WARSAW, Poland — Official data shows that 1.4 million Polish children are living in poverty, with children from large families and small towns getting hit the hardest. A study by the Central Statistical Office (GUS) revealed that 10 percent of families with three or more children are living below the poverty line.
“Poverty is especially acute in small towns,” said Professor Katarzyna Duczkowska-Malysz, “unlike in the countryside, where there is the opportunity to take advantage of what nature offers, such as one’s own farm products, in small towns one has to buy everything.”
The study also showed that over half a million Polish children are unable to eat a meal containing meat, fish or poultry due to the expensive nature of the products. Around 450,000 children do not have access to required textbooks while 600,000 children are unable to visit the dentist due to financial constraints.
Poverty has also hit others in Poland, resulting in around 1.5 million people in the country living in poverty. While Poland has made progress in aiding excluded populations around the country join the mainstream economic activities, the country still has work to do.
Many families in Poland live on a salary that equates to $2.50 a day per person, and most of the money goes toward food and the heating bills for the long winters. Many, when interviewed by the World Bank, said that while high heating bills were their biggest problem, their lives would “be much easier if they could find good jobs with steady, even if meager, income.”
A broader European Union flagship initiative aimed at increasing economic and social inclusion for 20 million people by 2020, Poland has committed to help lift its 1.5 million out of poverty.
“Lifting people out of poverty in Poland today is more difficult than 20 years ago,” said Rob Swinkels, Senior Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lead author of a new report on social inclusion in Poland. “The problems that continue to hamper the progress of those who still have not escaped poverty and exclusion are deeper and their situations more complex than in the past. As such, we really need to do some new thinking and design a new approach to these problems and this situation.”
Although Poland’s economy grew by 81 percent between 1990 and 2010, the gaps between the poorest and wealthiest regions have grown as well. The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in an economic slowdown in Poland, just as it did for many other European countries.
Some 26 percent of Polish households have reported that their regular income is insufficient to meat their needs, while nearly 63 percent of households do not have any savings, according to the Polish Statistical Association. Unemployment has doubled in the past five years, reaching 14 percent.
“I try to save a little bit every month to have something to live on,” said Rysard, one of the citizens of Tarnobrzeg, a city of Poland that shut down their sulfur mine t o create an artificial lake in the hopes of increasing tourism, “the truth is that my life, no matter how hard I try, is just about survival.”