As Norman Tebbit famously said of his father in 1981 while he was Secretary of State for Employment in Mrs Thatcher’s first government, commenting on recent riots: “He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it.” Well, times may change and, in the EU at least, the aeroplane has replaced the bicycle, but the inclination to travel to look for work is a strong as ever. And, as I wrote here in The Children, that is not an unmixed blessing for the countries, such as Poland, which are losing many of their talented young – and not so young – folk. What is the answer?
One member of the Polish parliament is determined to find out. Following the well-flown route of hundreds of thousands of Poles before him, Artur Debski has decided to live as migrant in London. He is looking for a job and flat and will attempt to live on £100 a week in order to see why it is that so many Poles prefer the United Kingdom to Poland – and this despite Poland having had one of the EU’s more successful economies in recent years. Since Poland joined the EU ten years ago more than a million Poles are thought to have moved to the UK and surveys suggest that some 70 per cent of Poland’s younger folk are considering emigrating.
Mr. Debski arrived in England at the weekend on a low-cost airline and is living in a room in Wandsworth for £10 a night. Describing himself as being 45 years of age with English that is not great he imagined he would find work in a kitchen or a shop. He also intends to visit a Job Centre and is keen to discover what elements of the British system work and could be introduced in Poland, a country whose system in this regard he describes as “broken”. He believes that British Job Centres offer better value for money than their Polish equivalents.
With 13.6 per cent unemployment in March and deaths expected to outnumber births for the period 208 to 2035, something needs to be done. A poll by the market research company Ipsos has indicated that 72 per cent of Poles living in the UK intend to stay and are having children and taking out mortgages. The same survey found that as many as 40 per cent are thinking of applying for British citizenship – lest the UK leave the EU, no doubt, while new figures from the National Bank of Poland show that Poles abroad are sending less money home to family members in Poland as they establish new lives elsewhere. Mr Debski said that this trend was dangerous for Poland.
Needless to say some commentators in Poland have dismissed Mr. Debski’s trip as publicity stunt with Ewa Winnicka, a journalist and author who has written extensively about the great wave of Polish migration to the UK saying that “If Mr Debski really wants to learn about how it all works in the UK he should read some serious studies on the subject.” Indeed – perhaps the Polish government should also have read such studies and acted on them.
Be that as it may whatever his motivation, the UK continues to attract more EU immigrants – including Poles – than any other EU country. In a radio interview, Mr Debski suggested that the social support in the UK may having something to do with it, which is what many have suggested although their voices are drowned out by the coalition of the thin-skinned and allied trades for whom unrestricted immigration is simply a good thing whatever the financial or social consequences.
Interestingly, as an aside, the EU plans to take the UK to court for breaching air quality regulations. This, of course, is the same EU which takes such offence whenever the UK questions (as now does Germany) whether the current policies on unrestricted movement of EU immigrants are sustainable. As result the UK’s populations is growing rapidly and is projected be larger than Germany’s. How then with more people, more vehicles, etc to cater for these millions of extra folk occupying the same space can anybody be surprised if air quality suffers?
But I digress. Let’s hope Artur Debski’s Mission London is successful, that he returns with good ideas and that Poland does make changes so that for Poles emigration becomes a choice rather than a necessity.