Labour movement restrictions will counter Polish brain drain

The President of the Polish Employers’ Federation Henryka Bochniarz is not unhappy about restrictions on free movement of labour towards the new Member States. They will counter a “disastrous” brain drain.

Contrary to her countrywoman Commissioner Danuta Hübner (see

), the President of the Polish
Confederation of Private Employers, Henryka Bochniarz, is not
concerned about barriers imposed by the old Member States on the
free movement of labour. While she believes that it would be
beneficial for Poles to gain some work experience abroad, she fears
a brain drain to the West if economic conditions do not improve in

“Our asset is a strong and well-educated base of young people. A
brain drain would be disastrous for the Polish economy, so
ultimately, I am not too unhappy about the current restrictions,”
says Ms Bochniarz in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV. Moreover
she believes that the old Member States will soon realise that
there is no real threat of a massive influx of foreign workers and
thus gradually remove the barriers.

She thinks that the Lisbon agenda will benefit from enlargement
as the ten new Member States will contribute with their recent
experience of reform which they acquired during the rapid
transition from communism to free market capitalism.

“The new Member States are entering an on-going discussion
process, a building site, and it remains to be seen how far their
accession will change the power structure of the EU. While some
current Member States are reluctant to push through economic and
social reforms, the accession countries are, in some aspects, more
advanced. They could not afford to wait, they had to reform the

On the other hand, she does not underestimate the role of the
EU-15 in the reform processes in the new Member States. While at
the moment, the Polish business community works very closely with
the government on the reform agenda, Ms Bochniarz thinks it
important for the EU to keep up the pressure. “We need the support
of the EU to introduce economic reforms and restructure public
finances,” she said.

Ms Bochniarz is convinced that it is up to the business
community to ‘sell the Lisbon agenda’ to the public. “You cannot
impose social reforms from the top, but you have to communicate.
The message needs to be delivered through in-depth dialogue with
trade unions and also the media,” her experience shows. “On the
other hand, the business community in Poland is not a well
established middle class, but it is the first generation of
capitalists. 30 per cent of our small entrepreneurs are former
workers and bureaucrats. They are still an integral part of the

What benefits will EU membership bring to the Polish economy? Ms
Bochniarz is hoping for a strong influx of foreign investment into
the SME sector. She expects a great variety of joint ventures and
consolidations in this area, following the big corporations that
have already moved in recent years.


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