SEATTLE — In an evolving world, Poland has kept up with the necessities of remaining a developed country. Literacy rates continue to remain high and poverty is decreasing, showing Poland’s commitment to remaining a competitively developed country.
In an attempt to annihilate childhood poverty, the government of Poland introduced the 500+ program in 2016. Named after the amount each family receives, the program distributes 500 złoty to families for each second-born child and for subsequent children. The program reaches even further for impoverished families, as they are allowed 500 złoty for firstborn children as well.
To date, four million children in Poland have benefited from this program. This number makes up more than half of children in Poland under the age of 18. In addition to easing poverty for families, the program has fostered a growing birth rate. Before the program was implemented, birth rates in Poland had decreased as a result of financial hardships on families. With the new program, financial hardships have begun to disappear and the Prime Minister reports that the birth rate has begun rising monthly. This program has fostered a growing population and eased financial strain on families. The 500+ program is not alone in the government’s drive to improve the country; education has remained at the forefront of Poland’s agenda.
Education often determines the success of an individual, and Poland strives to provide higher education to citizens. Currently, 91 percent of adults between the ages of 25-64 have obtained an upper secondary education. Girls in Poland outperform boys on tests by an average of 13 points. But despite the high education rate, Poland also has a high rate of unemployment.
Unemployment has been a changing factor since the end of Communist rule. It currently is situated around 5.6 percent overall, but the statistic climbs to 12.8 percent for Polish citizens who hold an education level below upper secondary. The unemployed group is made up of all ages, and continues to be at the highest risk for poverty.
Today this same unemployment problem reaches every corner of Poland. Young Poles are statistically the most at risk, as 25 percent were unemployed in 2014, compared to 14 percent of older adults. A large part of young adults’ vulnerability comes from “junk contracts.” Young adults are often pressured to accept the first job they can find, and in Poland “junk contracts” are prevalent. They offer meager compensation, with low pay and minimal to no benefits. Other low-paying jobs in Poland can be found in the agricultural sector, where wages are often financially insufficient.
The agricultural sector of Poland’s economy has been central to economic prosperity for generations. The Central Statistical Office of Poland classifies 73 percent of farms as “small,” and rural farmers make up a significant part of Poland’s poor. The Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development launched a program known as the Rural Development Scheme in 2014 to help ensure food security for smallholder farmers.
The programs and initiatives that Poland has implemented to date have helped the country tremendously. Unemployment remains a problem throughout the country, but Poland has made great strides to tackle problems involving poverty.
– Sophie Casimes