21st Sep 2017

Poles help rejuvenate ageing Scotland

Thousands of young Poles migrating to Scotland are helping to boost the local economy and revitalise an ageing population.

Since Poland joined the EU two years ago, more than 20,000 Poles have moved to Scotland to work or study, according to Tom McCabe, the Scottish finance minister.

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  • Workers moving to Scotland are complaining about poor conditions (Photo: European Commission)

The migration from the eastern European country to Scotland is seen as a positive by the Scottish authorities as it is helping the country counter its ageing population.

"The population has been on a decline. It was predicted to dip below five million by 2014 but that has been revised to 2026, so there has been an improvement," remarked Mr McCabe.

"The most important thing about demographics in Scotland is that the population has been ageing quite significantly and there are less young people coming through. That means there are many opportunities" for immigrants.

According to statistics published by British authorities, 80 percent of the migrants from Poland to Scotland are under the age of 35.

On Monday (12 June) Mr McCabe launched a publication – in Polish and English - named "Welcome to Scotland" as part of the Year of Worker Mobility.

It includes advice on finding a job, on workers' rights, how to access accommodation and training opportunities.

"We find the work ethic among Poles is very strong. They want to move on, improve their skills and we think it's important to give them as much information on training opportunities as possible," said Mr McCabe.

Working conditions

But the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Scotland said on Monday (12 June) that an increasing numbers of the migrant workers are complaining of low pay, long hours and substandard accommodation.

"Bureaux across Scotland are hearing reports of exploitative employers and employment agencies paying below the national minimum wage and making illegal deductions," said a statement by the CAB.

The bureau also said that workers are living in overcrowded caravans, being expected to sleep two to a bed or on the floor, and facing excessive charges for accommodation and utility costs.

"Workers have told bureaux of being given false expectations or wrong information about their employment prospects while still in their countries of origin," said chief executive Citizens Advice Scotland, Kaliani Lyle

"Once in the UK, however, their options for complaining are few, as losing their job means having to return to their own country unless further work becomes available," she added.

The UK was one of the three old member states which opened their jobs markets to workers from the new accession countries as soon as they joined the bloc.

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