Friday, June 02, 2006

Polish example

This is an article from the only online Finnish magazine in English: Ovi Magazine:

In an April edition of The Daily Mail, they revealed that an estimated two million Poles will have arrived in Britain since EU borders were thrown open to eight east European countries in 2004. This figure is remarkable and you cannot fail to be amazed when you realise that the population of Warsaw, the Polish capital, is just over 1.9million.

Britain's population is predicted to break through the 60 million mark this July, which equates to Poles making up 1.6% of the population. To give Finns some perspective that would mean 84,800 Poles living in Finland, which is difficult to comprehend when you think that there are approximately 113,000 foreigners in the country and Poles are found under the 'Others' column.

Britain's Office for National Statistics says that Poles are arriving at an average rate of 100,000 a month, although they don't have figures for the actual number who have stayed and keeping tally is near impossible. The statistics are startling for Britain but it seems that the majority of people are happy with the influx of Polish workers; a reaction not usually associated with the xenophobic populace.

What are the Poles doing for Brits to be so accepting of the influx? While visiting the UK recently and later reading comments on a number of forums, I have learnt that a very large majority of Poles have an excellent reputation as being hard workers. I was told stories about their punctuality, their willingness to do a honest day's work and perform their tasks to a high standard.

Over 340,000 Poles are legally registered in the UK, each of them paying tax, National Insurance and contributing to society, plus many employers say that Poles are less likely to call in sick. The self-employed Poles may take cash-in-hand, but they still endeavour to do a good job and are beginning to kill off the cowboy companies that prey upon the public. So, what is keeping them away from Finland?

I suspect the language barrier is the greatest obstacle and the lack of an established Diaspora in the country. At least when they arrive in the UK, they have approximately two million fellow countrymen as potential customers and speaking Polish is a given. However, many Brits who have hired Poles praise the level of the English spoken and have faced no difficulties.

Forget a single European currency, perhaps it is time to negotiate a single European language, which I suggest to be English, since I am extremely biased. Finland could take the first step by adding English to the official languages of Finnish and Swedish; a step that isn't that huge with the majority of business using English as the working tongue.

There is a chance that language is not the reason Poles don't want to emigrate here, there could be cultural, geographic, economic or even political reasons why many don't come. In the end, the simple reason could be that they don't want to hear endless North Pole jokes.

By Asa Butcher

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