Which careers are best paid in Poland

Polish workforce : Little money for hard work

What she was promised was nine euros and 20 cents. For this hourly wage, Danuta, 48 years old, wanted to leave Wroclaw and work in a meat factory near Berlin. So much money, she thought.

Shortly before Easter, Danuta, who does not want to give her last name, started. Worked two days. She wasn't surprised that she didn't sign a contract. She was in Germany, where rules rule. On the third day, her boss said she was unsuitable and should go again. Without a penny. Your accommodation was not paid for as promised. Another lie, like the previous sentence that she was picked up and taken to work every day. “I walked four kilometers,” says the Polish woman. There in the morning, back in the evening. The only thing she got from the temporary employment agency is a warning: she didn't pay for the hostel.

The employees of the Berlin advice center “Fair Mobility” know many such stories. The project of the German Federation of Trade Unions has existed since 2011, now in seven cities. The teams only support people from Central and Eastern Europe. If the employees are supposed to name the grievances that Poles are still experiencing in Germany, they speak of poor pay, unworthy treatment, exploitation and fraud. That is why project manager Dominique John and his colleagues advise the workers from the neighboring country and educate them about their rights. "It hasn't gotten any better since we started," says John. "The problems have rather widened."

Companies take advantage of ignorance

John sees one reason for this in the irresponsibility of German companies. As before, they would use it to their advantage that workers of foreign origin do not always know what they are entitled to in Germany and that they do not understand everything that is said or presented to them for signature. If you put anything in front of them at all. In addition, more and more Poles have come to Germany in recent years because it has become easier for them to work here.

Although the neighboring country joined the European Union as early as 2004, fearing that the Poles might take jobs away from the Germans, they initially only found a job under difficult conditions. Until 2011. Since then, they have had full freedom of movement for workers.

Around 750,000 Poles currently live in Germany. They are the second largest group of migrants after the Turks. But “in the shadow of asylum immigration, the strong migratory movements from Poland and Romania in recent years have increasingly fallen out of sight,” says the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bamf). The Poles come here primarily to work - not because they are poor and want to live on social benefits. Even if they are not properly paid in this country, they still earn more than at home, where the minimum wage is 2.65 euros. "With the rents and food prices that apply here, this advantage quickly disappears," says John.

Less money with the same qualifications

The database of the Bamf and the Federal Employment Agency results in the following profile for Poles in Germany: Almost nine out of ten have a job, while the unemployment rate of all foreigners in Germany is 16 percent. Of the over 426,000 people in employment, more than 360,000 have a job that is subject to social security contributions - almost 40,000 more than in the same month last year. Two out of three work in the service industry, for example in care or cleaning. Followed by work in factories and construction.

More than every tenth Pole works as a temporary worker - like Danuta in the meat factory near Berlin. Of the approximately 64,000 marginal part-time workers, one in four works as a temporary worker in agriculture. They stand hunched over in the fields, picking strawberries and pricking asparagus. Like now, at the beginning of the season.

The fact that Polish employees have strenuous and often poorly paid jobs is not due to their qualifications: Almost half of the people from Poland have a high level of schooling. The majority did an apprenticeship, one in four studied. Nevertheless, most of the Poles only work as a helper. A good quarter work as a skilled worker, hardly anyone as a specialist.

“And even with the same level of requirements,” says Carola Burkert from the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), “they earn less than Germans”. Immigrant women, who mostly cleaned or looked after the elderly, are particularly hard hit by wages that are too low. This may be because the qualifications you acquired in your home country are not recognized in this country or your knowledge of German is not good enough.

Polish women fill an immense supply gap

Polish workers are extremely important for Germany. Especially in the area of ​​care. Around 2.9 million Germans depend on the help of others - and as society ages, the number of people in need of care will continue to increase in the future. However, the nurses and carers have been protesting for years to draw attention to their poor pay and the poor image of their profession. According to the bottleneck analysis by the Federal Employment Agency, a position in geriatric care has already been vacant the longest, with an average of 162 days.

In addition to the shortage of skilled workers, there are also costs: the vast majority of people in Germany cannot afford official 24-hour care - even if they wanted to. Private nursing staff from Poland fill an immense supply gap. The problem, however, is that many of them work illegally, are not protected and earn less than is allowed. Because business with helpers from Poland is booming, recruitment agencies - some of which are dubious - have emerged. Not only do they benefit from the nursing emergency in Germany, but also the 12,300 outpatient nursing services.

Anna, 36, calls her work "slavery"

The Polish Anna, 36 years old, is employed by a provider in Berlin. She doesn't want to give her last name either. She doesn't have to live at home with someone in need of care, nor does she have to be available around the clock, but she still calls her work “slavery”. According to her contract, she is supposed to work 173 hours a month, but in fact it is a lot more. 133 hours are listed and billed on the pay slip.

Her gross hourly wage, says Anna, is 17 euros, but because her salary was often not transferred on time, she asked once. Then she was told that she was “stupid” and “didn't understand anything”. Together with other nurses from Eastern Europe, her employer has put her in a shared apartment. There they sleep in two and three-bed rooms. No space for privacy. “It is not uncommon for someone to break down in our flat share,” she said. "And we had to call the ambulance."

This is an extreme case. But it shows how wrong the idea of ​​work in Germany can be.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page