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Labor market ‘24: New migration policy and education reform needed

2023 was the first in several years without significant shocks to the labor market, such as a pandemic, rapidly rising inflation or war.

The stability we experienced will continue this year. Entrepreneurs are rather optimistic about the future, although jobs will be fewer and unemployment will not increase. The three key challenges we will face in 2024 are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, education of the future and migration policy.

The public debate has been dominated by issues related to AI, which has taken the labor market by storm and will certainly change the way it operates. One thing is certain – jobs will change, forcing a modification of skills and providing the impetus to look at the education system in terms of its fit with the skills of the future. At the same time, we have been facing the challenges of migration.

Wise migration policy

In 2023, Poland began to see a declining supply of workers from Ukraine, as many other countries opened up to them, including Germany, the UK, Canada and the Scandinavian countries and it is these destinations that our eastern neighbors are most willing to choose. According to our estimates, a large number of Ukrainians, of whom there are approximately 2 million in Poland, treat our country as a transit country. There are more than 1 million of them in Germany, and a total of 3.5 million in Canada, the UK and other European countries.

Poland cannot compete with Germany, Canada, the UK or the Scandinavian countries in terms of the level of the minimum wage. On the other hand, we can try to ensure that the families of those working in Poland – their children, parents or grandparents – can count on the same social support, including access to health care, crèches, kindergartens and schools, as is the case with our biggest competitors. It is also crucial to develop a clear and unchanging migration policy. This will help stabilize the directions of migration, which should support the development of the Polish economy and fill vacancies in key market areas. In terms of the deficit areas of the market, we can model ourselves, among other things, on Australian or Canadian solutions.

On the other hand, when thinking about stabilizing the directions of migration, it is already known that Poland needs to open up to countries other than Ukraine. From our point of view, it would be best to bet on workers from Belarus, but not only. Countries such as Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan should also be on the list, as the positive experiences of Ukrainian migrants will translate positively into interest from workers from these countries in the labor market in Poland.

Awareness of AI-related changes

Almost one in three entrepreneurs has made at least one person redundant in the last year in favor of a robot or AI, according to our report ‘Polish Labor Market Barometer.’ This is also confirmed by recent news of mass layoffs at large corporations, including Nokia, which has announced that over 14,000 people will lose their jobs. Ericsson has also decided to reduce its workforce and plans to cut 8,500 jobs. In Poland, BNP Paribas will make around 900 people redundant and Fabryka Mebli Forte will terminate contracts with 230 employees. In addition, since the beginning of the year, more than 700 companies, mainly one-person operations, have disappeared from the taxi market and more than 3,000 more have been suspended.

Automation and AI in companies will become increasingly common. 70% of entrepreneurs declare readiness to implement them and 19% are already doing so. We are facing a paradigm shift in the global economy, where maintaining or improving macroeconomic indicators will not directly correlate with growth in the labor market. Also, unlike previous industrial revolutions, middle-skilled workers, i.e. a wide range of white-collar workers, will be most affected. This opens up a broad discussion related to what will happen to these people. We will not make an AI expert or a programmer out of every driver or accountant. Systemic solutions will be needed to avoid a scenario in which employees ask for jobs because there will simply be a lot less of them. This trend can already be seen. Although unemployment is not rising for the time being and will remain stable throughout 2024, the supply of jobs is falling.

Education reform

No system, and this includes education, is forever. It needs to be modified and adapted to current conditions. And these are dynamic. Both primary and tertiary education must keep up with social and technological changes, or it could spell huge problems. An example is Finland, which was once a champion in the international PISA test of 15-year-olds, but over time has been falling in the rankings and the latest results show a sharp dip. One reason is migration and the resulting increase in student diversity. This shows that a lack of sensitivity and change to the social environment can have negative consequences. Likewise with the failure to keep up with technological advances. Primary schools and universities should be shaping skills that will allow young people entering the labor market to easily find their place. And it is already clear that skills such as empathy, creativity, teamwork and complex problem-solving skills help in the struggle to make AI work for people. And schools need to shape these skills.

Sylwia Ziemacka
Sylwia Ziemacka
“I believe our unique selling point is that we focus on what brings us together. Poland Weekly offers something you will not find anywhere else: a truly international and unifying perspective focused on content that builds cooperation and mutual understanding. This attitude doesn't make us naïve, but it allows us to focus on mutual understanding and a search for solutions. There are so many new challenges that we are all facing, such as energy transformation, climate change and supply chain disruption, to name but a few. By working together and sharing good practices, we can achieve so much more.”