An unprecedented number of Polish migrant workers have reached Britain’s shores over the past two years, and Nick Jones finds the trend has impressed and appalled bloggers in equal measure
Search terms: Polish + immigration + UK
Migrant workers have been hitting the headlines like C-list celebrities in recent weeks, and the pages of Building have been no exception. Two weeks ago, we reported how plans were afoot to test workers from European Union accession states for competency, drugs and alcohol. About the same time, it was reported that National Insurance numbers issued in the year to March 2006 had risen 51%. Of these, a quarter had been issued to Poles. Official statistics suggest that 228,000 Poles have registered to live and work in the UK since Poland joined the EU in May 2004. A guide to all things Polish in the UK, www.aniaspoland.com notes that “it is virtually impossible to spend a day in London without being served by a Pole at least once, whether it is at a coffee shop, sandwich shop, pub or restaurant”. Or, for that matter, a construction site.
What has been termed “the biggest wave of emigration into Britain for three centuries” has met with a mixed reaction from Polish and British bloggers alike. Concerns range from what this means for depopulated Polish towns to the fact that, despite everything, you still can’t get a decent nanny in SW1.
pol-blog.blogspot.com, which styles itself “Poland’s first (almost) daily English language news blog”, is understandably more concerned with the former issue: “While Poles working abroad are now what one could call economic refugees, in the near future they may very well be followed by their disaffected brethren, the political refugees. How to put a brake on it?” The answer it posits is likely to send any self-respecting young Pole even more quickly in the direction of the international bus station. “Perhaps another way is possible. India has prototyped it for the world – it goes by the name e-outsourcing.”
martinkelly.blogspot.com expresses similar fears for the Polish economy. “If it continues at its current rate, the level of migrancy from Poland has the capacity to permanently damage that great and ancient country – is being able to hire a cheap plumber in Clapham worth that outcome? What is it about us that makes us feel so superior to Poland that we feel there is nothing wrong, nothing unwholesome, about hollowing out her brightest and best, the people she needs, in order to make our meals, drive our buses and empty our bedpans?”
smalltownscribble.blogspot.com approached the bus driver question from the opposite lane: “The company that runs my local buses is now hiring and training drivers in Poland to come and work here. Will somebody please explain to me this theory that British people suddenly don’t want to work as bus drivers anymore when there is a long tradition of working class men doing just that?” Well, smalltownscribble, as soon as I find a blog explaining why driving a bus around the West Midlands could be more attractive to a Polish PhD than a bloke from Solihull, I’ll be sure to let you know …