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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 March 2008, 08:55 GMT
Soaring pay lures Poles back home
By Steven Duke
BBC News, Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw town centre
Major international companies are investing in Wroclaw and its region

"My wage tripled in two years!" boasts Barbara Wasik, a Polish graphic designer.

But the pay rise was not a result of moving to the UK, instead the money rolled in when she came back home.

Barbara returned at the end of last year, to the job she left in 2005.

She was working for the same employer, in the same town.

There was one big difference though - her pay packet.

Wages in Poland are rising strongly as the economy expands.

Last year wages grew by 6.5%, by comparison pay in France and Germany grew 2%.

And as living standards in Poland improve, life in the UK has become less attractive.

Quality of Life

Barbara worked 12-hour shifts from Monday to Friday for a high street sports retailer.

"Life in the UK was just work. I had no time for myself. Back here I have time for my friends, time for leisure, time to party," she said.

Barbara does not regret her time in the UK, but is happy about coming home.

Wroclaw, Poland
Investment is booming in Wroclaw creating jobs and raising pay

"I used to live in Luton, renting a room with my ex-boyfriend. Here I rent a flat for myself for the same money."

Barbara lives in Poland's fourth largest city, Wroclaw, a town that has benefited from investments from international companies including LG, Cadbury and Volvo.

Jobs and money have flowed into Wroclaw, helping to slow the departure of Poles that took place after the nation joined the EU on 1 May 2004.

Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but it's believed 800,000 Poles moved to the UK in the years after European enlargement.

That prompted headlines in the British press like: "Would the last person to leave Poland please turn out the lights?"

Measuring the numbers returning to Poland is equally difficult, but it is easy to spot the reasons.

Pound problem

Rising wages are one explanation, the currency market offers another.

As Poland's economy grows, its currency, the zloty, has strengthened against the pound.

Monika Jedraszek
Monika Jedraszek left the UK due to the long hours and low pay

"Some of my friends have come back from the UK because of the fall in the value of the pound," explains Monika Jedraszek, a student in Wroclaw.

When Poland joined the EU, the pound was worth almost seven zloty, that has now fallen to just 4.5 zloty, making UK wages less alluring.

Monika lived in the UK for a year, working at a bakery during the day, and in a restaurant during the evening.

The long hours and low wages eventually took their toll, and she decided to head home.

"The standard of living here is getting better and better every year," she says.

"Now we can buy high technology.

"With suitable skills and good education, I can have the best work where I want.

"So why not be close to my family, and step by step we can have a wealthy country as well."

The Ten O'Clock News on BBC One will feature a special report on this issue on Friday, 14 March.

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