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Poland’s tight labor market

Long plagued by high unemployment, Poland is facing labor bottlenecks after an exodus of young Poles to western Europe coupled with a boom in the EU’s largest ex-communist economy.

Below are the main facts about the Polish labor market:

*Only about half of Poles of working age are actually in work, giving a labor force of 13.6 million out of a total population of 38.5 million. Poland’s employment levels are among the lowest of the 27 members of the European Union, standing at around 58% compared to the block’s average of 66%. According to Eurostat figures, employment levels are only lower in Malta and Hungary.

*The registered unemployment rate calculated by the Polish statistical office has almost halved since 2002 to 11.7% in January, the lowest level in nine years. According to Eurostat calculations -- which count only those actively seeking work --- unemployment stood at 8.6% in January. That leaves Polandabove the EU average of 6.8%, but no longer at the bottom of the EU league. Eurostat said unemployment in January was higher in Spain and Slovakia.

*In the corporate sector, which employs 5.3 million people or around 30% of the labor force, wages grew 11.5% in the year to January.

*Average pay is around 3,000 zlotys ($1,287) a month in the public sector. State-paid doctors, nurses and teachers have been at the forefront of pay protests in recent months.

*An estimated 2 million workers have left Poland since it joined the European Union in 2004 to seek better paid jobs, mostly in Britain and other western countries.

Business lobby surveys suggest the Polish labor market lacks qualified construction workers, truck and engine drivers, machine operators, IT specialists, sales officers and managers. The Labor Ministry estimates Poland has a shortage of around 600,000 posts, including seasonal agricultural jobs. (Reuters)