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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.7 Cross-border mobility in employment, entrepreneurship and vocational opportunities

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Programmes and schemes for cross-border mobility
  2. Legal framework

Programmes and schemes for cross-border mobility

The educational and professional mobility of young people takes place primarily within the framework of EU programmes – presently the Erasmus+ programme. There are other multilateral, bilateral and national programmes (co-)financed by Polish authorities and/or by other countries or foreign organisations. Services to promote professional mobility are offered by the European network of Public Employment Services EURES

Erasmus+ in Poland 

The structure of the Erasmus+ programme for 2014-2020 includes the following components: 

  • Key Action 1. Mobility of Individuals; 

  • Key Action 2. Cooperation for Innovation and Exchange of Good Practices; 

  • Key Action 3. Support for Policy Reform; 

  • Jean Monnet programme; 

  • Sport –  support for sports-related initiatives. 

Within the Key Action1 international mobility of learners and staff is supported. Information on programmes regarding international job mobility, entrepreneurship mobility and career opportunities is available at by sector and by action: school education, vocational education and training, higher education, adult education, youth, central projects, and sports. 

In 2019, the emphasis in the selection of projects was on: 

- reaching marginalised young people, promoting diversity, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, promoting freedom, tolerance and respect for human rights, enhancing media literacy, critical thinking and initiative in young people; 

- equipping youth workers with the competences and methods necessary for their professional development, including digital work done by young people. 

The new financial perspective for Erasmus+ for 2021-2027 started in mid-2021 and will fund, among others, projects covering learning mobility and cross-border cooperation, social inclusion and support for green and digital transition, sustainability of education and training systems in the face of pandemic. 

Erasmus+ at higher educational institutions 

The programme supports international cooperation of universities, enables students to go abroad for part of their studies and work placements, facilitates staff mobility and international cooperation of higher education institutions. In 2020, higher education institutions were implementing the following projects: 

1. Key Action 1 Learning Mobility - student and staff mobility projects, joint master's studies, loans for students undertaking master's studies in another country. 

2. Key Action 2 Cooperation projects - cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices. 

Other entities for students 

Students are offered many work placement schemes in other countries with a variety of entities. For example: 

International Parliamentary Scholarship of the German Bundestag. The scholarship programme of the German Bundestag and the Berlin Universities – International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) lasts five months. The main part of the programme is a 15-week internship at the office of one of the deputies to the Bundestag. 

The Polish-American Freedom Foundation offers internship scholarships and internships at reputable American companies. 

Foreign students at Polish universities 

In recent years the number of foreign students at Polish universities has been growing dynamically. This is due to both demographic issues (fewer and fewer generations of Poles are entering the age of higher education) and the related development needs of universities, as well as the growing attractiveness of Poland as an EU country and the Polish education system adapting to the needs of foreigners. 

In the 2017/2018 academic year, according to CSO data, 72.7 thousand foreigners studied on a full cycle of education (additionally 12.8 thousand within the Erasmus programme). This is an increase of over 10% compared to the previous year (then there were 65.8 thousand foreign students). The internationalisation rate (admission of foreigners to Polish universities) is increasing, which is 5.63%, but this is below the OECD average, which was above 8% in the 2015/2016 academic year. According to the "Foreign Students in Poland - 2021" report, 89,420 foreign students from 180 countries studied in Poland in the 2021/22 academic year, 4,731 more than the year before (a 5.6 percent increase). The largest group, 38,473, are students from Ukraine. Foreign students now account for 7.34 percent of the total number of students in our country. 

A key role in attracting students, PhD students and researchers from abroad is played by the newly established (1 October 2017) National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA), whose mission is to strengthen the potential of Polish science and higher education through international exchange and cooperation. 

Services by Public Employment Services 

Public Employment Services in Poland are a member of EURES network since the time of Poland’s accession to the European Union (2004). The function of the National Coordination Office is performed by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, Department of Labour Market. EURES helps jobseekers to find jobs and employers to recruit from all over Europe 

Vortal of Public Employment Services is run by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy (before Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy). It contains current job offers in EU and EEA countries and bookmarks the web pages of  EURES, European Public Employment Services and the governmental portal with useful information for the Poles planning to return back to the country after emigration.  

EURES   In Poland, activities within the EURES network are performed by: 

  • Provincial Employment Offices 

  • District Employment Offices 

  • Provincial headquarters of Voluntary Labour Corps (OHP) 

  • Youth work and education centres of Voluntary Labour Corps (OHP) 

  • Entities accredited by the Minister of Family and Social Policy 

The network of EURES advisers and assistants is nationwide. It is also worth stressing the importance of the European Job Mobility Portal . 

The EURES in Poland organized information days, job and counselling fairs and exchange platforms with information on the working and living conditions on EU and EFTA countries. 

Voluntary Labour Corps (Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy, OHP

OHP conduct youth exchange programmes and organise youth holiday excursions, including trips to work in other countries. The international exchange of young people is carried out within the following programmes: Erasmus+, the Polish-German Youth Co-operation, the Polish-Lithuanian Youth Exchange Fund, and the Visegrad Fund. 

From 2015, EURES services are provided (in addition to Employment Offices) at OHP by EURES advisers and EURES assistants, who are employed in 16 OHP Regional Headquarters and 49 OHP Youth Education and Employment Centres. 

They are open to the public, free of charge, and addressed to jobseekers interested in moving to another country for employment, as well as to employers who wish to recruit foreign workers. 

Legal framework

Economic migration of the Poles 

Poland's accession to the EU (2004), initiated significant migration processes from Poland, especially of young people.  It was conditioned by the bad situation on the labour market for young people (unemployment rate in the group up to 25 years was about 40%) and the surplus of labour resources (as a result of baby boomers entering the labour market). Approximately 2.5 million of our country's residents reside outside Poland, although this number is decreasing due to, among others, an improvement in the labour market situation and government programmes encouraging people to return from emigration (e.g. the Polish Returns programme encouraging scientists to return to the country).  

According to CSO estimates, at the end of 2018, about 2 455 000 permanent residents of our country were temporarily outside Poland, i.e. 85 000 (3%) less than in 2017. About 2.155 thousand people stayed in Europe (86 thousand less than in 2017), most of them - about 2.031 thousand - stayed in EU member states. Among EU countries, the largest number of Polish emigrants stayed in Germany (706 thousand), the United Kingdom (695 thousand), the Netherlands (123 thousand) and Ireland (113 thousand). The main reason for leaving was the desire to take up a job (this is indicated by the results of the LFS, EU-SILC). The 30-39 age group was the most represented in 2018. In contrast, 10 years earlier  these were the people aged 20-29. 

Employment of foreigners in Poland 

Employing foreigners in Poland is governed first and foremost by the Act of 20 April 2004 on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions, the Act of 12 December 2013 of Foreigners and implementing regulations. 

In accordance with EU documents, Poland accepts the free movement of workers in the Member States of the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland. 

Permits to work in Poland are not required e.g. for family members of EU/EEA/Switzerland nationals, foreigners granted protection in Poland (e.g. a refugee status, tolerated stay), people holding a Polish Card, foreign language teachers in education system institutions, graduates of Polish upper-secondary schools and full-time university courses as well as students and PhD students during their studies in Poland. 

The foreigners, third country nationals, can be entrusted work in Poland provided they obtain a work permit and they stay in Poland legally. The work permit is applied for by an employer to a competent voivode, and if this is an S-type permit (i.e. a seasonal work permit) to a competent starost (Poviat Labour Office). With respect to a temporary residence and work permit, the foreigner staying in Poland legally applies to a competent voivode.  

The simplified procedure, also known as the “declaration procedure” (without the need to obtain a work permit), applies to citizens of the following countries: The Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. They can work in Poland for 6 months in any period of 12 consecutive months, if the employer made a special declaration at the employment office. 

As a result of the increased scale of economic emigration after Poland's accession to the EU, economic growth and falling unemployment, the problem of labour force shortage is more and more frequently raised by employers, in particular in such sectors as agriculture or construction. This has led, inter alia, to the start of a discussion on the wider opening of the Polish labour market to foreigners and the need to make changes to the existing policy in this respect. 

Comparing the number of foreigners insured with the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), an increase in legally employed foreigners is evident: from the end of September 2018 to the end of December 2019, from 569,000 to 651,000, by the end of 2020 the number had risen to 725,000, and by the end of 2021 it had reached 875,000 people. Another influx of legally working foreigners came as a result of the war in Ukraine. In December 2022, the number of insured foreigners reached 1 million 63 thousand. 

The Russian aggression in Ukraine and the migration of refugees to Poland  

The Russian aggression in Ukraine (February 24, 2022) caused a massive influx of migrants to Poland. The government very quickly adopted a special law guaranteeing support for Ukrainian citizens and eased regulations on their employment (Law of March 12, 2022 on Assistance to Ukrainian Citizens in Connection with the Armed Conflict on the Territory of Ukraine), including: guarantees of legal residence, financial and non-financial assistance to meet basic needs, access to the labor market (including medical professions), access to health care, access to schools and pre-school care for refugee children. In 2022, between 1.2 and 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees reside in Poland (estimates). Their contribution to the labor force and impact on labor productivity is important for the Polish economy. Before the aggression, the positive impact on the economy was mitigated by the 1.4 million economic migrants from Ukraine, who contributed 13% of Poland's total historical GDP growth between 2013 and 2018. The presence of migrants mitigated labor shortages in many industries. The primary challenge now is to effectively integrate Ukrainian refugees into Polish society and the Polish economy (including mothers with children and the middle class that dominates the refugees). A number of central and local government measures have been launched to address the most significant problems of Poland's labor and housing markets, with strong involvement of the civic sector, public and private sector entities. The ministry in charge of labor has launched a number of labor market services and instruments, among others: job placement, vocational counselling, training, including in the Polish language.