International Trade

Trading with Poland

Brexit has raised a large number of questions about the future, especially when it comes to the status of migrants.  Somewhat surprisingly, some of the ones experiencing a high level of concern may well be the British expats living in Poland.

While expats living throughout Europe have expressed some concern over their ability to live and own homes in the EU after Brexit is complete, the concern of those living in Poland is slightly different. A large majority of Brits living in Poland are young to middle age workers who, in a somewhat ironic turnabout, have migrated to Poland to work.  This is most likely due to the business and trade climate that exists in the country.

Since breaking free of communist rule and joining the European Union, Poland has done very well for itself. The country is classified as having a high-income economy by the World Bank and is the largest of the former communist countries in the EU.  Poland’s is the largest economy in Central Europe, ranks sixth among the EU countries, and ranks 20th in the world. Notably it is the only economy in the EU that did not go into recession during the financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Part of this prosperity is a direct result of the government’s pursuit of economic liberation and reform. The country adheres to strict guidelines concerning public and private debt.  The government has also created a system that is very favourable to foreign entrepreneurs which includes such items as tax incentives, economic development zones, and competitive land prices.  Foreign entrepreneurs also benefit from the fact that the percentage of Poles that speak English is among the highest in Europe, ranking above Germany and Switzerland.

Poland’s exports are incredibly diverse. Topping the list are capital goods for industrial retooling and machinery.  This is followed by furniture, foods (including smoked and fresh fish, fine chocolate, specialty bread, meat and dairy products), boats, planes, hardwood, shoes and casual clothing, and cosmetics.  Germany is the largest consumer of Polish exports, with the UK a distant second, followed by the Czech Republic and France.

Even though large industrial products make up the bulk of Poland’s exports, the true driver of the Polish economy since the fall of communism has been small and medium businesses (SMEs).

The economic incentives the government offers to entrepreneurs and start-ups, has no doubt been a major influencer in this regards. What is interesting is the prevailing attitude of those starting SMEs in Poland.

Unlike most of the world, Polish SMEs have a tendency to think locally rather than globally.  Seed fund partner Marcin Szelag noted that the decision “to be local marginalises companies and forces them to be a small business right off the bat. Whatever the reason, it seems we are afraid of going global, which is an ingrained obstruction to building large tech companies.”  However this may be changing.  Business consultant Marta Stelmaszak, who aids international businesses in succeeding in Poland, says the start-up environment now rivals places such as Tel Aviv and London.

Some of the Polish start-ups that are at the forefront of this change in attitude are Estimote, Kontak.io who specialise in wireless beam technology; Brainly, a global network for students; the medical industry booking service DocPlanner, and video game development.

The growing technology infrastructure and a tech savvy workforce are among the reasons for the growing number of British workers migrating to Poland. While they may not make the same income as in the UK, the lower cost of living, a seemingly recession proof economy, and a business friendly attitude and intangibles such as a more favourable climate, seem to offset the wage disparity.

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