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Poverty in Poland
Poland is a parliamentary republic in Central Europe. The country was a formal satellite state of the Soviet Union until it gained full sovereignty in 1989 after the country’s free election. During the early 1990s, the Polish government implemented the “Shock Therapy,” or Plan Balcerowicza in Polish, program to vitalize the country’s economy. The program succeeded, bringing Poland’s GDP from 65.978 Billion in 1990 to 533.816 Billion in 2008. While this rapid increase in the country’s GDP fluctuated throughout the 2010s, Poland’s economy is still growing. Despite this massive economic growth, poverty in Poland is an issue that demands the Polish government’s attention.

What is Energy Poverty?

Energy poverty is one factor that contributes to the state of poverty in Poland. Energy poverty refers to a situation where a household has difficulty in heating their homes or has limitations in using electrical household appliances because they can’t get access to a stable power grid. While energy poverty is an unfamiliar term to many countries, including in Poland, there are reports that suggest Polish citizens often suffer from it.

The definition of energy poverty can also change depending on if the country suffering from it is a developed country or a developing nation. In developing countries, energy poverty refers to a lack of access to electricity because of the country’s gaps in electrical infrastructures. In developed countries, such as Poland, energy poverty refers to a household’s lack of access to electricity because of their financial limitations. The United Kingdom, which is currently the only country that has an operational definition of energy poverty, states that a household is energy poor if their required energy costs are higher than 10% of its disposable income.

According to the U.K.’s definition, researchers found that 40% of Polish households were energy poor in 2012. Given Poland’s three-month-long severe winter temperatures, which can drop to -32 degrees Celsius (or -4 degrees Fahrenheit), this factor can jeopardize the health of many Polish households that suffer from energy poverty.

Not only can energy poverty cause reduced immunity, elevated incidence of respiratory system diseases and weight gain in children, but it can also have a negative impact on the mental well-being of adults. In extreme situations, fatal cases of hypothermia can also occur. Ryszard, a Polish worker who was interviewed by The World Bank in 2014, stated that the majority of his monthly $500 payment is used to heat his apartment and to buy food for him and his daughter.

The Ups and Downs of Unemployment

Despite Poland’s continuous drop in the unemployment rate, youth unemployment still contributes to the rate of poverty in Poland. Poland’s unemployment rate, which was 10.32% in 2013, sharply dropped to 3.84% in 2018. Eurostat, a statistics website, noted that Poland had the largest decrease in the unemployment rate within the E.U. between 2005 and 2019.

However, Polish youth securing stable, long-term employment is still challenging. According to the World Bank, Poland’s youth unemployment was 25%, which was higher than the national unemployment of 14%.

Even when young people in Poland are able to secure employment, the usually secure temporary contracts that pay little and have no social and economic security. In 2014, when the World Bank article was written, an estimated 27% of employed Poles worked as temporary contracts. These temporary, low-paying jobs leave many households in Poland in danger of poverty.

Helping Hands

The Polish government and many other organizations are working to address the current state of poverty in Poland. Habitat for humanity launched an advocacy project in 2017 to prevent and alleviate energy poverty in Poland. The project aims to alleviate energy poverty in Poland by developing and mobilizing a prevention group that will gather and systemize information about it.

Izodom 2000, a company based in Poland, is building energy-saving houses that can help Polish households save on their heating bills. The Polish government also conducts spending programs that support low-income families. These assistance programs constitute approximately 2% of Poland’s GDP. While the World Bank states that Poland’s multiple social assistance programs are helpful, they added that Poland’s programs could be expanded to mirror that of the programs in Germany and Hungary.

Poverty in Poland has many aspects. From energy poverty to youth unemployment, multiple factors contribute to poverty in Poland. Improving and building energy-efficient housings for Polish families and creating stable jobs for the Polish youth is no small task. However, there are many organizations and people that are facing this challenge head-on. The Polish government conducts multiple social assistance programs and many other nonprofit organizations work to improve the lives of many Polish citizens.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland Facts
Poland is not a poor country by any means, but the region has historically possessed little wealth due to occupation, wartime and political mistreatment. As such, alleviation of poverty in Poland has been a focal point of recent Polish governments. Discussed below are the leading facts about poverty in Poland, and how the issue is addressed at the national and international level.

 

7 Key Facts About Poverty in Poland

 

  1. Poverty in Poland has been steadily decreasing since 2004. Over the past decade, the country has cut the population of people living on less than $5 a day in half, from 20 percent to 10.
  2. Poland’s government spends heavily on social resources, with a quarter of the nation’s GDP spent on pensions, public health care, public education and other social services.
  3. Compared to other parts of the world, poverty in Poland is shallow. There are very few people living in dangerously extreme poverty or hunger. Less than a tenth of the population live on $2 a day or less.
  4. Income inequality in Poland is also relatively low. In a World Bank ranking of income inequality, Poland scored significantly better than the United States and Russia with stratification levels near the U.K. and France.
  5. While they are rarely in extreme poverty, many young people in Poland live on very little due to a lack of employment. Overall unemployment in Poland is at 14 percent, but is 25 percent for those who primarily seek industrial jobs.
  6. Poland’s heavily industrial economy is something of a double-edged sword. GDP growth was mildly hindered by the 2008-9 global economic downturn when compared with other European nations. This growth, however, has proven slow with an average of a one percent annual increase.
  7. Poland seeks to both decrease rural poverty and increase its economic productivity by improving the agricultural sector. The EU has been a major benefactor in this cause, revamping the nation’s agricultural policy in 2004 and annually contributing large sums of money. In 2014, Polish farmers received three billion euros in direct payments from EU funding.

These facts about poverty in Poland only begin to scratch the surface of such a complex region. This eastern European nation exudes fiscal prosperity amidst underlying unemployment and rural poverty, a conundrum that needs to be solved.

John English

Photo: Flickr