Poland and the United Kingdom are two European countries with vastly different economic histories. Poland, as a former communist country, underwent a period of economic transition in the 1990s, while the United Kingdom has a long history as a major world economic power. In this article, we will compare the economic growth of these two countries over the past decade.
Between 2011 and 2021, Poland experienced an average annual economic growth rate of 3.1%. During the same period, the United Kingdom experienced an average annual growth rate of 1.4%. This means that Poland’s economy grew at more than twice the rate of the UK’s economy during this period.
If the UK’s economy is averaging growth of 0.5% and continues to do so and Poland manages growth of 3.5% and continues to do so, then it is possible that Poland’s faster-growing economy will overtake UK’s slower-growing by 2030. Already the numbers of Poles in the UK have declined from one million in 2017 to 696,000 in 2021 as they return to the prospering economy of Poland with plentiful jobs and a cheaper cost of living.
Poland has a large and well educated workforce with a strong vocational system. The UK has not invested and improved its apprenticeship schemes or vocational systems enough since Brexit to be able to replace the EU engineers and specialists that came over in the period 2004-2017.
The UK has a more developed economy and a mature service sector, which accounts for around 80% of its GDP. While the UK’s economy has historically been strong, it has struggled in recent years with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors have contributed to a slower economic growth rate than Poland’s.
Another factor that has contributed to Poland’s economic growth is its relatively low level of public debt. As of 2021, Poland’s debt-to-GDP ratio was around 55%, compared to the UK’s ratio of around 98%. This means that Poland has more fiscal room to maneuver than the UK, which has to contend with higher levels of public debt.
However, there are some challenges that Poland faces that could hinder its future economic growth. One of the main challenges is a shrinking population trend due to a low birth rate and emigration. Poland is popular with Eastern European immigrants but not traditionally a favoured destination for people from other countries due to its difficult language and cold climate. These factors could lead to a shortage of workers and a decrease in demand for goods and services. With the recent influx of over one million Ukrainians since the war started this issue has been temporarily solved.
Unless the UK makes recruitment easier from the EU, it will struggle to compete with countries like Poland. In December 2022 to February 2023, total vacancies remained 328,000 above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) January to March 2020 levels according to ONS data. Total vacancies are estimated at 1.1 million in the UK, whilst in Poland they are around 269,000. While the economy is slowing, vacancies remain at historically high levels. Brexit brought in an onerous and expensive work visa system in the UK. This combined with a slowing economy means UK employers are reluctant to invest the time and money to recruit from abroad. When in the EU, UK employers could recruit interim EU staff without the need for visas. With this system they were able to manage fluctuations in staffing demands.
In conclusion, while Poland and the UK have different economic histories and face different challenges. Poland is managing to find staff for its growing economy whilst the UK is struggling. Poland has outperformed the UK in terms of economic growth over the past decade and if it continues to do so it will become a top EU country with a larger influence than the UK.