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 badly managed return to a two-tier school system (primary followed by upper secondary or vocational classes) led to a broad strike by teachers. Curriculum changes have sought to expunge liberal texts and values. Social inequalities and regional disparities have diminished. A new program provides free access to hospitals, education and other institutions for people with special needs.

Access to healthcare is highly uneven, as public health insurance covers only a limited range of services. Medical staffers have received salary increases following strikes and demonstrations. Family policy has focused on child-related benefits, with the employment rate among women declining by two to three percentage points since 2016. Few children below the age of three have access to child care.

Retirement-age increases have been reversed, harming the pension-system sustainability. The PiS government has continued to denounce Muslim immigrants as potential terrorists, a risk to public health, and a threat to Polish culture and society. However, labor immigration from Ukraine in particular has shot up.

Education

#31

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
4
In the period under review, conflicts over education policy continued. In 2019, the abolition of the lower-secondary (i.e., middle) schools, which were introduced in 1999, and the return to the traditional two-tier school system (i.e., eight years of primary school followed by upper-secondary school for four years or vocational education) was eventually implemented. The change was badly prepared, the costs of which became visible to local administrations at the lowest (gmina) level – as well as teachers, parents and students – when the number of school children taking exams doubled. In spring 2019, the majority of teachers went on strike. Minister for Education Anna Zalewska was criticized for her poor handling of the teachers’ protests, even by members of her party. Eventually the strikes faded out and Zalewska’s successor, Dariusz Piatkowski, reached an agreement to raise salaries for teachers in August 2019. However, teachers have remained dissatisfied.

The content of school education has also been criticized. First, due to the government’s attempts to change the curricula with a view to rewriting Polish history, removing many liberal and cosmopolitan texts and values from core teaching programs, and returning to old-fashioned teaching methods. In autumn 2019, the Sejm discussed a controversial draft law aimed at abolishing sex education in schools and threatening teachers with prison sentences. In October 2019, the European Parliament took up the issue and passed a resolution asking the Polish government to reconsider the bill.

As for higher education, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin is eager to further improve the system of higher education in Poland. The laws he made in 2017 and 2018 are supposed to reduce the overall number of university students, to promote the so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and reorganize the system of funding universities and students (through loans). These changes have been accompanied by protests from teachers and university personnel, who consider the reform to be ill-conceived, poorly prepared and expensive.

Citations:
Kaluza, A. (2018): Die Reform des Schulsystems in Polen. Polen-Analysen Nr. 224, Darmstadt/ Bremen (http://www.laender-analysen.de/polen/pdf/PolenAnalysen224.pdf).
Wojniak, J., M. Majorek (2018): Polish education system under 2017 reform: Assumptions, aims and controversies. SHS Web of Conferences 48, 010432 (https://doi.org/10.1051/shsconf/20184801043)

Social Inclusion

#16

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 inequality and exclusion have visibly declined since the early 2000s. This has partly been due to Poland’s strong economic performance. In addition, regional disparities have been mitigated through regional-development policies financed by EU structural funds. By raising family allowances and increasing the minimum wage, the PiS government has improved social inclusion. Moreover, it has been successful in reducing the high share of temporary employment contracts. In the service sector, the payment of social-insurance contributions has become obligatory. However, experts have argued that the government’s various social welfare and family allowance instruments do not interact well with one another, while the slight increase in the inflation rate has also negatively impacted on the financial situation of this group. In addition, the government’s social housing program, the “Mieszkanie+,” is well behind schedule. The postal service and railways are supposed to provide space and buildings that can be transformed into low-rent apartments. However, this has not yet worked out. A new program, which began operating in January 2019, provides free access to hospitals, education and other state institutions for people with special needs.

Citations:
Krukowska, M. (2018): Inequality and the perception of wealth in Poland, in: Central European Financial Observer, July 23 (https://financialobserver.eu/poland/inequality-and-the-perception-of-wealth-in-poland/).

Owczarek, D. (2019): Soziale Probleme lösen oder Wähler gewinnen? Die Sozialpolitik der PiS seit 2015, Polen Analysen Nr. 246, Darmstadt/ Bremen (https://www.laender-analysen.de/polen-analysen/246/soziale-probleme-loesen-oder- waehler-gewinnen-die-sozialpolitik-der-pis-seit-2015/).

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 healthcare 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 member states, Poland has a low doctor-patient ratio, with only 2.3 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants. Mortality indicators showed a visible increase in the number of deaths in 2017 and 2018, which was clearly related to the declining availability and quality of healthcare services, particularly in rural areas. The PiS government has not yet launched the comprehensive healthcare reform that it has promised several times. However, it has adopted a number of minor measures such as the creation of a new hospital network and pilot projects to test ways of improving the coordination of primary care. Health policy has been dominated by conflicts between medical staff and the government over salaries and working conditions, which resulted in frequent strikes and demonstrations. The government responded by promising salary increases for physicians and an increase in public healthcare spending from about 4.7% to 6% of GDP by 2024. This topic featured prominently in the 2019 election campaigns.

Citations:
Sowada, C., A. Sagan, I. Kowalska-Bobko (2019): Poland: Health System Review 2019. Brussels: European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies/ WHO (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/325143/18176127-eng.pdf?sequence=7).

Families

#33

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. The PiS government has followed a more traditional approach toward family policy. The cornerstone of the latter, which featured prominently in the 2015 election campaign, has been the “Family 500” program, in effect since 1 April 2016. The family allowances for parents with two or more children to PLN 500 (€116) for each child is paid irrespective of the parents’ income. Since May 2019, all families (not only poor families) have been eligible to receive a grant of PLN 500 for their first child. The expansion of benefits has increased the estimated costs of the “Family 500” program from 1.3% to 1.7% of Poland’s GDP. Similar payments also exist in other EU member states, but in the Polish case the sum is high compared to the income of people. While the measures have improved the financial situation of Polish families, concerns that the Family 500 program would reduce labor market participation rates among women without having positive effects on the birth rate have been confirmed. The female employment rate has decreased by 2 – 3 percentage points since 2016.

In its second year in office, the PiS government adopted a second program, For Life Plus, which includes support for families in difficult situations or with disabled children. This is expected to cost another PLN 3.7 billion. The government has also promised to provide more childcare facilities. Currently, however, only 7.9% of children below the age of three have access to childcare, the third-lowest such rate in the European Union, while 61% of Polish kids in the three-and-up cohort attend childcare, the fourth-lowest such rate in the European Union. Only one year of preschool (prior to entering the first grade in primary school) has become compulsory.

Citations:
Owczarek, D. (2019): Soziale Probleme lösen oder Wähler gewinnen? Die Sozialpolitik der PiS seit 2015, Polen Analysen Nr. 246, Darmstadt/ Bremen (https://www.laender-analysen.de/polen-analysen/246/soziale-probleme-loesen-oder-waehler-gewinnen-die-sozialpolitik-der-pis-seit-2015/).

Pensions

#32

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
The three-pillar pension system, which Poland introduced in 1999 following World Bank recommendations, has since been radically transformed. 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 first pillar was made more sustainable through the adoption of a gradual increase in statutory retirement ages, rising until 2020 for men and until 2040 for women; ultimately the age of retirement for both sexes was to be 67.

The pension-eligibility age was a hot topic in the 2015 election campaign. The first PiS government scrapped the envisaged increase in the retirement age, and even lowered the retirement ages for men to 65 and for women to 60 in November 2017. This decrease in the retirement age, which has been estimated to cost 0.5% of GDP annually, has reduced the sustainability of the Polish pension system, and is likely to increase poverty, especially among women and to intensify the growing labor shortage. In order to finance part of the costs for the second pillar, the government tried to abolish the maximum contribution to ZUS, the public pension pillar. However, this move was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Tribunal in November 2018.

In 2018, the government also laid the foundations for a new occupational pension savings scheme, which is supposed to replace the existing second pillar. The new scheme was introduced for employees of companies with more than 250 staff in July 2019. The scheme will be extended to cover employees of smaller firms in the second half of 2020. While employees have the right to withdraw from the scheme, the government hopes to integrate up to 75% of the country’s employed population through the scheme’s automatic enrollment. Experts are divided. Some experts argue that it is a good idea to force Poles to save money and that the government should create incentives to do so, while others argue that these programs are inefficient.

In the period under review, the PiS government has largely focused on addressing the growing level of poverty among pensioners. It eventually adopted the “500+” scheme, which provides an extra annual payment to poor pensioners. Moreover, shortly before the 2019 European Parliament elections, all pensioners were paid a 13th pension. In the campaign to the parliamentary elections in October 2019, the government promised to pay a 13th and even a 14th pension on a regular basis. However, the financing of these costly promises is unclear. Some PiS members of parliament have suggested that the government could utilize the Solidarity Fund, which was meant to finance improvements for people with special needs.

Citations:
Chłoń-Domińczak, A. (2019): New Occupational Pension Savings Scheme in Poland. European Social Policy Network, Flash Report 2019/01, Brussels.

Owczarek, D. (2019): Soziale Probleme lösen oder Wähler gewinnen? Die Sozialpolitik der PiS seit 2015, Polen Analysen Nr. 246, Darmstadt/ Bremen (https://www.laender-analysen.de/polen-analysen/246/soziale-probleme-loesen-oder- waehler-gewinnen-die-sozialpolitik-der-pis-seit-2015/).

Integration

#38

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 emigration from Poland featured far more prominently on the political agenda than issues related to immigration to Poland. While Poland had developed an integration concept following EU pressure in 2012, the number of Ukrainian and Vietnamese workers in Poland was low. Since PiS has returned to power, the government’s discourse has been very much against immigration, especially regarding Muslim people and people coming from countries outside Europe. In 2017, the parliament amended the Act on Foreigners with a view to tightening the domestic institutional framework for dealing with immigration. In the 2019 election campaigns, PiS representatives have continued to denounce Muslim immigrants as potential terrorists, a risk to public health, and a threat to Polish culture and society.

Meanwhile, however, the number of migrants has substantially increased. In 2018 and 2019, Poland took more workers from outside the European Union than any other EU member state. Since 2014, about two million Ukrainians have arrived, pushed by the poor economic situation and the war in Ukraine, and pulled by labor shortages and higher wages in Poland. While smaller in scale, immigration from countries such as Nepal, India and Bangladesh has also increased. Policies for integrating migrants are weak. The assumption, which might turn out to be wrong, is that most migrants will only stay temporarily or are so close in cultural terms that integration is no real problem.

Citations:
Babakova, O. (2018): Socio-economic aspects of migrations in Poland (1989 – 2018), in: J. Kucharczyk, G. Mesežnikov (eds), Phantom Menace. The Politics and Policies of Migration in Central Europe. Prague: Institute for Public Affairs/ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 148-168.
Economist (2020): How to mess up migration: Poland is repeating the mistrakes of other European countries, February 22.
Koss-Goryszewska, M., M. Pawlak (2018): Integration of migrants in Poland: Contradictions and imaginations, in: J. Kucharczyk, G. Mesežnikov (eds), Phantom Menace. The Politics and Policies of Migration in Central Europe. Prague: Institute for Public Affairs/ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 169-184.
Wolffhardt, A., C. Conte, T. Huddleston (2019): The European Benchmark for refugee Integration: A Comparative Analysis of the National Integration Mechanism in 14 EU Countries. Warsaw: Institute of Pubiic Affairs.

Safe Living

#25

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.
Internal Security Policy
7
Crime and homicide rates in Poland have fallen and have been relatively low for some time. However, trust in the police and the secret services has suffered under the PiS government. The effectiveness of the new Anti-Terror Law, introduced in June 2016, has been a subject of debate. 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 no longer alternates between the government and opposition. Since 2015, Poland’s secret services have been coordinated by Mariusz Kamiński, a controversial figure. Kamiński was found guilty by a court in 2015 of producing false evidence against a political opponent in his previous position as head of the anti-corruption office (CBA). However, Kamiński was later pardoned by President Duda. In August 2019, Kamiński also became Minister of the Interior and Administration.

Global Inequalities

#33

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. Poland became the 28th member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in October 2013 and remains one of the group’s least-active donors. However, its contribution has increased over the years, and has now reached 0.13% of GDP. The Multiannual Development Program 2016 – 2020 adopted in October 2015 by the Kopacz government, was updated in September 2018 to include Lebanon and Uganda. The majority of financial contributions has gone to Ukraine, Belarus and Turkey (in order to host Syrian refugees). In public debates about migration and its causes, the PiS government frequently argues that it prefers to provide help in the regions where refugees or migrants come from. At the EU-Africa summit in Malta in November 2015, Poland promised to contribute €1 million to address root causes of migration from Africa. Prime Minister Morawiecki later proposed a new Marshall-Plan-like effort for Africa.

Citations:
OECD (2019): Poland. Development Cooperation Profiles. http://www.polskapomoc.gov.pl/gallery/2019/Development_Co-operation_Profile_2019_-_Poland.pdf
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