The pandemic has changed the labour market in Poland and most of the world. Many companies, wishing to provide security for their employees and maintain liquidity, stopped production and reduced employment to the necessary minimum. However, the period of isolation is slowly passing, the companies are coming back to work, the factories are starting to fulfill new orders and the harvest season in agriculture and horticulture has also begun. What has changed on the labour market in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic? Will it be easier to attract Polish workers? Will employment of foreigners cease to be an attractive solution for companies?
CSO statistics, i.e. changes on the local labour market
Companies are recruiting less – it is estimated that at the end of the first quarter of 2020 the number of vacancies in all companies in Poland was 76,500 and was 39% lower than the number of vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2019. Less demand for employees means less competition for a candidate between entities with a similar industry profile. Moreover, according to CSO data, by the end of April 2020 the number of registered unemployed people in Poland increased by 56,400. Thus, we are dealing with both a decrease in demand for work and an increase in supply.
On the other hand, the harvest season in agriculture and horticulture has started – there is an annual shortage of workers in these industries. Poles, if they are interested in working in this sector, usually go to the Netherlands, Germany or Norway, whereas our home market is supplied by workers from the East, mainly from Ukraine. Looking through job offers on popular job boards one can see that most employers offer free accommodation as an additional benefit. Such a construction of job advertisements may indicate that employers are looking for workers from the East. For Poles, the amount of remuneration for work is a priority. In the case of Ukrainian workers, whose mobility is much greater, the possibility of free accommodation is a key asset and often a deciding factor in accepting the offer.
Additionally, shopping habits of Poles have changed – logistics companies and distribution centers, which in the period of the pandemic recorded a huge sales growth, still need stable and motivated teams. Shift work, flexible adaptation to the changing work schedule, the need for night work and possible overtime – there are still few candidates on the local market who are willing to take on such demanding work. Ukrainians most often do not have a family in Poland, they came for a specific purpose – they want to earn money, so they are highly motivated and willing to work over the standard 40 hours a week, and night work is not a problem for them.
Is it possible to acquire employees from Ukraine during the pandemic?
Closed borders, reduced cross-border traffic, limited office hours – is it possible to recruit workers from the East in this situation? It is estimated that in March and April, i.e. during the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of foreigners staying in Poland decreased by more than 10% compared to the end of February, but these data refer to all foreigners staying in Poland, not only employees from Ukraine. According to the latest EWL report ‘A foreign employee in the pandemic”, the vast majority of employees remained in Poland. The key factor to staying in our country was the introduction of legal regulations prolonging the legality of stay of foreign workers in Poland. Although the vast majority of employees feel the effects of the pandemic (e.g. shortened working hours, job cuts, reduced wages) thanks to their flexibility, mobility and willingness to change, foreign workers quickly found themselves in the changed labour market.
The current situation in Ukraine – an increase in unemployment by more than a quarter of a million since the beginning of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic – with the gradual opening of visa centers and consulates – makes many employees ready to work immediately. At EWL, we systematically organize new arrivals, while implementing guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of virus spread, such as the organization of the recommended quarantine. Employees from Ukraine have been known as conscientious, motivated and willing to work. That is why so many companies, from different sectors of the economy, still rely on employing professionals from the East.
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