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Work moves to jobseekers - another reality of labour mobility in the new EU member states

The ‘brain drain’ – the loss of skilled labour through emigration – has in recent years affected many of the new EU Member States – also Poland. Many of the country’s workers have moved to Western Europe to look for higher salaries and better working conditions. A recent World Bank report shows that around 35% of all Polish companies indicate shortage of skilled work staff as an obstacle to their performance.
 
One of them is ROMAG, a producer of design and manufacturing machinery and equipment for the car industry, situated in Poznań in west-central Poland. The country’s accession to the European Union in 2004 and the progressive opening of the EU labour market for Polish workers left the company with a lack of qualified technical staff and no short-term solution. Its owners, Jaroslaw Wieczorek and Roman Gryziński, therefore had to look for other options if they wanted to fulfil their contractual obligations.
 
A window of opportunity opened in person of Rainer Dambach, mayor of Pasewalk, a small town in northern Germany, close to the Polish border. Dambach was on a tour to promote his city to Polish employer associations, where he pointed out that many of the former East-German Länder are characterised by low salary levels, good infrastructure and a very well trained work force. Unemployment on the other hand is still rather high when compared to other regions. The mayor’s presentation about such ideal conditions raised the interest of the two Polish entrepreneurs and they went to Pasewalk for a first – successful – on-site inspection.
 
In a next step they consulted the local branch of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit, the German employment service. Situation and infrastructure were already approved, but the ROMAG managers had to ensure that it was here were they would also find the badly needed work force. A first assessment was rather discouraging. Similar to Poland, the German market also lacks skilled labour in the field of metal-engineering. While Poland fights with the ‘brain drain’, Germany’s recent and positive economic growth simply caused higher demand of skilled labour than the domestic market could supply.
 
But the German employment agency was able to offer a tailored solution. Employment advisor Djane Jennricke proposed to organise in cooperation with EURES targeted schooling programmes for local jobseekers and thus provide them with the sought-after skills. It was even possible to identify training facilities that used exact the same machinery as ROMAG in Poland. A successful cooperation was established.
 
With public financial support, ROMAG finally opened this autumn its new Pasewalk factory. Educated with the support of EURES, a first group of 10 local jobseekers found a new job and more are to be hired. This positive development has motivated many other producers, not only from Poland, to consider establishing branches in Germany’s East – a different success story in Europe’s labour market, where mobile employers move to their staff.

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