Poland

   

Social Policies

#30
Key Findings
With policy shifts sparking considerable controversy, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 30) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

A return to a two-tier school system has triggered massive teacher protests. Additional changes seek to remove liberal texts and values from the curricula. Inequality rates have fallen over time, and severe poverty has been successfully addressed. Increases in family allowances and the minimum wage have further decreased social inequality, and a new social-housing program is in the works.

A major health-system reform is underway. Major conflicts over salaries and working conditions have produced frequent medical-worker strikes, and even a hunger strike. Family policy no longer emphasizes women’s labor market integration, instead increasing allowances for parents with two or more children.

Retirement-age increases have been reversed, harming the pension-system sustainability. The PiS government has staunchly opposed intake of Muslim immigrants, rejecting the EU’s refugee distribution mechanism. Asylum seekers, 95% of whom are from Russia, Belarus or Ukraine, are held in guarded shelters until a decision is made on their applications.

Education

#26

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
5
As one of its first measures, PiS had reversed the controversial obligatory lowering of the school age and made it possible for parents to send their children to school at the age of seven, as was the case until 2014. On 4 September 2017, with the start of the new school year, another new law on education entered into force, despite massive protests against it by the teachers’ union ZNP (Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego), which collected more than 900,000 signatures for a referendum against the reform. The new law closed the lower secondary or middle schools introduced in 1999, and marked a return to the previous two-tier school system (eight-year primary school followed by upper secondary school for another four years or vocational education). The reform has been badly prepared, and the costs of this lack of preparation will be borne by local administrations at the lowest (gmina) level, and teachers, parents and students. Most experts fear that the reduction in the duration of universal general education will increase inequality in educational outcomes. Criticism has also been leveled against government attempts to change the curricula with a view to rewriting Polish history, removing many liberal and cosmopolitan texts and values from the core of teaching programs. As for higher education, Minister of Science and Higher Education Gowin presented a first major reform bill in September 2017. Two of its central aims, the reduction of the number of university students and the promotion of the so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), have been controversial.

Citations:
Chłoń-Domińczak, A. (2017): Changes in the education system in Poland. European Social Policy Network, Flash Report 2017/38, Brussels.

Social Inclusion

#18

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
7
Social inequalities have visibly declined since the early 2000s. This has partly been due to Poland’s strong economic performance and the EU structural funds which were predominantly aimed at helping less-developed regions and relatively poor households. In addition, previous governments have been successful in mitigating regional disparities through regional-development policies. Moreover, government policies have helped improve families’ financial conditions, especially those suffering from poverty, and have increased average educational attainments. The most dramatic pockets of poverty have shrunk, and income inequality has fallen substantially since the early 2000s. In-depth sociological studies have shown that poverty in Poland is not inherited across generations. Still, the PiS was able to capitalize on looming popular dissatisfaction with social inclusion in the country. By raising family allowances and increasing the minimum wage, the PiS government has contributed to a further decline in social inequality. The next step that the government wants to take is a social housing program, “mieszkanie+.” The postal service and railways will provide space and buildings that can be transformed to low-rent apartments.

Citations:
Matthes, C.-Y. (2016): The state of democracy in Poland after 2007: Analyzing the linkage between economic development and political participation, in: Problems of Post-Communism 63(5-6): 288-299, 290-292.

Health

#33

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
5
Public health insurance covers some 98% of Poland’s citizens and legal residents and is financed through social-insurance contributions. However, access to health care is highly uneven, as public health insurance covers only a limited range of services, and out-of-pocket payments feature prominently in the system. Moreover, the poor quality of some services falls far under citizens’ expectations, and for some services, patients must wait for an unreasonable duration. Aggravated by the migration of many doctors to other EU countries, Poland has a low doctor-patient ratio, with only 2.3 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. The PiS government has called for a comprehensive health care reform and for expanding health care spending. In 2017, it has proceeded with its plans to abolish the National Health Insurance Fund, NFZ, and return to the tax financed system that existed before 1999. However, health policy in the period under review has been dominated by strong conflicts between the medical staff and Minister of Health Konstantyn Radziwiłł over salaries and working conditions, which manifested in frequent strikes and demonstrations, including a hunger strike of several doctors from summer to October 2017. The creation of a new hospital network aimed at improving services for patients through better coordination of services, easier access to specialists and reduced waiting times for medical treatment has included the big public hospitals but has left other hospitals out.

Families

#36

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
5
Poland’s employment rate among women falls below the OECD and EU averages, and its childcare infrastructure is weak. While the PO-PSL government put an emphasis on improving women’s labor market integration and on fostering a more balanced division of labor among the sexes, the PiS government has followed a more traditional approach. The cornerstone of its family policy, which featured prominently in the 2015 election campaign and has been highly popular, has been the ‘Family 500’ program, in effect since 1 April 2016. It increased family allowance for parents with two or more children to PLN 500 (€116) for each child irrespective of the parents’ income. Departing from the original campaign pledges, only poor families are eligible to the PLN 500 already for the first child. The estimated costs amount to PLN 22.9 billion (about €5.3 billion) or 1.3% of Poland’s GDP. Critics fear that the Family 500 program will reduce female labor market participation without having positive effects on the birth rate. In its second year in office, the PiS government adopted a new program, “for life plus,” which includes support for families in difficult situations and with disabled children, and is expected to cost another PLN 3.7 billion. It has also promised to engage in providing more childcare facilities. As a result of all these measures, Poland has caught up with France, Hungary and Austria, and is one of the most “family-oriented” countries in the European Union, as measured by mean support for “children and families” relative to income.

Citations:
Druciarek, M. (2016): Die Familienpolitik der Regierung und ihre möglichen Folgen aus der Perspektive der Geschlechtergleichheit. Polen-Analysen Nr. 186, Bremen (http://www.laender-analysen.de/polen/pdf/PolenAnalysen186.pdf).

CBOS (2017): Opinions about the “Family 500+” programme one year after introduction. Warsaw (http://www.cbos.pl/EN/publications/reports/2017/036_17.pdf).

Pensions

#29

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
5
Poland introduced a three-pillar pension system following World Bank recommendations in 1999. Starting in 2011, pension contributions were partially redirected from the second – obligatory, but private and funded – to newly created subaccounts in the first, public pillar. In addition, the sustainability of the first pillar was improved in 2011 by the adoption of an increase in statutory retirement ages, which would have been phased in between 2013 and 2020 (for men) or 2040 (for women), until everyone retires at the age of 67 for both sexes. As pension age was a hot topic in the 2015 election campaign the government immediately used its parliamentary majority to suggest a decrease of the pension age again, an initiative the party had already tried to bring to parliament through a referendum before the elections. A bill allowing women to retire at the age of 60 and men at the age of 65 was eventually passed in parliament on 16 November 2016 and became effective in November 2017. It will cost PLN 15 billion annually. The lowering of the retirement age has reduced the sustainability of the Polish pension system and is likely to increase poverty among women. The announced reform of the second pension pillar was delayed following disputes between Minister of Finance Morawiecki and Minister of Labor Rafalsk. According to the eventual compromise, the second pillar will be abolished, with 75% of the assets to be transferred to fully private pension schemes (in the so-called third pillar) and 25% going to the state’s Demographic Reserve Fund. At the end of the year, two other bills were under discussion, one introducing a 500+ scheme for pensioners that could provide people in need with an extra payment on an annual basis and another one abolishing the maximum contribution to ZUS, the public pension pillar, for people who earn above a certain threshold. This may bring more money into the pension fund in the short term but will demand additional future spending. About 350,000 Poles would be affected by these changes. PiS, as with previous governments, has ignored repeated EU recommendations to reform the costly pension systems for miners and farmers.

Integration

#39

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
3
Until 2015, issues related to Poland as a sending country featured far more prominently on the political agenda than issues related to Poland as a receiving country of migrants. About 2.5 million Poles live abroad, 4.7% more than in 2015. Migration to Poland has been relatively low, Ukrainians and Vietnamese make up the largest group of migrants to the country, with the number of Ukrainians working in Poland estimated at one million. But when Europe faced a larger influx of migrants than usual in the summer of 2015, Poland was one of the countries that objected to the integration of refugees and other migrants, especially from countries with a predominantly Muslim population. In many public speeches and on other occasions, PiS representatives denounced Muslim immigrants as potential terrorists, health risks and a threat to Polish culture and society. In 2017, the parliament amended the Act on Foreigners with a view to making the domestic institutional framework for dealing with immigrants harsher again. Asylum-seekers – 95% of whom come from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine – are held in guarded shelters until a decision on their applications is taken. The Catholic Church, which initially had not been very supportive to refugees, seems to have changed its position. On several occasions, priests have publicly asked for more solidarity with refugees.

Safe Living

#19

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
7
Crime figures in Poland have fallen and have been relatively low for some time. Trust in the police has suffered from the resignation of the head of police, Zbigniew Maj, who faced a corruption investigation in April 2016. The PiS government, most notably Minister of Defense Antoni Macierewicz has been criticized for undermining the public’s feeling of security by exaggerating the risk of terrorist attacks. The effectiveness of the new Anti-Terror Law, introduced in June 2016, has been contested. The Constitutional Court and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe have criticized the extended options for telephone and internet surveillance without a court order. Another critique is the weak oversight of secret services. The parliamentary committee for control was reduced from nine to seven members and the chair does not alternate any longer between government and opposition.

Global Inequalities

#32

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
5
Development cooperation has become a more relevant issue in Poland since EU accession, even though it is still not a priority of the Polish government. While Poland became the 28th member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in October 2013, it remains one of its smallest donors. In October 2015, the Kopacz government had agreed to implement its new development program for 2016-2020 which aimed primarily to support projects with NGOs in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, as well as projects in East Africa and South America for a total of PLN 1.5 billion annually. The new PiS government has paid less attention to development cooperation than its predecessor. At the EU-Africa summit that took place in Valetta, Malta on 12 November 2015, however, it promised to contribute €1 million to address reasons for migration from Africa.

Citations:
OECD (2017): Development Cooperation Peer Review Poland 2017. Paris.
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