Prepared by Argos Translations
Prior to the accession of among others countries, Poland into the EU, the British government estimated immigration from the newly acceded countries at somewhere between 5,000 and 13,000 people per year. This was based on low historical migration rates and an expectation that 'even in the worst case scenario, migration to the UK as a result of the Eastern enlargement of the EU is not likely to be overly large'.
Just over two years later and the UK's population is swelling at the fastest rate recorded in forty years and has recently topped the 60 million mark. Much of this has been credited to the bus, plane, boatloads of young, hungry Eastern Europeans arriving seeking employment, and with it a chance of a new start in a land of increased opportunity or the funds to kick start businesses or property purchases back home otherwise beyond their means. How many are there exactly in the UK? Depends who you ask and who you believe. Officially, around half a million East Europeans were officially registered to work as of Summer 2006. If, however you believe highly-respected Polish publication Polityka's estimate that 1 million have moved to the UK from Poland alone and combine this with the popular belief that between half and two thirds of the Eastern-Bloc immigrants are from Poland, the overall number of migrants from Eastern-bloc countries could theoretically be over 1.5 million. Perhaps the only truth that can be deducted from this plethora of statistics and estimates is that the true number will likely never be known due to the government and official authority's inability to obtain reliable data.
Depending on where you stand, this phenomenal wave of immigration is either a death knell for British values and the tradition of the blue-collar British worker, or a powerful boost to the British economy while others in Europe stagnate. While industries in other EU countries have been limited in their attempts to expand by the availability of high quality, reasonably-priced labour, most UK industries have been able to fuel their expansion and advances with hard working Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians and Czechs. Regardless of the government's decision on allowing potentially high numbers of similarly-minded Bulgarians and Romanians join the UK workforce, Britain's ethnically diverse make-up has been irreversibly altered.
It's not just industry that is feeling the effect - Eastern Europeans, armed with higher wages and previously unheard of disposable incomes are rapidly learning to exercise their purchasing power while firms, though initially slow to react, are now scrambling to peddle their goods to this new, vibrant sector of British population. It's not just businesses in London that are drooling at the prospect of a whole new demographic group to market to, the pursuit of the Polish pound is spreading to Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh with surely many more to follow now that national chains are targeting this new market.
With good reason too - demographic studies of those that have entered the UK reveal that over three quarters of immigrants fall into the 18-34 age bracket. The popular estimate is that the average age of the Polish immigrant is 28. Following natural migration trends, the large majority of these are single, with fewer responsibilities, resulting in an increased disposable income and a greater tendency to participate in the consumer culture that has been behind Britain's economic growth over the past few years, at a time when most of Europe has been desperately trying to rein in escalating unemployment and avoid economic stagnation. Exactly how much are Eastern European immigrants contributing to the UK economy? Trusted think tank, the Centre for Economics and Business Research calculates that the average Polish migrant worker earns Â£20,000 per year, of which Â£6,000-7,000 is disposable income. With exact numbers of immigrants being unknown, the CEBR estimates spending power for this immigrant group to be somewhere between Â£3.5 and Â£4 billion.
Doug McWilliams, chief executive of the CEBR, remarks
It's basically been like adding the consumer demand of Liverpool to the economy in just two years. These people work hard, often 10-hour days, six days a week, so they certainly do have considerable spending power.
They do indeed have spending power - spending power that businesses interested in potential new markets would be wise not to ignore.
The potential for increases in the immigrant worker class' spending power and consumer demand appears to be almost unlimited and those expecting slowdowns in the near future might well do better than to hold their breath. While on other fronts, increased immigration is a controversial topic, economically the British government can have little cause for complaint. Eastern Europeans have plugged holes in sectors short of labour, helping to keep inflation down and in the relatively liberal open-market economy of the UK, the extra labour has been an easily absorbed asset. The minimal effect being had on unemployment as a result of immigration in the UK has disproved the theory that there are a finite number of jobs in the labour market and that the immigrant's gain is the Brits' loss. Though registered unemployment has crept up recently the government argues that this is not due to the economy failing to create jobs. Indeed, the number of job vacancies remain high and the overall job market continues to expand. From an economic point of view, the fact remains that while almost all immigrant workers in the UK have found full-time employment, the non-migrant unemployment rate has remained steady proving that immigrants are helping to fuel economic growth rather than undercut British workers in the labour market and steal their jobs.
Whether it be reduced costs and waiting times for housing repairs in London as a result of Polish plumbers and builders or new additions to the high street as a result of Polish demand for imported goods - many towns and cities are coming to appreciate the addition of yet another flavour to the bubbling concoction that is multi-ethnic Britain. Government and big business certainly appreciate the benefits brought by this dynamic new demographic group. According to the Ernst & Young Item Club, Polish and other Eastern European immigrants are having a positive economic impact by making the UK workforce 'younger, more flexible and economical, easing the pensions burden and keeping interest rates lower'. This not only helps to keep mortgages down but has also been responsible for boosting what was an otherwise waning buy-to-let market. The influx of workers needing instant accommodation has resulted in massive increases in cash advances being given for buy-to-let purchases with, in some company cases, figures doubling between 2005 and 2006. With so many economic positives, the trend for Eastern European migrants seeking work in the UK is unlikely to slow down any time soon. At least, if the UK's biggest businesses have their way, the trend will certainly continue. Key members of the Business for New Europe Group which includes Sainsbury's, Centrica and Merrill Lynch have recently made clear their thoughts on the matter, pushing for maintaining the open door policy for EU immigrants arguing that such a policy is in the best interests of British and economic growth. With government seemingly loathe to stunt economic growth and the support of big business, expect the immigrant population to continue to rise, especially with Romanians and Bulgarians soon to be added to the mix.
This means that the Â£3.5-Â£4 billion added to consumer spending as a result of migrant workers could literally be just the beginning; from 1st of January 2007, the double taxation of Polish workers no longer applies, further increasing the disposable income available to Polish workers in the UK. Up until this time, workers paid taxes on their UK incomes only to receive further demands from the Polish Inland Revenue - effectively meaning a double taxation or, as some had labeled it, an unjust 'Pole Tax'. Under the new system, Poles will pay tax in the UK only on that income earned while in the UK. For those splitting time between the UK and Poland, Poles will pay tax in Poland only on that income earned in Poland. The estimation of Â£3.5-Â£4 billion of consumer spending power was made during 2006 meaning that the abolition of double taxation will free up even more disposable income, especially in those sectors of the migrant population on the lowest wages.
Among opinions canvassed among Polish immigrants in the UK, long-term intentions are mixed. Many have taken up similar positions to those held back home, skilled or unskilled, but now on considerably higher wages and intend to make the UK their new home. Meanwhile, others have, for the short-term at least, abandoned or put on the backburner, long-term goals in the hope of earning as much as possible, regardless of position as a means of realising long-held dreams further down the line. This perhaps explains the oft-seen phenomenon of highlyskilled economists working night shifts at the local supermarket. It is believed that some 70% of Poles in the UK are graduates and, while it is true that the majority are currently in low skilled or unskilled jobs, it is inconceivable to think that this highly skilled class of immigrants will not, with time, ascend into the ranks of the skilled workforce. Inevitably this will be accompanied by wage increases and with the importance of brand loyalty and creating lifelong customers never so important, there has never been a more apt moment to 'go Polish'.
While it is true that Poles and Eastern Europeans, on arrival, generally tend to live in shared accommodation in conditions considerably less than luxurious, the common conception that wages earned by these immigrant groups in the UK are sent straight home is being disproved by actual figures. Western Union claims that while 60% of Poles working in the UK do wire transfer money home, many do not and, as is natural for young, responsibility-free singles, most are much keener on experiencing the delights of the consumer heaven that is British life - that means spending those hard earned pennies. Indeed, while there are more and more Polish goods and brands rearing their heads in British corner shops and super markets, there is a sense of pride and exclusivity in bringing British brands back to Poland or donning the best British labels whether it be on the streets of London or Lublin.
Whether they be holiday workers or those in England 'for the long haul', both groups provide intriguing and mouth-watering opportunities for UK firms. A quick flick through the pages of Cooltura, the UK's leading Polish-language publication reveals a myriad of money transfer firms, firms offering cheap call cards to Poland, agencies offering to, for a fee, provide assistance in obtaining national insurance numbers and access to benefits and travel companies promising the best route home. Many of these firms act as intermediaries, capitalising on the immigrant's unfamiliarity with UK procedures and the English language to provide straight forward services at a premium rate - they do not provide services otherwise unattainable directly to anyone residing in the UK but make themselves appealing to East Europeans in the UK by targeting them directly. Adopting the native language of the immigrant removes the uncertainty and potential barriers experienced by newcomers and, perhaps most importantly, make the client feel important and valued. After all, its much easier to trust the familiar than the unfamiliar - never more so than when arriving in alien surroundings where culture, customs and practices aren't like those back home. Who would you trust your money with - a company that doesn't speak your language and who you don't fully understand, or the company that takes the time and effort to cater to your needs and who you feel comfortable with? A spokesman for a high profile advertising firm in the UK confirmed this viewpoint.
This community is growing at a rapid rate and, like other ethnic communities, it will be important to speak to them via their own media, something that clients now appreciate.
This is the penny that is finally dropping with British firms. Where small firms and corner-shops have led the way, the giants that are the national companies are sitting up and taking note. Of late, larger companies from both Poland and the UK are acting - Cooltura has recently grown to 100 pages, largely due to increased demand for advertising space. Small firms are now being joined by big-hitters such as LOT (Polish Airlines), Pizza Hut, Virgin Atlantic and Ocado. The same is holding true in Dublin where the Evening Herald now includes a 12-page supplement in Polish every Friday. This too has resulted in considerably increased circulation and increased demand for advertising space, most notably among travel related firms and mobile communication service providers.
While choice is not synonymous with many aspects of Eastern-bloc life, this dynamic migrant group of determined, ambitious workers, for the first time is greeted with more options than ever before, even for the most basic of services. While back home, up until fairly recently, access to money transfer facilities, benefits, official papers and even international travel, were severely limited and customer service non-existent, Eastern Europeans intent on working abroad are being greeted with more an more options on arrival in the UK - more and more firms eager for a slice of the migrant-worker pie. Whereas the first immigrants were limited in choice to a single budget airline or coach service, today the options are overwhelming.
Today, it is almost impossible to take a 15 minute bus or tram ride through Warsaw or Krakow and not see an advert for a special offer from Ryanair, Easyjet or any one of the budget airlines. More recently however, even airlines such as British Airways are targeting the many thousands of people making the short trip from Krakow and Warsaw to London - proof if proof be needed of the ever-increasing importance of the Polish Pound. British Airways is not alone in rushing to take its piece of the pie, with many more airlines, old and new looking to tap into the growing demand for cheap, convenient travel to and from Poland. Recently Britain's Jet2 and SkyEurope have joined Centralwings, Ryanair, Easyjet and Wizzair, satisfying growing migrant worker communities' demands by offering flights between Poland and non-traditional regional airports in the UK. However, not all airlines flying to the UK from Eastern Europe have advertising and promotional material available in the native languages of the traveller and, in some cases, ticket booking facilities have yet to be made available in multilingual format.
Is this a concern? Are companies missing out on custom as a result? Only the companies themselves could tell you but, with more and more options available, who would you book your ticket with? Would it be the company marketing to you in your neighbourhood with a marketing campaign that appeals to you, your customs and your sense of humour and values, or would you trust your money with the company who you have to perform an internet search to find, whose ticketing terms and conditions you think you understand but aren't completely clear? This is the choice for many looking to take the plunge and seek employment abroad. The initial decision and travel can be a daunting experience, as are the first few months in a foreign country. Taking into account the potential spending power of many such travelers, is it not important for your firm to make the process of spending as easy as possible?
Argos canvassed the opinions of a group of Polish citizens currently working in the UK. On average, Poles employed in permanent positions in the UK, planned on average just over three visits back to Poland per year. In addition it was found that, though price had previously been the most important consideration, as the canvassed group became more and more familiar with the location of cities, airports and their place of work/residence as well as having more disposable income, price, though still important became less important as the emphasis on convenience increased. In addition, most were found to have strong preferences for who they travelled with and, in most cases, only prohibitive price changes or seat unavailability would lead to a change in choice. This is a clear indication of brand loyalty and familiarity but where has this come from? It is no surprise to see that those that fly to and from Poland most frequently and are constantly increasing their routes are also those that are most visible in streets, trams, buses and magazines - a sure sign that tailored advertising and localization services and promotions lead to increased custom.
One of the most lucrative and increasingly targeted sector of the immigrant market is that of banking. After all, once the ticket is bought and the job secured, the obvious question to follow would be where to put that hard-earned cash. UK banks, small and large alike have realised the huge amount of income being earned by Eastern Europeans and are now scrambling to embrace this ever-growing demographic, with some going as far as Poland to court the prospective client. Poles have been identified as a major growth area in the banking industry and the sector's leaders are amongst the most imaginative of British firms in courting this new income stream. Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds TSB have all been active in catering to arriving Poles, by employing Polish-speaking staff. While this was initially to cater to immigrants in London, this is now spreading across the whole country. As banks identify university students as potential lifelong customers and do all they can to obtain their custom, Eastern European immigrants are being seen and targeted in the same way. Barclay's bank, among the UK's largest banks, has been among the most pro-active in wooing Poles
The Polish community in the UK is growing and is a key target audience for us We're finding they value expertise on how to bank in the UK which is delivered in their own language.
This attitude and commitment to securing the custom and loyalty of immigrant workers was typified in September 2006, at Barclay's Bank Sports Ground - the venue for the eighth annual Polish Festival. Both Barclay's and HSBC were there to pedal their wares to in excess of 10,000 visitors. Barclay's as well as providing the venue, also brought its recruiting hat to the fair - actively searching for the Polish-speaking potential employees that might give the bank the edge over other UK banks. In migrant hotspots, Ealing and Hammersmith, the bank has been providing evening classes aimed at helping staff deal with Poles and other Eastern European immigrants to open accounts. However, opening accounts is just the start of banking life in the UK. The committed and ambitious among the immigrant class will soon look to shed their immigrant tag as they look to put down roots and banks such as Barclays are among the leaders in facilitating this. In South London free seminars are regularly organised to offer Poles advice on how to obtain a mortgage or set up a business in the UK.
HSBC appears to be putting equal emphasis on pursuing the Polish pound. It recently rolled out its latest initiative specifically targeted at immigrant workers - the Passport account. The specially designed current account allows would-be immigrants the opportunity to open an account up to three months prior to arrival in the UK or up to four months afterwards and is sweetened by 10 pounds worth of mobile phone credit provided by the Carphone Warehouse. Though the account has been designed with immigrants of all nationalities in mind, the majority of those signing up will have been Poles. The account offers customers discounted international transfer fees and the added advantage of being able to open the account with foreign identity documents, thus removing perhaps the greatest barrier to banking facilities encountered by immigrants - that of lack of UK-issued papers, proof of income and address and the often intimidating prospect of dealing with such matters on foreign soil.
HSBC will soon be able to benefit from being able to market to Poles both home and abroad, giving it the significant advantage of being able to provide a cross-border solution to workers splitting time between the UK and their home country. With plans to open branches in larger regional cities, including Wroclaw, Katowice and Poznan, the bank hopes this will give it the edge in attracting the business of immigrants and also, by allowing companies the ability to open cross-border accounts thus making international business easier.
Keen not to be left behind in recognising this new dynamic aspect of the UK's population, Lloyds TSB are making their own plans to keep up with competition.
We regard Polish consumers as a very important target audience, one which is industrious and a key mover in the UK economy As such, we will be developing a number of programmes which we believe will have appeal and relevance to them.
Indeed in Scotland, the bank has been active in catering to the increasing number of Polish workers and is making banking literature available in Polish and hiring Polish-speaking staff at its Edinburgh branches.
If history is anything to go by, the immigrant class is one that should be courted with special care by banks and other financial institutions. History has taught us that an extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs emerge from immigrant backgrounds and there is nothing to suggest that Eastern European immigration wave of the last few years will be any different. With so many now in the UK, the potential for another Michael Mark, the founder of Marks & Spencers, born in Russia of Polish origin, certainly exists. Entrepreneurs, by their very nature are bold risktakers and Eastern European immigrants can claim to be both, having abandoned the safety and comforts of their homelands, often with very few possessions, for pastures new. Their ability to identify and exploit business opportunities where native eyes have become blunt and jaded to such possibilities, provides another reason why banks, especially those providing help for business start-up, appear keen to curry favour with the UK's newest demographic.
However, are seminars and Polish-speaking staff enough? Though these are clear steps towards identifying and valuing the immigrant workforce, they are still limited by the availability of such staff and the ability to attend seminars; not such a straightforward issue considering the average Eastern European's penchant for working 10 hours 6 days a week. It is surprising therefore to see so little official material translated into Eastern European languages and not a single one of the UK's major banks has, so far, provided a multi-lingual language option for sections of their websites. How much would a multi-lingual webpage or documentation and information packs cost to produce compared to the potential benefits to be reaped from securing a significant slice of immigrant business? Argos specializes in the localisation of websites, software and on-line user guides and has worked with some of the world's biggest companies in producing Eastern European language websites. Argos' intimate knowledge of local business practices, its experience and highly qualified localization and DTP specialists allow the company to provide services consistent with a client's brand and presentation preferences regardless of language. In fact, by accurately localising online content to the language of their target audience, Argos' clients have been able to profit while opening new sales channels and increasing their market share.
Quick to follow the banks but, for once, not quick enough to beat out the cornershop trade, are the UK's leading supermarkets. J Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda - the UK's three largest supermarkets all took the plunge in Autumn 2006 in their attempts to woo the immigrant market. Sainsbury's stores began their courting of the customer with 32 Polish foods including preserves, marinated peppers, meatballs and cabbage stew with the promise of more to follow. Tesco's roll-out range included 45 products including borsch, pickled vegetables and sauerkraut, as well as typical delicacy products such as golabki, flaki, fasolka and the Polish take on goulash. The ethnic project manager for the UK's leading supermarket, Martin Koyce explained the reasoning behind the new product introduction.
The types of items that Polish people miss the most and that are in greatest demand are comfort foods such as soup, pickled cabbage, and marshmallows covered in chocolate. We've had so much demand for Polish foods that we spoke to the Polish community to find out the kinds of things that they missed the most from home But there is also a big demand from the huge number of people born in Britain of Polish parents who want foods that will remind them of their Polish roots.
Low price specialist Asda of the Wal-mart group, began its push soon after with a host of jarred and tinned products with the aim of following up with chilled Polish foods and ready meals in 2007.
These are three of the largest companies operating in the UK all singling out Polish immigrants as an important market to be targeted. With continuously-increasing disposable income, spending power, not to mention population, is it any wonder that these companies are making Poles a priority? Supermarkets advertising and customer communication is notably simple with emphasis being on the all important numbers and accompanying pictures - the need for advertising literature and catchy marketing has decreased due to the increasingly price-sensitive nature of the market. Supermarkets are reaching out to Eastern Europeans by providing them familiar products, and importantly, by showing them that their pounds and pennies are important to them. Being amongst the most competitive of retail environments, any supermarket manager will tell you the importance of securing the custom of one person and the ripple effect this has on securing and maintaining other customers. Not every industry is like supermarket retail but the basic principles are there for all to see. Create an environment in which the prospective client feels comfortable and, providing the product is good, business will follow. For those companies or industries where offering familiar native products and brands is not possible, the onus is to make those brands and products they do sell familiar, recognisable and understandable by the prospective client.
Whether this be explaining the main selling points of a bank account or the advantages of a phone contract, having the details clearly explained in the native language of the client certainly helps in attracting and maintaining new business. Professional translation is crucial to allaying the doubts or fears experienced by non-natives. Contracts, technical documentation and terms and conditions are difficult at the best of times and are obviously likely to pose problems - Why not show your potential client you understand their doubts and fears and demonstrate their value to you by providing information to them in their native language? The cost of translating manuals, contracts and terms and conditions pales in comparison to the potential waiting to be unlocked.
The potential to benefit from this immigrant population is almost unlimited, especially for those firms operating in both the UK and the immigrants home country, whether it be Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Lithuania. While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many immigrants plan to stay in the UK or return home, a significant number falls under the category of 'boomerang workers' - those that split their time between the UK and their home country. For those companies operating in both the UK and the migrant's home country, the ability to benefit is potentially doubled. Firms with recognisable logos and brands are able to benefit from being a face with whom they are familiar from back home, thus making them the likely choice on arrival in the UK. In new, unknown surroundings, the familiar will always be more appealing than the unfamiliar and this is no different for immigrant immigrant workers arriving in the UK. Equally, experiences in the UK can provide an opportunity to appeal to the migrant worker and influence their decisions once back on home soil. How often do our holiday or foreign experiences influence our choices on arrival back home? We try something abroad previously unavailable to us at home, whether it be a beer or wine, and develop an affinity to it. When the product becomes available back home, we are instantly familiar with it and are more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to it than we would for an unknown brand or product. Eastern European migrants in the UK experience a similar, albeit extended and more serious in nature, development of cross-border brand familiarity. While difficult to ascertain the exact statistical effect of such crossborder brand recognition, Argos' survey of migrant workers proved that, when back in Poland, they now regularly bought brands that they were accustomed to seeing in the UK that they had not previously consumed regularly - an example of the ability to breed cross-border brand loyalty.
Dual-presence, firms such as Tesco and Orange lead the way with recognisable, market-leading brands. Tesco, having established itself as the undisputed leader of the UK supermarket sector with an estimated one on every eight pounds spent in the UK economy being spent in the retail mammoth's stores, is rapidly expanding its operations all over Eastern Europe. Currently the retail superpower has over 100 stores in Poland alone with a further 150 distributed between Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Certainly the firm's joint presence in Poland and the UK is helping with employment with the Polish press littered with job advertisements for work in Britain. For those daunted by the prospect of taking the plunge that is seeking work and a new life abroad, it is surely comforting to know that the employer at the end of the journey is one you know from life at home. Does this apply to customers too? Though Tesco's devotion to being flexible and the belief that every market is unique and require a different approach has obviously done nothing but aid the firm's international aspirations, a safe bet suggests that the familiar red, white and blue sign, the same plastic bags and the same own brand goods, found in the same familiar store layout has more than just a little do with the company's resounding success and rampant expansion. Tesco's emphasis on the belief that building brands enable the building of important lasting relationships with customers is one, that with the added importance of developing global brand recognition, will stand the firm in good stead with regards to capturing a slice of the extra custom generated from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Similarly, mobile phone service provider giants, Orange and o2 have found themselves in prime situations to reap the rewards up for grabs as a result of a migrant worker class adept at shifting residence points several times within a short space of time. Orange announced the transformation of the Idea brand to the internationally-familiar Orange in September 2005 and within one year had cemented its place as Poland's market leader. Telefonica-owned o2, having entered the Czech and Slovakian markets, soon commenced re-branding of Czech brand, Eurotel and the rollout of the now familiar o2 brand. This involved a huge marketing campaign combining internet, print, television and billboard advertising as well as non-traditional methods such as interactive advertising points at tram and bus stops that allowed users with bluetooth-enabled telephones to download the Leftfield track used in the company's television advertisement. Though the majority of Eastern Europeans in the UK are from Poland, significant numbers have also arrived from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The natural assumption, and one backed up by Argos' poll of Poles working in the UK suggests that, after arriving safely and finding accommodation, the first priority is to establish a means of communicating with loved ones back home. This explains the plethora of international calling cards being advertised in the pages of Cooltura and also Carphone Warehouse's urgency to secure its position as exclusive telecommunication sponsor at the eighth annual Polish festival in London in 2006. With over a half a dozen mobile telephone service providers to choose from, being able to rely upon previously-established brand recognition as Orange and o2 are able to do with immigrants arriving in the UK, provides a massive advantage in the race to secure this highly lucrative market share. Naturally this advantage will be doubly effective in the case of 'boomerang' migrant workers splitting their time between their home country and the UK. Firms such as Orange, o2 and Tesco, should they be successful in capturing the business in the first place, are in the enviable position of being able to develop a cross-border sense of brand recognition, familiarity and, above all, loyalty. The planned expansion into Poland and the introduction of the innovative Passport scheme, means HSBC will soon be able to count itself among the well-positioned few that are able to count upon the continued custom of migrant workers both at home and in the UK.
The influx of Eastern European immigrants has breathed, well-documented, much-needed life into British industry and the economy. Blue and white collar workers alike entering Britain have helped to fill skills shortages in a diverse range of industries from accounting and IT to manufacturing, agriculture and catering. Certainly low skill industries have found the solution to shortages of devoted workers willing to work for the minimum wage. Indeed, the enthusiasm and dedication shown by immigrant workers has far exceeded even the wildest of expectations - hence the ever growing number of firms specifically targeting Eastern European workers. This has proved to be a mutually beneficial arrangement with Eastern Europeans earning salaries unattainable back home while big and dynamic businesses have been able to reduce their employment costs and expand without being limited by labour availability. However, less well-documented has been the impact on institutions such as trade unions and the ways in which official and government institutions deal with this new demographic. With many immigrants likely to stay in Britain and establish themselves as full-time, permanent residents, this dynamic, educated, ambitious group presents, and will continue to present many attractive and important possibilities to such organisations. The importance of reaching out and connecting to this group, though important on arrival, continues to gain importance as this group establishes itself in the UK.
Though Britain has a rich history of influential trade unions, the demise of traditional industries and a general shift in attitudes away from unionism has left many organisations lacking the ingredients and appeal needed to stir up new membership. The wave of immigrant workers from Poland and Eastern Europe has and can continue to prove to be a saving light for British labour organizations that have seen their influence wane in recent times.
So what makes Polish workers such a desired target group? Many of the Poles travelling to England in search of manual labour stem from Polish families of unionised manufacturing workers, dock workers, or organised miners, all of whom in many ways inherit the belief in the power, significance and the protection that trade unions offer. This heritage is heavily influenced by the "solidarity" movement of the 1980's (lest we forget "solidarity": a Polish labour union capable of bringing the whole communist behemoth to its knees). These workers are not only keen to join British labour organisations, but often bring with them the experience and know-how needed to make organised unions work in the 21st century. With each new immigrant blue-collar worker arriving from Poland and Eastern Europe, British trade unions benefit from an additional, devoted member with a rich tradition of unionism running through their veins.
Trade unions in the health sector have been among the first to embrace Eastern European health workers. Following the recent involvement of Polish workers in the first national strike in the UK's health services for almost two decades, it was the power and experience of Polish unionists that garnered much of the attention.
With the help of Polish members, the union managed to organise a 24-hour stoppage of the transportation of medical items, in protest at a management decision to transfer a Â£1.6 billion contract from the UK to Germany. When asked about the effort and how the union was able to harness the manpower to organise the strike and simultaneously attract the help of Polish members, the answer they provided was simple; they supplied information for their current and potential members in their native tongues. A spokesman for Amicus commented:
The union is used to dealing with workers from foreign countries. It can produce information leaflets in more than 50 languages [and] places advertisements in Polish newspapers and prints recruitment forms, [even going so far as producing] health and safety and other information leaflets in Polish.
Due to an unfamiliarity with current affairs it is understandably difficult to attract the attention of foreign minorities and expect their participation even when a given topic may directly or indirectly impact their working and financial conditions. In fact, without communicating to them in their native language, it's virtually impossible to enlist a foreigner to your cause even if doing so will directly benefit him. Through targeting immigrants directly with multiple leaflets and documents written in their native language, Amicus learned how to attract the pool of immigrants who were willing to join the union's ranks once it was made clear to them what the benefits of doing so were. In essence, both the trade union and its new members reaped mutual benefits of having translated information that led to enrolment. Since this time, unions in other industries have followed this example with similar success. Unless recruited by the already existing trade unions, it is only a matter of time before immigrants begin to establish their own unions, dedicated to obtaining more favourable regulations. This notion underlines the importance of existing trade unions recognising the individual nationalities of those both already unionised and potential members yet to be unionised and communicating with them accordingly.
Undoubtedly immigration from Eastern Europe has brought its fair share of benefits but just how have polish workers benefited the British government and the economy at large? The wave of Eastern European immigrants arriving in Britain and willingness to take up minimum pay jobs has been credited with helping the British economy successfully stave off the threat of inflation. What does this mean for the average business and for the government? Low inflation has helped to keep the pound in good health enabling the UK economy to fare well against European counterparts. The country's importing position is strengthened thus allowing resources and goods to be obtained on more favourable terms and firms are being able to plug skill shortages and fill those positions considered less desirable by British workers. In stagnating industries, the newfound availability of enthusiastic, hardworking candidates has not only boosted production in many sectors but also removed previous obstacles to industry expansion - a principal reason behind big business's desire to keep the open door policy on Eastern European immigration in effect.
Given the economic benefits, provided by Eastern European immigrants, is the government doing enough to cater to this new sector of the population? With the possibility of other EU countries relaxing immigration policies in order to tap into this highly motivated, cheap work force, Poles and other Eastern European immigrants may soon be able to benefit from greater choice when considering foreign employment opportunities. The government is taking active steps to maximise the benefits to Poles of being in the UK. One of the prime examples of this has been the recent cooperation with the Polish government to regulate and counterbalance taxes and eliminate the so-called 'double taxation' on Poles living and working in the UK. A recent change in legislature came about after support from trade unions motivated to protect the interest of its Polish members. As Brandon Barber, TUC general secretary, commented:
Unions, campaigners and community groups in Bristol have worked together to secure an important victory for thousands of Polish workers across the whole country and end this unjust 'Pole tax'. The government rightly recognises the value that Polish workers add to the UK economy and has responded quickly to union concerns that they were not being treated fairly.
In fact, this legislature made sense not only for immigrants, but for the government as well. The reality of the situation is that the more complicated and unjust tax laws appear to be, the less willing immigrants are to work and register via the official and legal channels. This in turn directly results in less money being sent back to the government, and allowing cashin-hand employers to thrive at the expense of accurate government information and revenue collection.
An example of poor registration participation and the need to improve communication as a means of obtaining accurate information was reported in the Berkshire borough of Slough recently. It was named as one of 25 boroughs where government statistics severely underestimated the true extent of immigrants numbers in the area. A council spokesman commented
We believe that 10,000 Polish people have come into the town, but the government statistics only show 300. This puts a huge strain on services such as education and social services.
In the borough of Crewe and Nantwich, local authorities began offering advice sessions to new arrivals in the area, though this too was complicated by a lack of reliable information as Councillor Gwyn Griffiths remarked back in January 2006.
The government were saying nothing, There was no specific advice to local authorities; the government said the impact on any individual area would be very limited. And that's not proved to be the case.
As government funding and budget allocation is measured according to official statistics, councils such as Slough are in danger of losing out on up to Â£15 million in funding between 2007 and the next census in 2011 as a result of unreliable data. The home secretary John Reid has come under increasing pressure to ensure figures are correct and has ordered the Office for National Statistics to conduct an urgent review into migration estimates. With the threat of councils increasing council taxes by as much as 6% to cover budget shortfalls.
How much of these problems could be resolved by making the registration process easier to understand? Having the process and all related documentation adapted to suit multiple languages would remove many of the potential obstacles faced by immigrants new to the UK, thereby aiding government organisations in capturing accurate data and budgeting accordingly.
Aside from economic benefits, the influx of Poles and Eastern Europeans into the UK presents intriguing new possibilities politically. Though many immigrants will return home, a great many will, having sampled a more prosperous life, make the UK their permanent long-term residence. A longer-term result of this will be increased citizenship and the emergence of a strong, like-minded, immigrant voter block. At present, unlocking the Polish or Eastern European immigrant vote could prove vital in marginal seats but, over time, as has been the case in America, this immigrant voter block may prove to be a highly influential, highly desirable target of politicians and political parties both on a local and national level.
This has already been exploited in Scotland with political groups identifying Poles as a tipping or deciding factor in local and national elections. The Scottish National Party - famously supported by Hollywood Superstar Sir Sean Connery has recently identified the tens of thousands of Poles working and living in Scotland as vital to the party's hopes of obtaining sovereignty for Scotland. Recognising a perceived similarity of mentality, the SNP first initially reached out to freshly-registered Poles in Scotland by sending registration information and necessary documents.
We'll then provide a full manifesto in Polish, once it's done They are benefiting from independence from the Soviet state and joining the EU. Obviously, they are more open to the message that Scotland is an ancient, independent nation.
The Scottish Labour party, equally aware of the untapped potential of Polish votes, have stepped up their courtship of this rapidly expanding community, increasing visits to areas densely populated by Poles to praise the group's positive impact on the economy. These are perhaps just the firsts step in attracting the rapidly growing, evermore acclimatised voting block. Argos' canvas of immigrant opinion revealed that the main obstacle to participation both in employment and voting registration is that of language difficulties. For every Pole in the UK with strong English skills, there are many who find anything other than the most basic of communication to be a daunting experience. Registration for national insurance and benefits is obligatory - voting however, is not. In order to appeal to immigrant groups and encourage their active participation, the onus is on political parties, both on national and local levels, to facilitate this participation in the most accessible way possible.
Once this occurs, a situation similar to that of the U.S. may arise, where the Polish minority living in America has emerged as a frequently fought-over hot voting commodity. One of the most publicised and clear examples of how the Polish vote counted occurred during the 2004 presidential elections. During a televised debate on the Iraqi War, Senator Kerry spoke about the various coalition members working together with the US but neglected to mention Poland. At this point, George W. Bush suddenly interrupted the senator and exclaimed 'don't forget about Poland!'. The President's remark sought to highlight Poland's involvement and assistance in the war effort while boosting his own standing among Polish-Americans. Soon after this debate Polish newspapers, talk shows and the Polish media in general, repeatedly replayed Bush's statement for weeks on end to a Polish public hungry for acknowledgement and recognition from their American ally. What's more, regrettably for Kerry, his high-profile blunder and subsequent remarks had the effect of alienating him from the ideals that Polish immigrants cherished, and ultimately any possibility of their support was lost - a fitting example if one were needed of the danger of neglecting the immigrant vote.
U.S. candidates have long been aware of the voting power that Polish minorities maintain in cities such as Chicago, New York and Denver. Texts such as Polish-American Politics in Chicago, 1888-1940 by Edward R. Kantowicz, have been written with the sole purpose of examining Polish minorities' voting habits, all in an effort to understand the immense political influence that such immigrant bodies might have.
America's Midwest, with an estimated two million Poles in Chicago alone, has developed into one of fiercest battle grounds for capturing the ethnic minority vote. Come election time, leaflets are distributed in Polish, parties battle for Polish press space and media attention and candidates routinely devote time to dedicated interviews on Polish television and radio. Importantly, manifestos and promotional documentation all appear in Polish - a basic but necessary trait of American politics stemming from the history of the huge number of Spanish-speaking immigrants residing in the US and their political influence. With immigrants very much voting 'en masse' or in blocks, the ignorable immigrant simply does not exist.
Aside from these high-profile examples, a multitude of British companies have invested both resources and capital in Poland with resounding success. The Polish National Bank estimated that direct foreign investment in Poland for 2005, totalled over £77.2 billion of which more than £455 million was British making Poland a 'foreign investment leader' for the country region. The same source states that the British earnings from investing in Poland in 2005 exceeded £333.5 million. It is little wonder UK giants have been so keen to enter Poland, and no wonder British companies are currently scrambling to attract the attention of Poles, both at home and in the UK.
Where firms such as Tesco have entered Eastern Europe seeking to tap into new sales avenues, others such as SAP, did so in order to cut costs, hiring qualified and experienced Polish professionals at a fraction of the costs incurred in the UK. Regardless of the reason behind investing in Poland, these (and countless other) companies are bound by the same belief - there's money to be made by 'going Polish'. Argos polled a few of its clients; British companies that have opened offices or branches in Poland, and asked them to share the most important lessons from their experiences. Although many of these companies focus specifically on Poles in Poland, the lessons they shared can be just as valuable for companies seeking to attract the interest of immigrant Poles in the UK.
Here's what they cited as keys to their success...
Advice for companies interested in marketing to Polish immigrants in Britain:
Advice for companies interested in entering the Polish market:
In addition to bringing with them Western expertise and business acumen, British companies have been able to benefit from the extraordinary strength of the British pound over the last few years. With an almost 6 to 1 ratio, British firms have been able to extract maximum value from the pound in Poland, with costs and overheads proving to be comparably much lower than in the UK. Though this increased foreign presence, provided with the country's entry to the EU, has been key to rising prices in Poland, generally, the prices of goods and services remain much lower than those in the UK and Western Europe meaning the potential to benefit from lower overheads and costs remains high.
Fortunately for British firms, and a key motivating factor in outward migration, the Polish unemployment rate still hovers around the 15% mark, ensuring wages remain between 20-25% lower than the EU average. For example an experienced specialist in Poland earns on average 2,500 PLN per month - the equivalent of Â£450. Companies are also tapping into the huge, dynamic workforce that makes up the Polish population - 63%, is currently of working age (between 18 and retirement; 59 and 64 for women and men respectively). That equates to over 24 million adults working or available for work. Combine this with the fact that the percentage of the population having been University educated is among the highest in Europe, it is little wonder that Poland has become a happy hunting ground for HR departments of many a British company.
Aside from the low cost of labour and overheads, companies that purchased property or land in Poland over the course of the last two years have benefited from the surging real estate market. Those entering Poland 2-3 years ago will have paid an average of around 2,000 PLN (Â£357) per sq. m. Since then, prices have, on average, increased by a staggering 225%, ensuring huge gains from property investments alone. Despite this incredible increase, investing in property in Poland remains significantly cheaper than elsewhere in the EU and prices are forecast to continue rising for the foreseeable future. Simply put, it has been possible for some companies to make money simply by 'being' in Poland, regardless of business operations.
For companies interested in outsourcing labour or entering the Polish market, Argos has compiled some preliminary information regarding those sectors of the Polish economy that will be experiencing the most investment. According to the Polish Government, Poland's key areas of Research and Development for 2005 included:
Statistics courtesy of http://www.stat.gov.pl
As one article for the Warsaw Voice explained:
The leading sectors when it comes to trade [between the UK and Poland] are automotive parts, electrical equipment, and office equipment. [Julia Longbottom, Director of Trade & Investment at the British Embassy in Warsaw] noted that 'many British goods are international now, with components made in different parts of the world' so this meant also using Polish components - 'the strong trademark of British goods is the 'high value added' of innovation, design and branding. However, it is Britain's invisible exports that perform particularly strongly, especially the services sector.
The British Embassy's Commercial Counsellor/Director of Trade & Investment pointed out that
the large accounting firms are now an integral part of the Polish economy, many major British law and consulting firms are here, education is strongly represented, British property and real estate firms are also very active on the Polish market. She said that in the banking sector, people tend to comment that none of the big British retail banks are here, but in fact the large investment banks, like HSBC, are strongly represented. In the insurance sector, Commercial Union is actually a market leader, and its insurance and pensions services are 'virtually a Polish institution these days.' Provident Polska has also met with success - Poland is its most successful market outside the UK, with almost 900,000 customers. The British financial services sector is still set to expand in Poland - some well-known City institutions are now actively examining the Polish market
In addition, Peter Blawat for the UK Trade & Investment bureau has pointed out that
Poland's rapid development means there are opportunities for British businesses in a wide range of sectors. For example:
Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 was a milestone in the country's political and economic transformation. The largest of the new accession countries in terms of size and population, it is also the biggest recipient of EU funds, receiving £67.2 billion for 2007-13. With economic growth at 5.4% in the first half of 2006, a young and well-educated labour force, and located at the crossroads between eastern and Western Europe, Poland offers a large potential market in central Europe.
As well as dealing with daily requests from British firms looking to localize their documents, software and website pages for Eastern European markets, Argos regularly receives requests from companies and organisations looking to either make their own lives easier in dealing with Eastern Europeans or helping to make life in the UK easier for Eastern Europeans. Either way, feedback received indicates translating and localizing into immigrant's native languages, has proved to be almost unanimously beneficial. Private businesses and national companies have been able to steal a march on competition and reach a new customer base relatively cheaply simply by translating their messages and adapting the presentation of their products to cater to this unique new sector of Britain's population. As a result of improved communication, Government institutions, official organizations and support services have been better able to collect information, provide services and comply with requirements than prior to investing in translation.
The examples referred to in this paper are just some of the most high-profile cases of successful targeting of immigrants. These are some of the biggest, most recognisable companies and are among the first to have specifically tailored their service offerings to Eastern Europeans living and working in the UK. They share in common the provision of what most would describe 'essential' or 'priority' goods and services. Chart, if you will, the hypothetical path of an Eastern European on arrival in the UK: Obviously employment and accommodation will be the first things to consider. Firms and trade unions, among the first to realize the benefits of incorporating Eastern Europeans into the workforce now regularly depend on translation in order to ensure their members are aware of all their rights or that employees have all of the information required to do their jobs successfully. Government institutions have realised that, in order to obtain accurate data and to ensure correct, legal participation in official procedures and employment, requirements must be made clear to new arrivals and any potential obstructions to their full participation should be removed at the earliest opportunity. Real-estate agents and letting agencies have been pioneers in employing Polish-speaking staff and making documentation available in Eastern European languages, helping to spur the surge in buy-to-let property purchases. Once the all important job and place to stay are taken care of, logic dictates the following thoughts would focus on banking the hard earned pennies, finding a place to buy the daily essentials and establishing a means of contacting loved ones back home.
As documented, banks are on the trail beginning to tailor services to the immigrant market through multilingual staff, provision of seminars and, though still not common, multilingual literature. Supermarkets have not been far behind, introducing new product lines specifically to lure Poles living in the UK.
Telecommunications? Orange benefits from being the most recognisable brand for Poles arriving in the UK; O2 for Czechs and Slovakians making the journey. Is this enough? All of the major phone suppliers supply phones with Polish manuals and user interfaces as they recognise Eastern Europe's massive uptake of mobile phones and is keen to tailor its product accordingly. How soon will one of the major network providers seize the initiative and provide contract documentation or information pamphlets in Polish or Czech? Perhaps an innovative scheme that allows contract holders reduced-rate roaming in the country of their choice or a set number of free text messages to mobile numbers in their home country? Such measures would demonstrate a dedicated, unique approach, tailored to a specific sector of the market, and provide positive publicity with high word of mouth potential.
After these basic, instinctive requirements, where does your firm fit within the needs and priorities of the immigrant population? Do your services or goods come soon after those outlined above? Is a consumer market worth in excess of £4 billion of interest to your firm? If the answer to this question is yes and let's face it, how could it not be, how is your firm prepared to deal and aggressively pursue this market? How are you going to differentiate from your competitors in securing your share? Why not go the extra mile? Take the extra step that gets a foot through the door so to speak? You might have the best product but what use is this without making it accessible to the people you want to sell to most?
British firms spend millions and millions on sophisticated press and multimedia advertising campaigns in an effort to elevate their brand above those of the competition. Localisation of software and websites as well as the translation of instructional manuals and marketing material can have a similar impact at a fraction of the cost.
By hiring native speaker staff and producing multilingual literature, firms are tailoring their product promotion to a specific consumer but what else can companies do? From what is known of the immigrant population, how can their spending power be targeted effectively. History teaches, and Poles currently arriving in the UK are no different, that immigrants tend to gather and act as a 'block' entity - that Poles live with other Poles in neighbourhoods populated predominately by other Poles, socialise with other Poles and tend to share similar consumer habits. Take, for example, the stereotypical view of the immigrant lifestyle - six or seven people living in a residence designed for four. This high concentration of potential customers clustered in a single area, many of whom have a limited grasp of the English knowledge creates a high dependence on word of mouth and interdependence. In turn, this puts even greater emphasis on the ripple effect of attracting one client with the accompanying potential to obtain many many more as a result.
An example of this can be found in immigrant destinations. The presence of low-skilled or service industries and the role of the vast number of employment agencies involved in organising work for those arriving cannot be understated. However, much of the appearance of huge immigrant populations in certain parts of the country have been at least partially due to the international spread of word of mouth. Crewe and Southampton, as well as several towns and cities in Scotland and Wales, are examples of this, with immigrant population having mushroomed in recent times. This is often a simple case of a handful of Poles finding work in a given town or region, then telling friends and family of their good fortune. With much of Poland's population living in rural, close-knit, communities, often with little opportunity for career progression, such stories spread like wild fire with often whole communities being transplanted from Poland to the UK. Poles trust Poles and follow the successful lead of others rather than foraying into migration blindly or with no previous background information of potential location.
This same principal applies to many goods and services favoured by Poles in the UK. Each individual has the potential to spread positive messages and experiences through a vast network of like-minded individuals and groups, likely to have the same requirements. Whether it be the five or six housemates, the dozens of workmates or the seemingly endless streams of people following from back home and the inherent tendency to share advice and knowledge with people in the same boat suggests the value of word of mouth to be highly lucrative.
Also, as many firms profiting from Poles and Eastern Europeans in the UK are finding, marketing needs to be tailored in such a way that it is accessible to the lifestyles led by most Poles. Immigrants generally tend to watch less television than native Brits, perhaps due to living conditions, language barriers or general disinterest. This applies equally to reading English language newspapers, perhaps explaining the incredible success of Cooltura and the Polish Express, who have both experienced soaring readership numbers since accession. It simply is not enough to expect Eastern European immigrants to participate in traditional general forms of advertising and marketing and so require tailored promotion delivered in their own language.
Once having identified Poles as a sector to pursue, apart from targeting them in their native language, what else can be done to ensure that Polish pound will be spent with you? As well as catering to your Translation and Localisation needs, Argos Translations has also done its own research into how to effectively market to Poles.
Centuries of invasion, occupation and general external interference has led to an incredibly strong sense of patriotism both in Poland itself and also among the millions of Poles scattered around the world. As such, mediums, marketing campaigns and promotions are found to be more successful when emphasising national values. For example Poles are extremely proud of their traditions, customs, food and drink. Why not take advantage of this? Alternatively, Poland's history is filled with heroes and Poles young and old feel a great sense of pride and affinity towards them. Appropriate use of this can be an effective way of making your brand stand out from others.
Argos Translations is a ISO 9000:2001 certified, British-American translation company. With headquarters at the heart of the migration crossroad in Krakow, Poland, Argos Translations has, over the last ten years, established itself as a leading Central and Eastern European supplier of translation and localisation services.
In partnership with sister company PMR Ltd., Argos is able to offer consulting, market entrance and research services to all companies seeking to do business in Poland, open new offices or obtain data on the earning potential that Poland offers. Through this partnership, Argos is able to offer a complete service portfolio for any company seeking to attract business from abroad, enter a new region, expand customer bases, open new sales channels, communicate with new clients and increase profits in the process.
The Polish market is tough to break into but great opportunities exist for those wanting to stretch their business across the Polish borders. Read about the difficulties with the Polish market and opportunities that await. The success of companies competing with each other will ultimately depend on how well they are able to sell to local consumers or end clients, and this in turn will depend on how well their content or in the case of software companies, their systems, are localised.
If you are an IT manager responsible for localising a product or if you're just starting out as a localisation manager, we recommend this white paper. You will learn about the basic steps of localizing a project and find out how the translation process differs from the localisation one. This paper will help you prepare for the typical problems that you might encounter and look into the localization tools.
Only too often a sole element dictates whether a company will translate their materials and documentation or not; price. This white paper closely examines the impact that low prices have on Polish translation services, why translation companies from Central and Eastern Europe have managed to compete so well with their Western European counterparts, and the future of prices for translation services in the region.
Are you thinking of entering Poland and grabbing some of the market share of the CEE region with your new medical device? If so, you should read this white paper to obtain all of the necessary information required to file a license to sell your product in Poland, to learn about which regions of Poland show greatest demand, and what sectors of the pharmaceutical market are already stuffed by your competitors. Additionally, this white paper details out the somewhat bureaucratic structure of the pharmaceutical and medical device market in Poland giving tips to both translation companies that carry out medical translations, as well as to businesses interested in competing in the region, all the while underlining the role that translations play in helping you get your share of the pie.
Written by Kris Grzegorczyk and Michael Malik of ArgosTranslations.com
To reach Kris Grzegorczyk by email: email@example.com
To reach Michael Malik by email: firstname.lastname@example.org