People matter

Poles – skills, friendship and hospitality

Area:  HR, Operations, Management

Relation to: Availability of human resources, Work-life balance

Importance:   High

Impact on revenues:   Medium

Impact on costs:   High

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People matter

Undoubtedly, Poland is a beautiful country and we will argue with anyone who claims otherwise! 🙂 However, as Deloitte stated in one of his presentations some time ago (available to download here), “the main advantage of Poland is the inhabitants. Especially their ambition, motivation and professional ethics as well as unique initiative.”

It is difficult to disagree with this statement, for several reasons. With a population of almost 38 million at the beginning of 2023, Poland is the biggest country in Central and Eastern Europe and the 5th biggest member of the European Union. However, we are trying to be a leader in our part of the world not only in terms of population but in other areas as well. Education is certainly one of them since, as McKinsey & Company and Forbes state in their report (download it here), Poland’s economy will increasingly be driven by the education and experience of its workforce.

For foreigners visiting Poland, foreign language skills are perhaps the most easily visible sign of the country’s achievements in the field of education. According to the EF English Proficiency Index research, Poland ranked between 11th and 16th in the world in 2018–2023 in terms of English language proficiency (the number of countries considered during this period ranged from 70 to 111). Admittedly, tourists and expats will not always find it easy to communicate in English in smaller towns or among older people, but the situation is much better among young people and city dwellers.

Overall, Poland is among the leading European countries in terms of the education of its inhabitants. According to Statistics Poland, in 2020 the percentage of Poles aged 25-64 who have completed at least secondary education was 93.2% against an average of 79% for EU countries. The percentage of young people with a university degree in Poland is also above the EU average. The number of people with tertiary education nearly doubled between 2004 and 2020, and as many as 47% of those aged 30–34 can boast a college degree.

As far as higher education is concerned, Poland has a long-standing tradition in this regard. The Jagiellonian University in Krakow was founded back in the XIV century as the second oldest university in Central Europe, and its notable alumni include astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski and writer Stanislaw Lem. Today, Poland’s achievements in this field are also impressive. In 2010–2021, between 1.2 and almost 1.8 million people studied at Polish universities, while the annual number of graduates ranged from 300,000 to almost 500,000! Also, the number of doctoral students was high (from 39,000 to 43,000). Considering the growing popularity of technical study programs, which we discuss in Plenty of Talents, it is not surprising to read the statement by the European Business and Innovation Centre Network, which notes that Poland may well be considered one of the best examples in developing engineers and PhDs on a mass scale when compared to the EU average.

As we know, quantity does not always translate into quality but Polish education has nothing to be ashamed of in this respect. Moreover, we boast some of the best results in the world. In this case, a solid measure comes from PISA, the OECD’s global Programme for International Student Assessment, which compares young people’s performance in three main categories (Reading, Mathematics, and Science). In the latest PISA test in 2018, out of 79 countries in the world, Poland ranked 8th in Reading, 6th in Mathematics (3rd in Europe), and 8th in Science (also 3rd in Europe outperformed only by Estonia and Finland).

Statista / OECD

Source: Statista / OECD

In Poland, a good education is combined with diligence and this trait has been confirmed by successive studies for many years. According to OECD estimates, Poles have been working for over 1,800 hours per year on average since 2000. In 2021, with 1,830 hours, Poland ranked 8th out of 47 countries from around the world monitored by OECD.stat. Admittedly, the average labour productivity for all industries in Poland is still lower than the EU average (the main reason being a lower level of investment in automation of production, but this does not apply to the IT industry). However, as Deutsche Welle points out, between 2000 and 2016, Polish labour productivity grew by about 51%. In contrast, pay grew only by 33% over the same period. Consequently, in 2015, the average hourly labour cost was €25 in the EU, with just €8.60 in Poland. Six years later, this disparity was still highly visible: according to Eurostat, hourly wages were €11.5 in Poland and €29.1 in the EU in 2021.


Such moderate salaries in Poland result from a low cost of living (largely because Poland is not part of the Eurozone). According to the Cost of Living Index by Country 2023 by Numbeo, Poland ranks 87th in the world in this respect. Poland’s index stands at 38.6. It is lower than in China (39.2) and much lower than in the UK (61.5), Germany (62.9), Japan (64.6), USA (72.4), or Israel (76.4) and not much higher than in Fiji, South Africa or Mexico.

Incidentally, apart from its numerous monuments, beautiful nature, and many other things, low prices in the country are among the reasons why Poland is loved by international tourists. One of the confirmations of this fact is that CNN, in 2023, named our country the best place to visit (and earlier the same broadcaster presented the whole list of things that visitors adore in Poland). Warsaw and Krakow stand out, particularly, in this respect. The capital of Poland, for example, has been crowned as Europe’s best destination for 2023 by European Best Destinations while Krakow has been systematically named by members of the leading British consumer association Which? as Europe’s best city break destination since 2017 (the 2023 ranking is available here).

Another important reason why foreigners like Poland is the sense of security and friendliness of its people. Poles are known for their love of cultural events (see Lonely Planet’s list here), socializing with visitors from other countries, and dining: a well-known Polish saying goes “A guest in the house is God in the house.” The latter can sometimes be somewhat of a challenge for foreigners, but most of them praise the interpersonal relations and leisure activities in Poland. Those who are more cautious can refer to “How to Survive a Polish Dinner Party“?

Importantly, Poles show hospitality also in difficult times when it requires a lot of effort and funds. The fact that Poles have a big heart and stand for their friends was clearly seen after the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The amount of help Poland granted Ukrainian refugees in 2022-2023 was proportionally the biggest in the world. Poland accepted and housed more than 2 million of them in 2022 and according to Eurostat, almost a million were still in Poland in January 2023, which is the highest number among all EU members and globally. How much support Poles have offered can be checked in the report How Polish society has been helping refugees from Ukraine (available to download here). What is also worth noting is that Polish society has even greater merit when it comes to helping refugees than the Polish government. Thousands of Polish families, volunteers, private companies (including us), and NGOs did a lot to ensure that people from Ukraine, who suffered as a result of the war, received support in Poland. This phenomenon was publicized by major international media – such as CNN and BBC, as well as UN agencies like UNHCR.

Thus, when choosing a place in the world to expand their IT structures, international entrepreneurs should consider Poland not only because of purely business-related factors but also those that will allow them and their team members to feel good after working hours. Here in Poland, we will be happy if you choose us and will make sure to demonstrate our traditional Polish hospitality!