Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Poles prosper after opening up German labour market

Polish children in Zgorzelec travel across the river to go to school in Goerlitz, Germany, while their parents make the journey for better pay

For the inhabitants of the Polish city of Zgorzelec and its German neighbour, Goerlitz, the opening of the border and the liberalisation of the labour market have made life much easier.

Zgorzelec and Goerlitz were one city before the second world war, but afterwards the Nysa river, which divides them, became an official border.

In 2004, work that had begun in the 90s on a bridge joining them was completed. That year Poland became a member of the European Union.

Today Polish children go to German schools, there are buses between the two cities and German theatres provide Polish subtitles during plays.

Germans come to barbers in Zgorzelec as they are cheaper than in Germany. Shopping in the discount stores in the city is also common for Germans.

They also come to Zgorzelec for cigarettes that cost about €2 (£1.67) in Poland compared with €5 in Germany. On the other hand, Poles buy cleaning products in Germany, especially washing detergent. Apparently, German Persil is much better than the Polish version.

There were a lot of fears among Germans before 1 May last year when their country opened its labour market fully for Poles, but the mass immigration they expected never materialised.

Some workers have made the most of the open-borders regime.

Robert is a qualified welder. After the opening of the German labour market to Poles, he found a job in Germany where he now works while still living in Poland. His €1,246 monthly salary is almost three times higher than what he used to earn.

“After 19 years of work in a Polish firm, my last salary was 1,750 zloty net,” says Robertwho did not want to give his surname. That’s roughly €400.

He had been thinking of working abroad for a long time, he says. He has a mortgage in Swiss francs that has appreciated greatly against the Polish currency in recent years, drastically increasing his monthly payments.

“It reached the stage where my whole salary was spent on paying off the mortgage and bills while we bought food with my wife’s salary,” he says.

He has since stopped worrying about being able to pay off his mortgage, works less and still has time to take care of his two-year-old daughter.

“I have German insurance so I have the right to German healthcare and soon I will have the right to extra benefits for my children. We have two of them and should receive €180 a month for each. I plan to open a savings account for them and won’t have to worry about how to finance their education in the future,” says Robert.

Izabela Zbikowska is a journalist at Gazeta Wyborcza © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds