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Survey Says Most Polish Workers Prefer to Work in Poland

Surveys published in Poland show most Polish workers prefer to stay in their own country. Polish media say fears that workers from eastern Europe would flood European Union labor markets following enlargement last year, have not come true.

Polish officials say recent votes against the European Constitution in referendums in France and the Netherlands had more to do with worries about cheap Eastern European workers threatening their labor markets than with the text of the document.

But Poland says long-time E.U. member states can stop panicking. The latest surveys show that only one-half million Polish workers decided to seek jobs outside the country.

Many Poles are believed to stay at home because of expected rapid economic growth in the largest new E.U. country. The auditing firm Ernst and Young says Poland ranks first in Europe and fourth in the world in attractiveness for foreign investment.

Those who do leave mainly go to Britain, Ireland and Sweden, as these were the only long-time E.U. nations to open their arms without restrictions to Polish and other workers from the new member states.

Researchers say most of those working outside Poland are builders, doctors, and nurses, shrugging off fears in France that the majority would be plumbers. The plumber had become a symbol to those promoting the "no" vote against the European constitution in France.

That fear does not surprise analyst Peter Gentle of the English language service of Polish state radio, Radio Polonia.

"The Polish plumber is what many in the suddenly eurosceptic French media call the influx of goods, services, and labor that have entered western Europe from the east since the expansion of the European Union last May," Mr. Gentle says. "With 10 percent unemployment and almost zero-percent growth, the Polish plumber has come to be a figure to be feared in France. He is working harder, for longer and cheaper than many of his western European counterparts."

The plumber also inspired a Polish tourism organization promotion campaign that features a photo of a tanned and athletic plumber amid photos from historic Polish sites. In a caption he says, "I am staying in Poland - come one, come all".

The Tourism Board's Media Director Krzysztof Turowski says it is the perfect answer to anti-Polish sentiments.

"My boss Mr. Andrzej Kozlowski, president of the Polish tourist organization told me that we have to do something with this stupid idea," Mr. Turowski says. "And we said that if the French people do not like the Polish plumber and engage him, he will work for us and promote Poland."

The campaign has been so successful, that a nurse has joined the plumber.

Bozena Szwarc, a 22-year-old student, won the casting.

Ms. Szwarc admitted to Polish radio she does not know how to give an injection, but says she attended a first aid course. She smiles provocatively on a poster, but the skirt of her uniform is long.

"It is a good length. My favorite," she says. "It is a regular uniform and I am an almost typical nurse. I am capable of giving first aid - so you are welcome."

The nurse and the plumber have managed to seduce some tourists to visit Poland, including John Kouimanos from Australia.

"I was taking in Vienna and I thought I had a few days to spare," he says. "So, on the base of those very clever ads I thought I would take in Poland as well. And so far I have been to Warsaw and a few days in Wroclaw, which had been terrific."

And he is not alone as official estimates show a tourism boom.

The Polish Tourism Organization says the first quarter of the year saw a rise of more than 12 percent in the number of visitors to Poland, and an 18-percent increase in tourists from France.

These figures suggest 2005 will see more tourists in Poland than last year's 14 million visitors. They spent about $4.5 billion, roughly six-percent of Poland's gross domestic product. The Polish tourism industry hopes the visitors will help to reduce what they see as misconceptions about Poland, and make the country a favorite destination of old and new Europe.