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Child Poverty in Poland
In 2016, child poverty in Poland was at a rate of 24.2%. The next year, the percentage of child poverty in Poland dropped to 17.9.

The Family 500+ Program

Although child poverty in Poland is declining, the country ranks in the middle among other E.U. countries. In large part, the country can thank the social policies that the Polish government has adopted, especially the Family 500+ program. This program benefits children where families with two or more children under the age of 18 receive PLN 500 per child monthly, regardless of income. Families with lower incomes receive the benefit for their first child as well. The program boosted additional financial support to about 12% of the average gross wage in 2016. The program shows a great increase in transfers to households living in poverty, as by design, it emerged to be supplementary to other social assistance programs and family benefits.

How the Program Helps

Although the World Bank has argued that the Family 500+ program could create undesirable outcomes, like female labor force participation, which would inhibit fertility rates within the country, the Family 500+ program is a tremendous aid to children in poverty in Poland. For instance, the Family 500+ program covers an estimated 55% of all children in Poland who fulfill the age requirement of being under the age of 18. Meanwhile, by the end of February 2017, the Family 500+ program covered more than 3.82 million children under the age of 18, totaling PLN 21 billion. This shows the Polish government’s commitment to alleviating child poverty in Poland, as the program has contributed to a dramatic increase in the government’s spending on children.

In addition to Poland’s new family benefits program that it launched in order to alleviate child poverty in Poland, the country has also increased efforts to boost birth rates through the program. According to a Eurostat report in 2015, Poland had one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe at a rate of 1.32 children per woman, placing Poland at the second-lowest, right after Portugal.

Success at Reducing Child Poverty in Poland

In a recent Oxfam report, which is an international charity based in Oxford, Poland placed 26th in the world for fighting inequality. In spite of this, Oxfam ranked Poland the best at utilizing social spending to fight poverty and alleviating child poverty in Poland. In fact, estimates have determined that Poland’s child poverty rate will reduce by 76%, because of the program’s cash transfers. Statistics Office shows a 13% to 15% increase in childbirth, as recorded in December 2016 and January 2017. Not only that, after the program’s introduction, rates of consumption and saving have increased and debt levels have decreased. This shows an increase in income which could, in effect, help to alleviate poverty in Poland as a whole.

The Family 500+ program proves to be a significant tool in eliminating child poverty in Poland.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Poland
Situated in Central Europe, Poland neighbors Slovakia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic to the North, Russia, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea to the South, Belarus to the East and Germany to the West. Home to the eighth largest economy in the European Union, 30 percent of the nation’s landscape is covered with forests partially due to the national reforestation program. While the nation has begun to gradually reduce poverty, nearly 15 percent of the Polish population face poverty. Listed below are the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Poland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Poland

  1. Poland boasts one of Europe’s best education systems with a 96.8 percent primary school enrollment rate leading to a 99.7 percent adult literacy rate. The nation has taken part in education reforms stemming from the 1990s which have led to positive improvements on students’ educational performance. Twelve Poles have won the Nobel Prize, causing Poland to be ranked 17th for the number of wins in the world.
  2. Young people in Poland face high unemployment and when employed, often take temporary jobs. Temporary positions employ 66 percent of young Poles leading to layoffs in the 2009 economic downturn. To combat the rising rates of youth unemployment, the Tripartite Commission, a labor relations forum in Poland, introduced an anti-crisis package that focused on increasing minimum wage and co-financing training. Polish trade unions highlighted the importance of equal treatment of different contracts and implementing the same tax rates.
  3. The average earnings of high earners (earning greater than 90 percent of workers) is 4.7 times greater than a low earner (earning less than 90 percent of workers) in Poland. This high-to-low ratio is among the highest in the European Union. Three primary factors impacting wage dispersion include the disparity in pay due to levels of education, low levels of compensation (often below minimum wage) and low density of trade unions in the nation. Polish people have seen a decrease in social inequality due to a focus on reforms regarding the tax-benefit system and family allowance system as well as a fall in wage dispersion.
  4. Poland is one of 58 countries worldwide to offer its citizens universal health care. Treatment of sudden illnesses and emergencies is typically free. Costs in the private medical sector are higher than in the public medical sector.
  5. One in four Polish children faces poverty, one of the highest childhood poverty rates in Europe. This particularly affects large families and single-parent families. In 2016, the Polish government introduced the Family 500+ program which provides a monthly payment of 500 Zlotys ($130.00) for every child after the first until the age of 18. The first child in families whose income is below a defined threshold receives this benefit. The program predicts that it will initiate a significant decrease in childhood poverty.
  6. Poland’s national minimum wage increased from 2,100 Zlotys ($548.66) in 2018 to 2,250 Zlotys ($587.85) in 2019. The nation’s annual variation rate of the Consumer Price Index increased 1.2 percent, granting Poles buying power in the economy. The cost of living in Poland is 44.9 percent lower than the United States.
  7. Ranked 189 out of 200, Poland’s fertility rate is among the lowest in the world. The nation is in the first stages of initiating a family policy.
  8. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggests that Poles are less than satisfied with their lives as they rank their life satisfaction an average of six which is less than the average of a six and a half. Particular noteworthy factors within Polish lives include strong personal security and education, and below average health status and income.
  9. According to the World Health Organization in 2016, Poland’s life expectancy stood at 78 years old. Women have a life expectancy of 82 years while men have a life expectancy of 74 years. Looking over the past several years, Poland’s life expectancy has seen a minimal decrease. Researchers from the Medical University of Lodz divided the major causes of death into three groups. The first group was comprised of infectious diseases, diseases related to childbirth/pregnancy and malnutrition which are the least common causes of death. Chronic noninfectious diseases such as cancer or heart disease made up group two which are the most common causes of death in Poland. External causes of death such as accidents and suicide contribute to 15.7 percent of male lives lost and 5.3 percent of females. External causes of death have seen a decrease.
  10. World Bank Data shows that Poland’s GDP growth has reached 5.1 percent in 2018, improving the Polish economy. Challenges still face the Poles in “shortage of labor in the economy, procyclical government policies encourage by the political calendar, and adverse global factors.” These issues could weigh on the continuance of Poland’s GDP growth.

The Eastern European country finds itself prospering economically amidst below average life satisfaction, high unemployment in young adults and low fertility rates. The good fortune of the Polish people is a central interest of the government. These 10 facts about living conditions in Poland indicate that contributions to the sustainment of the country are helping as literacy rates are on the rise, the minimum wage has increased and poverty has waned in recent years.

– Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr