By VANESSA GERA
KRAKOW, Poland (AP) â¿¿ The first time Javier Bofarull Marques left Spain for Poland, it was for love. It was 2006, a boom time in Spain, and his friends thought he was crazy. He recently moved back to the Eastern European country and it was for a job this time because Spain's economic crisis left him unable to find work there.
Now he is the envy of his friends.
Poland's economy has grown for 21 years straight, while some Western European countries are trying to recover from their most crippling recession in generations. The result is a striking change in its infancy: a country whose poverty and political oppressiveness once drove its people abroad in droves is now attracting workers from the West.
"Here I am recovering my dignity," Bofarull Marques, 44, said from Krakow, where he landed a job with an international firm as a senior financial accountant after a fruitless eight-month search in Barcelona. "Poland is giving me another chance."
The number of people from richer Western countries working in Poland is still small, and some Poles still migrate to Britain and other higher-wage countries in the West. Nonetheless, years of economic growth and European Union membership are indisputably transforming this country of 38 million people, the largest of the former Eastern Bloc states now in the EU.
A key source of this phenomenon comes from an outsourcing sector that has exploded in recent years, turning Poland into "the leading outsourcing destination in Europe," according to a recent report by Jones Lang Lasalle.
The phenomenon began nearly 10 years ago when some international companies began outsourcing simple tasks to Poland; workers would key invoices into computer systems, or Poles with knowledge of various languages would answer customer questions on help desks, taking calls from across Europe. Since then, the tasks have grown increasingly sophisticated, and now include software development along with a wide range of accounting, financial and legal services.