Polish people to survive recession
Despite one of the worst recession registered in the UK history, Polish immigrants do not intend to go back to Poland.
According to the data released by The Office for National Statistics on 15th July 2009, unemployment in the UK rose by 281,000 between March and May, and has hit the highest figure since October 2005 – 2,38 million people. The amount of people out of work for longer than a year has reached 528,000 of which half have been unemployed for two years. To add to these grim numbers, during the last few months 300,000 people have been laid off. We have the record high unemployment since 1997 – 7,6 per cent (in London it reached 8,6 per cent in period between April- June). Those who stayed in their current jobs, experienced results of the shrinking companies’ budgets such as withdrawn bonuses and extras, unpaid overtime, salary cuts with or without consultation with employees. During these difficult times Polish immigrants have faced the choice of going back home or staying in the UK and trying to adapt to the circumstances. The research project, commissioned by Cooltura between 25th June and 6th July, had its objectives set to verify the influence of recession on Polish immigrants living in the UK. Participants in the online survey were active members of Poles Apart UK, the only Polish panel in the UK created for market research purpose only. The sample was based on socio-demographical data gathered from Home Office, based on WRS scheme, which registered more than 500,000 Poles with full-time employment in the UK. ‘Each researcher must consider some limitations when choosing a research methodology and its limitation and the affect it might have on the results’, says Joanna Szczedor, the author of the research. ‘Nevertheless all researchers agree that the quality of the sample is far more important than quantity . We have designed our sample based on the data published by WRS scheme. Without an existing consensus, in our opinion, this statistics are the most representative, of Poles living in the UK’, she says. ‘Internet is still a growing methodology in market research and it is our clients’ preferred methodology due to cost effectiveness and time efficiency. It is a common view that thanks to the Internet we can reach the largest group of Poles in the UK, and this is down to various forms of recruitment used, high penetration of the Internet and characteristics of this group, which young and dynamic’, she adds.
Recession does not mean going back
The first question asked directly ‘Have the Polish people in the UK felt the results of recession?’ 55 per cent of respondents in the survey said “no”, but some of them stated that while they haven’t felt the results of the recession personally, their friends have. Close to 40 per cent gave a ‘yes’ answer, of which 12.35 per cent mentioned losing a job, 11.73 per cent acknowledged that their own companies lost some business and 8.64 per cent were forced to live of their savings. Those who have lost jobs mentioned redundancies and closure of departments as main reasons, some had to stop trading or even close their businesses.
However, majority of respondents – 64 per cent, have kept their jobs in the recession and there were 24 per cent of those who did not give any answer to the question about circumstances of losing a job. Polarity UK delivers an interpretation to this: ‘we believe that there is a strong group among Poles, which has not experienced recession due to being on maternity leave or have been already actively seeking jobs for a while’. Majority of respondents confirmed when asked ‘Do they experience influence of the recession in daily life?’ Every person gave on average two statements to describe its effect. Half of them claimed that they limit their spending, 33.95 per cent seeks new ways of getting income; 24.69 per cent of Poles cannot save their usual amount of money and 14.20 per cent postponed their holiday plans. Recession has inspired 3.7 per cent to invest their savings and 9.26 per cent to start new courses and professional training. Only one in three Poles plans to change their qualifications to survive recession in the UK – of which 20 per cent claimed that they wanted to obtain a new profession. 14 percent expressed willingness to obtain new qualification , but did not know what the options were available to them. 35 per cent definitely does not want to change their qualifications due to recession and 19 per cent hesitates on what to do. The most straightforward answer was given to the question: ‘Does recession makes Poles think about going back to Poland?’ 87.5 per cent of respondents claimed that they do not want to leave the UK because of the recession (including 56 per cent of those who strongly disagreed with any influence of the current economical situation on their decision whether to leave or stay in the UK). 7 per cent was not certain about their plans and chose an option ‘neither agree, nor disagree’. Only marginal 5.5 percent admitted that recession made them think about going back to Poland. According to Dr Izabela Grabowska- Lusinska from Centre for Migration Research at Warsaw University and co-author of the book ‘Last Emigration?’, the results brought by Polarity UK research are not surprising. ‘Even though we had a rapid spread of Polish migration after 1st May 2004, returns back to their homeland happen gradually as migrants calculate pros and cons’, Dr Grabowska- Lusinska says. ‘Other research findings prove that if a migrant had a regular work on a certain job market, he or she will check carefully all the possibilities which coming back to the country might bring, i.e. whether he / she could find a job back home and if this is under a question mark, review consequences of agreeing to take a lower salary at the current job, relying on benefits or exploring chances of finding employment in another country while maintaining a close look at the home market’, says the expert.
In the migration loop
Research data brought by Polarity UK shows that only 12.35 per cent of participants lost their jobs in the recession. Dr Grabowska-Lusinska points out: ‘It is difficult to spread the findings from this small Internet- based research over the whole population of Poles in the UK, but it may be linked with the attractiveness of Poles as employees’. ‘Let’s remember that according to British Labour Force Survey, Poles are the most attractive employees group amongst all the immigrants in the UK, even the Irish. They are well educated, eager to work overtime, reluctant to take a sick leave, not overburdening British benefits system and earning relatively low wages. One could conclude that British employer will think twice before laying off such an employee.’ Another migration expert, Prof Krystyna Iglicka from Centre for International Relations comes to similar conclusions in her research report titled ‘In the migration loop’. She writes: ‘The main strategy, especially in a case of the Polish migrants in the UK, is to try and survive the economical downturn on emigration, which is quite evident from data published by British sources about rising numbers of workers from new EU countries, who have now got dependents with them’. Among the reasons why migrants chose to stay on emigration prof. Iglicka states ‘global characteristics of the recession, having family on emigration and security offered by spending a long time abroad’. She believes that those who lost jobs are capable of surviving on emigration, have a plan and a support of their family, option to live of their savings, accept lower wages and/or work illegally’. The findings of the research done by Polarity UK correlate with those of the report called ‘Immigration in the United Kingdom: The recession & beyond’ published in March 2009 by Will Somervill and Madeleine Sumption from Migration Policy Institute in conjunction with Equality and Human Rights Commission. The researchers focused on immigrants from A8 countries who came to the UK after 1st May 2004. While 12 per cent of new UK citizens admitted that they have lost jobs in recession, 64 per cent have not suffered the lost. However, the report emphasises that it is not possible to talk about immigrants’ situation without considering a broader picture – the unemployment among A8 countries’ workers was low in comparison to British nationals, even though immigrants from A8 are mainly employed in sectors which have been hit hardest by the recession (32 per cent of immigrants from A8 worked in production, 10 per cent in hospitality and catering).