Polish Diaspora: As Poles are taking advantage of EU’s single employment market, employers at home find that they need to import labor from other parts of Europe. Another situation in which economic growth really benefits those with moderate education (see the U-Curve below).

This is the “second” Poland, a diaspora of 800,000 Poles estimated by officials here to have left the country since it joined the European Union in May 2004. The exodus is believed to be one of the largest migrations by Europeans since the 1950s, when a wave of Irish crossed the Atlantic to escape poverty. But in Poland, this huge movement of people has created a labor shortage so severe that the government may not be able to spend the money that is due to begin arriving in January from the European Union for projects like improving roads and the water supply.

[One] factor in the unemployment rate is the mismatch between jobs and workers. Krystyna Iglicka, a migration expert and sociologist at the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, says that Poland’s education system failed in the 1990s to train enough skilled workers, including engineers and craftsmen. “The trendy professions were marketing and services, not focusing on vocational or technical skills,” Ms. Iglicka said. “Vocational and technical schools were closed, teachers were made redundant. We are now paying the price.”

So critical is the shortage of welders and shipbuilders for Poland’s shipping industry that Poland and Germany are close to an accord that would allow unemployed workers from northern German ports to work in Poland.



Who is an immigrant? Earl Shorris, in Life and Times of Mexico, says that the greatest pressure to move, socially, are the poorest Mexicans–mostly the Indians. Now, movement can mean transition from rural life to urban life, a fact that is reflected in the population growth of Mexico City. However, social mobility does not translate into upward mobility: the Europeanized elites maintain control of power over natives, and the urbanized natives remain in poverty. Equally risky, but more advantageous, is migrating to the United States.

Vincenzo Caponi (Institute for the Study of Labor) looked at the relationship between education and migration to US from Mexico (link to abstract: Heterogeneous Human Capital and Migration: Who Migrates from Mexico to the US?). What he finds is interesting: the least and the most educated leave; those with some education remain. By some education, he means primary and some secondary education. But that group seems to be able to make the most out of the education it receives. The least educated find that they have no opportunities, while the most educated find that opportunities are not commensurate with their education.

Caponi reads these trends as a U-curve: those with some educated are most stable, those outside that group have the most incentive to leave. Improvements in education don’t seem to affect the trend.

The U-CurveSo, what to make of recent job growth in Mexico: will it keep people home? Doubtful. Most of the 950,000 jobs created are in sectors that require some education: construction and manufacturing. It may be true that “one job ends … and there’s another,” but the fact that job creation is not reaching the poorest Mexicans probably means nothing will change. Nor should it be expected. Investment will go to those parts of the economy that create the most exports, thus demand more skilled, industrial labor. The poorest Mexicans will remain where they are … or come to the US.

Most Americans probably are not aware of the hostility that indigenous Mexicans and Mestizos feel at home. Integrating into American society is no less difficult, but probably more rewarding, than what they face at home.

After centuries of near-total neglect of those “Indios” who maintained their indigenous language and traditions, the Mexican educational system established in the 1920s, after the Revolution, officially recognized that these languages existed and declared that they needed to be wiped out.Called “castellanización,” or “Spanishization,” this policy called for a system of Spanish-only schools in indigenous communities that would ease the assimilation of these poorest and most marginalized of Mexico’s peasants into the Mestizo culture.

According to Sylvia Schmelkes, head of the Department of Bilingual and Intercultural Education for Mexico’s federal education system, this educational model gave way, roughly in the middle of the 20th century, to a different approach.

“Teachers started to work with the indigenous language as a tool to help them achieve speaking Spanish,” she said. By the 1970s, Schmelkes said, a separate system of bilingual schools was created, whose objective was “to achieve an integral bilingualism, a fluency in both languages.”

“But many teachers still follow the old philosophies,” she said.

The Guardian reports on the industry that has grown around clandestine immigration from West Africa to Spain.  Areas of Senegal are becoming ports of call for Africans who, throwing caution to the wind, board flimsy vessels with the hope of reaching the nearest piece of European soil.

 Now the village [of Diogue] economy has found a new source of income: emigration. The hopefuls have to stock up on water, food and other supplies for the voyage, which can take two weeks. There are bargains to be had as the young men who are leaving sell anything they will not be needing where they are going – local currency is exchanged for euros at less than the going rate and mobile phones are dirt cheap. Many struggling fishermen have sold their pirogues to people-smugglers. But once the money has been spent, they find themselves with no way to make a living.

Africans are making harrowing journeys out into the ocean, hoping to find their way to the Canary Islands.  These trips are make-or-break propositions, costing a lifetime’s savings, and threatening lives themselves.

Forsten, Edward and Isaac are a little less fearless. They are from Ghana, but have been in Gambia for the past year, working on a building site to save the 400,000 CFA francs, the currency of Senegal and other former French colonies, charged for the trip to Europe (about £400).

All Forsten has with him is a half-filled plastic bag of his belongings. He is aware of the dangers of going to Spain in a pirogue, but he says that he has no choice – his life in Ghana is little more than a day-to-day struggle for survival, ‘and I can’t see that ever changing’.

Edward and Isaac managed to get on a boat leaving from Diogue, and were off the coast of Mauritania when a huge storm blew up. Everyone in the boat – including the ‘captain’ – was so terrified that they decided to head back to Senegal. Two people died in the course of the voyage from exhaustion and sickness. Their bodies were thrown overboard. ‘It was like we had become animals,’ Edward says afterwards. ‘I realised that it wasn’t worth degrading ourselves, and risking our lives just to get to Europe, even though it means the end of our hopes of finding a way out of the dead end we are in. There is no work for us back home.’ They know that the jobs they left in Gambia to go to Diogue will have been filled by others.

Not only have they lost their dream of a better life, Edward and Isaac have also lost the money that they had worked for a year to save up – the man who organised the voyage refused to reimburse them. Now they set off on the long journey back to Ghana. Isaac has a Spanish phrasebook tucked into his plastic bag. Will they make another attempt, once they have got some more money together? ‘When we were on that boat we saw into the pit,’ he says. ‘We were so tightly packed in there that no one could move. There were a number of us who couldn’t speak to anyone, because we didn’t share the same language. After the storm the supplies of food and water began to run out. Most of us had never been at sea before. We were ill and scared, and then the people started dying…’ His voice trails off. ‘I can’t describe how awful it was. Nothing is worth that.’

Read the article for more testimonials.