LM state before 1st migrationemployed277407324
unemployed2411010144
inactive141575104
Total30216592572
In per cent
LM state before 1st migrationemployed85.4912.352.16100.00
unemployed16.6776.396.94100.00
inactive13.4614.4272.12100.00
Total52.8028.8516.08100.00
Household survey 2007
LM state before 1st migrationemployed143224169
unemployed2673366
inactive35272109
Total20411129344
In per cent
LM state before 1st migrationemployed84.621.1814.20100.00
unemployed39.3910.6150.00100.00
inactive32.111.8366.06100.00
Total59.303.2037.50100.00
Table A2. Labour Market State In Poland Before And After Second Migration In 2001 And 2007 Surveys
  LM state after second migrationTotal
employedunemployedinactive
  1. Source: Authors' elaboration based on data obtained from CMR surveys of 2001 and 2007.

Seasonal migrants survey 2001
LM state after 1st migrationemployed228173248
unemployed131162131
inactive525461
Total24613559440
In per cent
LM state after 1st migrationemployed92.006.801.20100.00
unemployed9.9288.551.53100.00
inactive8.203.2888.52100.00
Total55.9130.6813.41100.00
Household survey 2007
LM state after 1st migrationemployed741782
unemployed0101
inactive513642
Total79343125
In per cent
LM state after 1st migrationemployed90.241.228.54100.00
unemployed0.00100.000.00100.00
inactive11.902.3885.71100.00
Total63.202.4034.40100.00