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In Poland there are relatively few migrants, but foreigners may save Poland in the near future as the working age population is getting smaller and smaller. The place of birth of the worker is not important at all when we speak about a craft where, except for skills, you need talent, willingness to learn and commitment.

A huge number of foreigners who are applying for international protection has come to Europe since last year. The wave of over million refugees who arrived to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea was obviously linked with unstable political situation in the Near East. The European Union and particular member countries are not able to separate themselves from the migrants mainly because … the countries need them. The European Commission estimates that by 2020 there will be 16 million of new work places that require high qualifications. According to one of the scenarios in 2050 the demand for foreigners will reach around 130 million people! Many EU countries have been looking for economic migrants in sectors where the problem of no qualified labour force exists.  

“Act on foreigners – a summary” - a brochure issued by the Department of Foreigners' Affairs from June 2015 leaves no doubts. In the future we should expect further growth of number of foreigners in Poland. The citizens of Ukraine have the biggest immigration potential. By the end of 2016, most probably, they will have owned around 100,000 valid residence permits. Other national groups will also face increases. On the turn of 2016 and 2017 the number of foreigners who have valid residence permits will most probably reach about 250,000 people.   

raportWe are reminding you of it because there is no doubt that Polish craft is in a big crisis today and the flow of human capital from abroad appears to be an opportunity to find promising talented workers. Few people who want to learn the profession and lack of craftsmen these days are effects of educational mistakes which were made several years ago. Then introduced solutions lowered the number of vocational schools students to just 10%. Why can stone industry be a beneficiary of the latest immigration wave in Europe? Results of our online survey tell us that stone industry is willing to accept immigrants. When asked „would you hire an immigrant to work for your stone company?” only 27% said „definitely no”.

Contrary to what one might expect, the problem lies not in lack of qualifications of Polish people, but in their unwillingness to work in Poland. They know that their skills are also desired abroad and they can earn much more money in rich EU countries. So we are not surprised to see a lot of job adverts which say: stonemasons to work in Scandinavia needed immediately! Wages? Around 12-14 EUR/h. Another thing is that when speaking about shortage of staff in our stone companies we often prefer to be anonymous.

- Three or four years ago my company suffered from a drastic outflow of qualified stonemasons. As much as 30% of my company staff found their new jobs in Great Britain and Sweden – a businessman from Warsaw describes his problems with shortage of staff.  

- I hired Ukrainians to replace them. It was easy because they had no problems with getting residence and work permits. I can say that 80% of them are doing their stone cutting jobs well. The company is developing so we've got 20% of assembly job vacancies. Are wages a problem? Yes, they are. They were attractive in 1990s, but today they are the same as in construction industry. It means that in Warsaw a stonemason – assembler earns 6-7 thousand zlotys net (ca. 1,500-1,750 euro) which might not be very much for a Pole but it surely is for people from Ukraine.

Opening of the German labour market in May 2011 and growing demand for Polish builders there have even strengthened this phenomenon. I mean shortage of Polish workers who are ready to work money offered in Poland. According to the data from the Central Statistical Office (GUS), around 2.4 million of Polish people worked abroad last year. Over 70,000 new trips to work abroad were recorded last year. If we have a look at the data in recent years, we can see that the trend is still upwards.

In order to make our companies competitive we just have to let economic immigrants enter our market. By the way, let us remind you that Polish people are not familiar with the true scale of economic migration. The recent (June 2016) survey has shown that every fourth Pole thinks that foreigners represent more than 10% of the population in Poland. As many as 7% of the respondents  think there are over 20% of them. Although Warsaw is the biggest centre of foreigners in Poland, there are still few of them anyway. According to various sources, they represent maximum 2-3% of the whole population of the city. In the whole Poland there are only 1% of them!

Foreign capital, but where from?

Employment of foreigners in Poland is governed by the act as of 20 April 2004 on promotion of employment and labour market institutions, the act as of 15 June 2012 on effects of entrusting work to foreigners who stay in Poland illegally and implementing regulations. Precondition for legal employment of a foreigner from a third country is possessing a work permit and residence permit. In this case employers apply for residence permits to the province governor. When a foreigner is already in Poland (legally), s/he applies for temporary residence and work permit (one document).

raport2There is an exception, however. There exists a simplified procedure which allows a citizen who comes from one of the following countries, that is Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, to work in Poland for six months during a 12-month period. In order to use this simplified procedure (without a need to obtain a work permit), the employer must submit a statement to the regional labour office which says that he is going to employ a foreigner. Besides, a foreigner must possess a document (residence title) which authorizes him/her to work in the Republic of Poland.    

Construction market requires permanent and temporary workers. Seasonal employment is especially desired in stone industry as construction industry is still one of the most labour intensive sectors of Polish economy. This means increased demand for workers from abroad who are hired not only as a result of traditional recruitment process but also by means of leasing and outsourcing.

- In Poland year by year the problem of staff shortage is getting bigger and bigger. The last decision of the ruling party – I mean the famous new parental benefit called Family 500+ (a new payment to families that amounts to 500 zlotys per child (ca. 113 euros) for second and consecutive children in every family and as well as the first child when the income threshold is met) did not help us at all  – Jan Ziętek from Lastrico explains the situation in our branch.

- The EU funds have greatly contributed to the fact that production capacity in our branch is significantly growing, but we cannot forget that people cannot always be replaced by machines, even if the machines are ultramodern. It would be good for stone industry, if stone companies hired not only unqualified workers, but, most of all, qualified ones: those who worked in their countries in stone branch. They must be, of course, well-paid. But we have to ask the following question: Isn't our country just a stop on the way to the West Europe? Are foreign workers going to stay in Poland or move West after a few months? What can we do to make them stay? The answer seems simple: we must offer them good money. But can we afford it? I think we can't, especially now when companies are fighting against one another by lowering prices of their products and services. Another thing is flooding the market with Chinese goods and the State's agreement to import (usually) finished products by people who have nothing to do with our branch. This is true for both construction and tomb markets.   

It is obvious that we are learning stone profession all our lives. It does not matter how talented our worker is, employers have to spend money on training and improving his skills. In order to encourage foreigners to stay in Poland, we have to create an effective system of professional activation. On the margin let me say that apprentice and master craftsman's certificates issued by a Chamber of Crafts are state documents and if their owner wants to use them abroad they must be officially legalized.  

Europe was built by foreigners

Post-war recruitment actions, the so-called guest-workers programmes, worked in Europe until 1973. The countries accepted a lot of immigrants from poorer European countries and former oversea colonies due to post-war investment boom. This way, for example the mining branch in Belgium was fighting against its staff shortage. Mutual connections, globalisation, easy mobility make building a wall in 21st century pointless. Experiences with foreigners in the EU countries prove that economic migration brings the so-called cheap labour force to host countries. The new labour force is often better qualified than local workers. Those countries are also less affected by shortage of specialists in particular economic sectors. There is a huge need for specialists. In stone industry there is an enormous demand for workers who have unique skills. Will experienced workers find good successors?  

raport 3- I'm thinking about hiring a foreigner – says Jerzy Zysk, artist-sculptor from Strzegom, whose words prove the rightness of what has been said above.
- But where from? Ukrainians are hard-working. I heard that they are reliable and don't look for excuses! I know somebody who could recommend a person like this. I'm thinking about a seasonal job now but I'm also considering the situation when that person would like to bring his family to Poland.

Finding a promising worker is extremely desired in a company which has high aspirations. A stonemason's or paver's job… - these jobs are not for everybody. Like in every job, it is easy to burn out.  

By 1990s Polish labour market had been national. Access to the European Union led to liberalisation of labour market regulations. In 1990 the number of work permits amounted to 3377 whereas in 2014 it was 43,663. The latest data from the Statistical Office (first quarter of 2016) say about 51,500 (including about 2,000 renewed ones). Interestingly, the smallest companies are the largest beneficiaries of human capital! Working for small (often family) companies was typical for citizens from Asian and East European countries (with the leading role of Ukrainian and Vietnam citizens).  

Unregistered foreigners

In order to analyse the problem (staff shortage) as fully as possible and find the way to solve it (employment of foreigners), we asked the National Labour Inspectorate (PIP) to provide us with information about the problem of illegal employment in stone industry, paving industry and rock mining industry. It turned out that the checks of foreigners' employment legality were carried out in the first quarter of 2016.

- On the basis of the data owned by the Chief Labour Inspectorate it is not possible to analyse and present the scale and problems of legality of foreigners' employment in those industries (stone, paving, open-pit rock mining) – explains Michał Tyczyński, deputy director of the Department of Employment Legality at the Chief Labour Inspectorate.

raport 4- The National Labour Inspectorate does not carry out such detailed analyses. Besides, statistical data, due to low number of checks of such companies (and their identification), are not enough to express any opinion on this matter. Nevertheless, on the basis of registered data it has been stated that in first quarter of 2016 the Inspectorate checked two companies (that employ three foreigners) which deal with quarrying decorative stones and stone for construction, limestone rocks, gypsum, chalk and slates, two companies (that employ two foreigners) which deal with cutting, forming and finishing stone), 17 companies (that employ 72 foreigners from third countries) which deal with works related to road and motorway construction, and 23 companies (that employ 133 foreigners from third countries) which deal with other construction and finishing works.

In total, 44 checks have been carried out. The Inspectorate checked the legality of employment of 200 foreigners from third countries, including 190 Ukrainian citizens. 22 foreigners (including 20 Ukrainian citizens) have been employed illegally. Violations have been found in 9 companies. In 21 cases the foreigners did not posses work permits; in 2 cases they had no residence permits and in one case the foreign worker worked on different position or in different conditions that specified in work permit; in one case no job contract. Other violations included not obtaining from the foreigner (before he started work) a valid document that authorizes him to stay in the Republic of Poland and keeping this document (21 foreigners); doing work for other company than the one that issued and registered the statement (8 foreigners); foreigners were not registered or registered too late to social insurance (26 foreigners); conclusion of civil-law contracts instead of employment contracts (11 cases); breaking technical safety rules (48 foreigners).

Surprisingly, economy fields with the largest concentration of illegally employed workers are administration and business support services (including temporary employment agencies) – 50.7% of all revealed cases, construction – 27.8%, industrial processing – 7.8%, transport and warehouse management – 3.6%.

Rafał Dobrowolski


targikamienThe Board of Wrocławskie Przedsiębiorstwo Hala Ludowa Sp. z o.o. made a decision to postpone KAMIEŃ Stone Fair (initially scheduled on 24 – 26 November 2016) to 24 – 26 March 2017



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