Polish migrants are “dynamic and resourceful” and have added 1 percent to the UK’s GDP since 2005

UNISON and the University of Roehampton organised a conference at the Polish embassy last week on seven years of Polish accession to the EU. Since 2005, half a million Poles migrated to the UK triggering a significantly large labour movement across Europe, accessing the UK’s Labour market and in the process adding 1 percent to the UK’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Polish migrants not only helped boost the economy but contributed substantially to society, it was argued.

Dr Greg Thomson chaired an impressive line-up of speakers, which included Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, Department for Work and Pensions advisor, Eamonn Davern, and Polish migrant turned UNISON learning and development manager, Ewelina Nowak.

Polish migrants have been a success story in the UK, bringing a whole host of skills and integrity to the UK’s labour workforce. It was also argued that the UK’s Polish migrant community was “unique” in not only being young, mobile and with few dependents but also usually over-qualified for the jobs they do. It was also highlighted that Polish migrants were more likely to settle in other parts of the UK instead of London and generally found it easier to integrate with other communities. London has 40 percent of the UK’s migrant population.

The Coalition Government is committed to reducing the dependency of the labour market on migrant labour and is mainly looking at tackling non-EU migrant labour rather than the EU’s accessible workforce, according to Eamonn Davern. He added that it was often the case that Polish migrant workers tended to be young and quite often over-qualified for their jobs.

There is little evidence which suggests that there has been a negative effect on wage pressure and displacement to local labour given the fact that 2.2 million migrants have been employed in the UK since 1997. The UK currently has over 150 different occupations on the Shortage Occupation List and the government recognises the important role immigration plays in addressing this shortage as well as the importance of Eastern and Central European workers playing a vital role in sustaining Britain’s economic growth. Migration policies should therefore be responsive to the economy, especially when opening our borders adds between 0.5 to 1 percent to the GDP.

Jeremy Corbyn talked briefly about his “very substantial Polish community” in his constituency adding that their arrival to Islington North prompted more shops and businesses to emerge in the area, making a “great contribution” to Islington’s local economy and population. He added that he is usually “deeply offended” by sensational tabloid newspapers reporting on Polish migration and that they should understand that this is a global society – people need to move. 

His constituency has over 100 languages spoken with a high level of tolerance demonstrated by his highly diverse constituents. He added that Polish migrants generally tend to be a younger and more dynamic community who not only help create jobs but are essential to the UK’s economic prosperity. “We’d be a poor declining country without migration in the last 60 years”, he exclaimed. He also noted that his colleagues in Parliament often complained that local labour could simply not compete with the quality of Polish craftsmanship. However, this should not be a reason to stop migration but to deeply reflect on our system of quality skills.

Ewelina Nowak came to the UK from Poland for a better life and opportunities. As a young girl who finished high school and wanted to be a psychologist, she found it incredibly difficult to follow her dream because “to get a place at university in Poland is like winning the lottery”. She decided to come to the UK for 3 months to gain experience and improve on her English, she’s now been here for 6 years, gained employment and in the process received a diploma in Psychology. She now works for Unison helping educate and develop others with learning needs. Most of the workers she supports are non-migrants.

The overall message from the meeting was positive which highlighted the benefits of Polish migration to the UK. The economy grew and society benefitted was the mantra and we should respect the benefits while harnessing the opportunities Polish migrants bring to the UK.

However, with last week’s immigration figures suggesting that the UK’s annual net migration was the highest calendar year figure on record, ministers will find it increasingly difficult to formulate an effective argument that links growth in the economy with the need for migration. The APPG on Migration will be looking into the challenges facing the UK economy in 2012 and what balanced measures should be taken on immigration policy which will aid recovery and ensure flexible labour mobility and sustainable growth in the economy. 

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Awlae, as you know GDP is not the relevant measure. It is GDP per capita i.e. wealth per person that is best measure of prosperity. Poles may have contributed towards 1% growth in GDP but they have also increased the population by about 1%. There the effect on GDP per capita and so prosperity negligible.

Also, you may wish to downplay it but there is strong evidence that the wages of the lowest paid have been harmed by mass immigration. That is the conclusion of the
House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, the Migration Advisory Council, The Department for Communities and Local Government and the National Institute for Social and Economic Research.

Still, I'm sure you all had a lovely day of self-congratulation.


GDP per capita is not the one you should be looking at either. You should focus on the ratio of migrants’ contributions to migrants’ consumption of public services. This ratio is referred to as the net annual fiscal contribution (NAFI).

With regards to the A8 migrants, which is the group this blog refers to, here is some info from the UCL Department of Economics paper (

"A8 immigrants who arrived after EU enlargement in 2004, and who have at least one year of residence are 60% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58% less likely to live in social housing.

Comparing the net fiscal contribution of A8 immigrants with that of individuals born in the UK, shows that in each fiscal year since enlargement in 2004, A8 immigrants made a positive contribution to public finance despite the fact that the UK has been running a budget deficit over the last years. This is because they have a higher labour force participation rate, pay proportionately more in indirect taxes, and make much lower use of benefits and public services."

Mandy_ , Thank you for the link which I have followed.

I would say the paper has a number of weaknesses. For example :

There is no mention of translation costs that are associated with many immigrants see

There is no mention of that fact that many migrants will send money back home rather than spending in the UK economy as Harriet Harman mentioned not so long ago.

As the paper states : "But what happens if A8 immigrants age, have children, and may become more susceptible to illness and disability? .........we do not wish to engage in such speculation." . I would see this a a major weakness and
incidentally when the authors state "if A8 immigrants age" do they not realise that everyone ages until they die ?

There is no mention of the addtional cost of : "a continuous trend of more foreign prisoners than is proportionate to foreign nationals in the British population at large." see

I would be very grateful if you let me know the population of Polish migrants who live in the London Borough of Harringey, Islington and Camden as I am currently working on a Project that involves migrant communities.

Rather than go on about the "polish" migrants, what about the british born citizens? These eastern Europeans have been taking jobs on low wages that british citizens should be doing - 2m+ unemployed of which 1m youth unemployment. What's that all about? We need to get out of EU, send these Eastern Europeans back, Stop the Chinese/Indians coming over who pretend to be students. Need to vote UKIP.