Poles based in Ireland repatriate €841m


POLES WORKING in Ireland sent home almost €1 billion last year, which amounts to a fifth of all global transfers of cash back to Poland from overseas workers.

About €841 million in wages earned by Polish long-term and temporary employees in Ireland was sent back in savings or payments to support relatives. This amounts to €4,205 each for the estimated 200,000 Poles who live in the Republic.

But figures from the National Bank of Poland, and included in a new research paper on Polish migration, show the level of remittances – transfers of money by foreign workers – has fallen substantially over the past three years.

Since Poland joined the EU in 2004 enabling Poles to work all across the EU, some $6.42 billion (the National Bank of Poland compiles the statistics in dollars; the figure is €4.58 billion at today’s exchange rate) has been sent back to Poland by workers in Ireland.

Remittances from Ireland to Poland were worth $202 million in 2004. Significant flows of migrant workers from Poland saw remittances peak at $1.75 billion in 2008 before falling back to $1.18 billion, or €841 million, last year.

Polish workers in Germany and Britain provided the largest amount of remittances to Poland last year, accounting for 26 per cent and 18 per cent respectively, of the $5.9 billion total.

James Wickham, director of the employment research centre at Trinity College Dublin, said the value of remittances to Poland is falling because there are less Polish migrants here and earnings are depressed.

He said remittances were very much a part of an open economy and it would be wrong to characterise these transfers of money as a negative for the Irish economy.

“How much profit does Google send home? If you have an international economy like Ireland then money moves back and forth like this. The Irish economy benefited hugely from remittances in the past and continues to do so,” said Prof Wickham.

A report on Polish migration published by the Migration Policy Institute concludes that returning migration – Poles moving back to Poland – has become a trend in recent years. It quotes Polish statistics showing the number of Poles in Ireland fell by 20,000 in 2008, compared to 2007. But it says the statistics are very unclear.

“There was a drop in the number of Poles in Ireland and the UK but we are not quite sure if they are returning home or going on to other countries.

“Poland was still a net emigration country in 2009,” said Magdalena Ziolek-Skrzypczak, author of the Migration Policy Institute report.

In the first nine months of this year 6,983 Poles applied for Personal Public Service Numbers (PPS) enabling them to work in Ireland. This represents a 60 per cent fall on the 11,728 Poles who applied for PPS numbers in the first nine months of 2009.

A full picture on how many Poles are leaving Ireland – either returning home or moving on to other countries – due to the recession will not be possible until the next census is completed in 2011.