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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February 2004, 08:29 GMT
Poland fears EU brain drain
By Adam Easton
BBC correspondent in Warsaw

Work America poster aimed to attract Polish students
Many Poles view America as a "lucky place"
When Poland joins the European Union on 1 May, the continent's labour market will begin to open up for many Poles pessimistic about job prospects in their home country.

Any permanent flight of Poland's brightest talent would be disastrous for the country's stuttering economy.

And although most EU countries (with the exception of the UK and Ireland) plan to continue some restrictions on immigration from Eastern Europe for seven years, many Polish graduates are already thinking about working overseas.

"I'm thinking about... gaining some experience abroad in a German company," says Malgosia, a twenty-year-old management and marketing student at Warsaw's School of Economics.

"Then I want to come back to Poland to set up my own company."

Easy money

In the student's bar, Malagosia's friends echo her thoughts.

Young people, well educated with a great potential, may stay abroad for their whole life
Jeremi Mordasewicz
The Polish Confederation of Private Employers
"I'm also thinking about studying in Germany," says Kamila, a 20 year-old European science student.

While Michal, a first year economics student, says he would like to work in the United States.

"In Poland [we] have the view of America as a lucky place where you can easily get work and earn lots of money," he says.

Tight jobs market

In Poland the average monthly salary is just 460 euros (316; $579), about a third of the EU average.

For many young Poles, it is easier to find a job and earn more abroad.

The unemployment rate for the under 25s here in Poland is about 40%.

It is a simple case of too many graduates and not enough jobs.

Brain drain

Employers know this is forcing young people oversees and are worried they might not come back.

"I am afraid that young people, well educated with a great potential, may stay abroad for their whole life if they can't find a place in Poland, in for example the research and development departments in companies or in universities," says economist Jeremi Mordasewicz of the Polish Confederation of Private Employers.

"They are people with ambition. If these people go abroad and stay there... it would be a disaster for our economy, for our companies."

High hopes

But others are more optimistic.

Poland's entry into the European Union should be very good for its economy.

Warsaw School of Economics student
Many students hope to get rich quick abroad
One estimate predicts that investment will rise by a third and that the country's gross domestic product will grow by 11%.

So the idea of a mass exodus of young graduates is rejected as unlikely by Marek Gora, professor of economics at the Warsaw School of Economics.

"It will not be a flood," she says.

"The average wage in Poland, in terms of euros or dollars, has risen much more sharply than in the West, so the wage incentive to move is much less strong.

"Secondly, there are a lot of good job opportunities in Poland, especially for young well-educated people."

Mr Gora insisted that the costs of working abroad - such as working in another culture, leaving their families or taking their families with them - makes it less attractive for many young people.

Coming home

Professor Gora's upbeat expectation of improvement for the Polish economy could also make it more attractive for young Poles to return after a few years abroad.

"Yes of course, I would definitely like to stay in Poland," says Michal who is keen to go abroad for a few years to gain some experience.

"Actually, I would like to [return]," says Kamila.

"But I think that in the world of today, everybody has to be very flexible and I can't say at the moment, yes, I will come back."

Malgosia is more determined.

"Definitely, this is my home, this is where I feel the best."

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