Poland

   

Social Policies

#31
Key Findings
With policy shifts sparking considerable controversy, Poland scores relatively poorly (rank 31) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

A return to a two-tier school system (primary followed by upper secondary or vocational classes) has triggered teacher protests. Additional changes seek to remove liberal texts and values from the curricula. Inequality rates have fallen over time. Increases in family allowances and the minimum wage have decreased social inequality, and a social-housing construction program is underway.

The health system is being restructured, featuring a new hospital network and pilot projects seeking to improve primary care. Medical staffers have protested vigorously, but have received salary increases. Family policy has focused on child-related benefits, raising fears that labor-market participation rates among women will decline. 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 staunchly opposed the 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

#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
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. Under the terms of the new law, the lower secondary or middle schools (gimnazjum) introduced in 1999 will be closed by 2019, and the previous two-tier school system (eight-year primary school followed by upper secondary school for another four years or vocational education) will be reinstated. 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, and returning to old-fashioned teaching methods. Supervisory school authorities have been staffed with people close to the governing PiS party.

As for higher education, Minister of Science and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin presented a first major reform bill in September 2017. Two of its central aims, the reduction in the overall number of university students and the promotion of the so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), have been controversial. In June 2018, the Sejm passed a second, rather comprehensive bill on higher education that covers issues as diverse as the financing of universities and student loans. It aims to diversify the missions of vocational and academic higher-education institutions, in part through the creation of different subsidy-distribution systems. Teachers and university personnel have protested, considering it to be an ill-conceived, poorly prepared and expensive education reform.

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

#14

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 government’s next step, the “Mieszkanie+” social housing program, is well behind schedule, however, as only 2,800 apartments had been built by the end of the review period. The postal service and railways are supposed to provide space and buildings that can be transformed into low-rent apartments.

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/).

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. Mortality indicators show a visible increase in the number of deaths in 2017 and 2018 that is clearly related to the declining availability and quality of health care services, particularly in the countryside.

Upon coming to office, the PiS government called for a comprehensive health care reform that included far-reaching changes such the abolition of the National Health Insurance Fund (NFZ) and a move to tax-financed health care. While many of these radical structural changes were quickly abandoned, the government adopted a number of measures such as the creation of a new hospital network and pilot projects to test ways of improving the coordination of primary care. However, health policy has been dominated by strong conflicts between medical staff and the government over salaries and working conditions, which manifested in frequent strikes and demonstrations in the second half of 2017. The government responded by promising salary increases for physicians and an increase in public health care spending from about 4.7% to 6% of GDP by 2025. Following the cabinet reshuffle in January 2018, which led to the replacement of Minister of Health Konstantyn Radziwiłł with Łukasz Szumowski, the deadline for reaching the 6% goal has been brought forward to 2024.

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, with the cornerstone of its family policy, which featured prominently in the 2015 election campaign, being the “Family 500” program, which has been in effect since 1 April 2016. This increased family allowances 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. While the measures have improved the financial situation of Polish families, critics fear that the Family 500 program will reduce labor-market participation rates among women 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 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 child care, the third-lowest such rate in the European Union, while 61% of Polish kids in the three-and-up cohort attend child care, the fourth-lowest such rate in the EU.

Citations:
Druciarek, M. (2016): Die Familienpolitik der Regierung und ihre möglichen Folgen aus der Perspektive der Geschlechtergleichheit. Polen-Analysen Nr. 186, Darmstadt/ 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 first pillar was made more sustainable in 2011 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. Pension-eligibility age was a hot topic in the 2015 election campaign and the government immediately used its parliamentary majority to propose 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 became effective in November 2017. It will cost PLN 15 billion or 0.5% of GDP annually. This decrease in the retirement age 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.

These changes have been followed by further reform initiatives. A bill to introduce a “500+” scheme for pensioners that could provide people in need with an extra payment on an annual basis had not been adopted as of the time of writing. The adopted abolition of the maximum contribution to ZUS, the public pension pillar, for people who earn above a certain threshold was sent to the Constitutional Tribunal by President Duda, and was declared unconstitutional by the Tribunal in November 2018. With about 350,000 Poles affected, it would have brought more money into the pension fund in the short term, but would have generated additional future spending.

In 2018, the foundations for a new occupational pension savings scheme were laid. This program will be introduced gradually beginning in July 2019, and aims to bring up to 75% of the country’s employed population into occupational pension schemes through automatic enrollment. At the same time, however, the announced reform of the remaining second pillar was further postponed.

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

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 Poland as a sending country featured far more prominently on the political agenda than issues related to Poland as a receiving country of migrants. In 2018, about 2.5 million Poles were living 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 relocation and 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. However, surveys show that the population is quite hesitant to accept incoming refugees, although Ukrainians and Russians are comparatively welcome as migrants. After the decision of the European Court of Justice in September 2017 that confirmed the legality of the Council of the European Union’s decision to relocate refugees within Europe, Poland and the other Visegrád countries contested the decision, and continued to refuse to accept refugees. The Polish government also opposed the UN Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which was signed in Marrakesh in December 2018.

Safe Living

#27

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 figures 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 does not alternate any longer between government and opposition. Joachim Brudziński, a close ally of party leader Kaczyński and a longtime, high-ranking PiS member who has served as minister of the interior since January 2018, now has the task of reorganizing the police services.

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 the group’s least-active donors. However, its contribution has increased over the years, and has now reached 0.13% of GDP. In October 2015, the Kopacz government agreed to implement its new development program for 2016 – 2020, which aimed primarily to support NGO projects 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. This was updated in September 2018 to include Lebanon and Uganda as countries with a high priority. 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 that took place in Valetta, Malta on 12 November 2015, Poland promised to contribute €1 million to address root causes of migration from Africa. Current Prime Minister Morawiecki has proposed a new Marshall-Plan-like effort for Africa. In 2017, the country spent €180 million on humanitarian aid.
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