A known but uncertain path: The role of foreign labour in Polish agriculture
Journal of Rural Studies 64: 177-188
We assess the role of foreign labour in Polish agriculture in the short run, and reflect on the sustainability of the supply of foreign labour in the long run. We thus examine an example of a new immigrant destination that is characteristic for a large share of agriculture production in the total product and oversupply of domestic labour in a farm sector as a heritage of the post-communist past. Drawing on registry data, on a survey of farmers conducted in 2016, and on a survey of Ukrainian migrants (the largest group of labour migrants in Poland) conducted in 2015, we document the high reliance of the farm sector on foreign workers in several regions of Poland, especially in the Mazowieckie region which is where the rate of employment of foreign labour is the highest in Poland. Because low-paid and arduous farm work is not too attractive to migrants, they tend to seek employment in other sectors, especially women and first-timers. Consequently, a significant increase in the supply of Ukrainian workers to Polish farms is rather unlikely in the near future. This assessment implies that Polish farms should not only rely on a cheap foreign labour, but need to invest in labour-substituting technologies. Our observations add to the literature on the links between labour migration and agricultural development: processes observed in the farm sectors of developed countries resurface in the little explored context of post-communist, new immigrant destinations.
Seasonal foreign labour
New immigrant countries