The economic integration of immigrants in a country in the intermediate phase of the migration cycle – Poland versus selected EU countries


The objective of the project is to widen the knowledge on the relations between immigrants’ economic integration and migration patterns. This aim will be reached by conducting an analysis of the patterns of integration and immigration in the case of a country which is in the intermediate phase of the migration cycle. The current state of knowledge suggests a positive relation between the level of immigrants’ economic integration and the duration of their stay in the destination country. The classical explanation for this dependency lays in the process of the migrants‘ acquisition and accumulation of location-specific human capital, which supports their assimilation into the host labour market. Existing theoretical models predict that in effect the immigrants’ productivity will increase and their labour market position (wages, employment rate, sectoral structure of employment, etc.) will converge to that of the native workers. If we acknowledge that receiving countries may have different positions in the migration cycle, this reasoning becomes incomplete.

Existing models of immigrants’ economic integration were built based on two fundamental assumptions: 1) that the destination country has gone through a change in migration status, i.e. that it became a country in which immigration quantitatively dominates emigration, and 2) that immigration is aimed at settlement or at least that it is of long-term character. The first assumption implies that the process of immigrants’ economic integration is analysed under such socio-economic circumstances, in which immigration is numerous and becomes a permanent element of the social, economic and political reality (Arango 2012; Fassman and Reeger 2012; Okólski 2012). The second of the evoked assumptions implies that the demand for immigrant labour may be generated endogenously, i.e. result from the consumption needs of immigrants themselves (Wilson and Portes 1980, Portes et al. 2002). Studies which would test the positive relation between the level of immigrants’ economic integration and the duration of their stay in the destination country and relax the above-mentioned assumptions are scarce. Hence, the process of immigrants’ economic integration under the circumstances of small scale, temporary inflows of foreigners remains unexplained. Noteworthy, such circumstances are present in a number of countries, which are in the transition phase of the migration cycle – especially from the region of Central and Eastern Europe.

Given the above-mentioned objectives, the project poses the following research questions:

a.what is the scale of the immigrants’ participation in the Polish labour market (quantitative parameters: labour market position, wages, character of employment, sectoral distribution, participation in the ethnic economy, etc.)?
b.what factors determine the process of labour market integration, including: what is the relevance of human and social capital for the form of employment and level of earnings?
c.what is the scale of welfare dependency and what is the net fiscal position of immigrants in Poland? What are their determinants?

In the context of embedding the proposed research in the discourse on the migration cycle, the project also poses questions concerning:

d.the immigrants’ economic integration patterns in countries in various phases of the migration transition (Poland versus other Central and Eastern European, and South European countries);
e.the ways in which economic integration patterns (and the development of ethnic economies, i.e. the market interactions between the self-employed, employees, employers and consumers originating in a specific ethnic group) affect immigration processes and, as a consequence, the change of immigration status of the receiving country; and
f.the effect of migration policy, especially integration policy, on the economic integration of immigrants.

From the above-mentioned research questions we derive the following hypotheses, which will be verified throughout the project:

Hypothesis 1: In case of lack of incentives for immigrants to invest in human capital specific to a given destination country, the level of immigrants’ economic integration is determined not by human capital, but by social capital.
Hypothesis 2: In case of multiple, temporary stays the (joint) time of residence in the destination country does not have a positive relation to the level of economic integration.
Hypothesis 3: Due to the small scale of immigration and low potential for the development of ethnic economies, immigrant entrepreneurs form a “middleman minority”, i.e. they undertake self-employment which makes their economic activity a) independent of the evaluation of their human capital on the local labour market, and b) independent of co-ethnic demand (Bonacich 1973).
Hypothesis 4: In case of a country in the intermediate phase of the migration cycle the fiscal position of immigrants is determined mainly by the legality of their residence/employment and by the character of migration (temporary/permanent).
Hypothesis 5: In countries in the intermediate phase of the migration cycle the states’ activities undertaken in the sphere of migration and integration policy have no effect on the process of immigrants’ economic integration.

In the organisational dimension, the aim of the project is to form a unique, interdisciplinary team of researchers who have rich experiences in economic analyses of the impacts of immigration, research on immigrant populations in Poland and studies related to migration


2015 - 2020

Source of funding

National Science Center (SONATA BIS)