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Poland: Tackling the challenge of work-life reconciliation

Decreasing but still high levels of child poverty in Poland is compounded by the lack of appropriate childcare facilities. In order to improve the conditions for families, help parents achieve a better work-life balance and increase low fertility rates (1.30 in 2012), the Polish government is implementing a set of supportive measures, launched in 2011. In 2013 selected measures were modified, including the expansion of childcare facilities, the prolongation of maternity leave, and the introduction of paternal and parental leave.

Family benefits and child poverty

Polish expenditure on family-related benefits is low compared to other EU countries. In 2011, according to Eurostat data, it amounted to 1.3% of GDP compared to the EU average of 2.2%.

In November 2012, despite the economic crisis in Poland, the threshold for family benefits and the number of family benefits were raised. The current family benefits mainly target low-income families – those with a monthly income per person not exceeding 539 PLN net (around €129). A slightly higher income threshold is set for families with a disabled child (623 PLN net, around €149). In 2014 the threshold will increase to 574 PLN and 664 PLN respectively. In comparison: the minimum wage in Poland in 2013 is 1181 PLN net (€284).

Child benefit ranges from 77 to 115 PLN (€18 to €27) monthly per child and can be complemented by other allowances. The allowances are administered by local authorities (gminy) that can increase benefits using their own resources.

With a total employment rate (15 year olds and above) of 50.2% in 2012, Poland is in the middle of all EU-28 countries, but still below the EU-28 average of 51.6%. In 2012, about 59.7% of the working age population (15-64) was employed, compared with an EU average of 64.1%. Female employment (53.1% in 2012) remains behind the EU-28 average of 58.5%. The employment rate for mothers of children under six (57,5% in 2012) was lower than the EU average (59,1% 2012). In 2011 the gender pay gap was low (4.5%) compared to the EU average (16.2%).

Low employment rates, lack of childcare facilities and low benefits for families result in a relatively high risk of child poverty which in 2012 was 29.3%, slightly higher than the EU average of 28.1%. Large families (3 children and more) and single-parent families are mostly at risk of poverty and social exclusion in Poland.

Rebuilding childcare services

According to Eurostat data, in 2011, only 3% of children under three and about 43% of children between three and school age attend formal childcare. It is still below the Barcelona targets for both indicators. yet the situation has been improving slowly, in particular for children over 3 years of age.

According to a “Social Diagnosis 2013” (Polish panel survey with a sample size about 12 thousand households), Poles indicate that the two most important factors in the reconciliation of work and parental responsibilities are flexible working hours (chosen by approximately 55% of respondents) and better opportunities to use childcare institutions for children under seven (approximately 35%).

In April 2011 to facilitate the creation of new childcare places and to improve the provision of childcare for children under three, the Act of 4 February 2011 on care for children under three years of age came into force. The Act allows for the creation of new childcare places within the framework of:

  • Crèches – public or non-government organisations, providing care for children under three (up to ten hours a day);
  • Kids clubs – gmina run structures that provide care for children from one to three years old (up to 5 hours a day);
  • Childminders – who can look after a maximum of five children under three in childminders’ homes;
  • Nannies – a person employed by the parents who cares for the child in parents’ home.

In July 2013 the amendment to the above mentioned act came into force. It reduced the gmina's own contribution from 50% to 20% of the establishment and operational costs of childcare institutions, as well as expanding the list of companies able to apply for funding from the state budget for these costs in care institutions.  The amendment also allowed for the extension of the catalogue of entities that may hire daily carers. It also provides the possibility of organizing, by childcare institutions for children under three years, joint administrative, financial and organizational support.

To boost development of childcare institutions, The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy has launchedthe “Maluch” (“Toddler”) Programme, in parallel to the Act, whose goal is to encourage local self-governments to establish nurseries and kids clubs. In 2011, the ToddlerProgramme grants awarded to local self-governments amounted to a total of 15.3 million PLN. Four thousand new places in nurseries and children’s clubs have been created. In 2012, the ToddlerProgramme funding from the national budget reached 23.9 million PLN. It is expected that by the end of 2013, 3.2 thousand new childcare places in nurseries and children's clubs will be created by the municipalities. In 2012 the state covered the costs incurred by gminas related to the maintenance of childcare establishments for children under three and social security and health insurance contributions for nannies to the amount of 114 million PLN (77 million and 37 million PLN respectively). The draft State budget for 2013 plans 101 million PLNfor implementing the tasks provided in the Act on the care of children under three. 90 million PLN is planned for implementing the Toddler Programme - 2013 edition and 11 million PLN to pay contributions for nannies.

To address the lack of childcare, nursery schools are created or being rebuilt with significant support from EU structural funds.

The family policy to improve work-life balance

In order to improve the quality of life for families, the Polish government has adopted a series of measures since 2006. They are targeted at families to enable them to reconcile their family and professional responsibilities, thereby promoting gender equality, improving the financial situation of families and fostering a more family-friendly society in general.

As part of these measures a one-time child birth grant of 1000 PLN(€243) was introduced in 2006 (one-time payment by local authorities) and a tax deduction per child increased almost tenfold – from 120 PLN(€30) in 2006 to 1112 PLN(€270) in 2009. The one-time child birth grant, introduced in 2013, depends on a family’s net income (1922 PLN = around €462).

In June 2013 additional measures to support families came into force including:

  • the extension of the additional maternity leave to up to 6 weeks (8 weeks in the case of multiple births). Mothers on additional maternity leave are entitled to work-part time with their maternity benefit reduced proportionally. At present, basic maternity leave lasts 20 weeks (in the case of multiple births maternity leave now ranges from 31 weeks for twins to 37 weeks for quintuplets and more).
  • the extension of paternity leave up to 2 weeks from 2012 for the father,
  • the introduction of paid parental leave up to 26 weeks after using basic maternity leave and additional maternity leave. The parental leave could be used by both parents at the same time. The cumulated length of basic maternity, additional maternity and parental leave amounts to 52 weeks of paid leave for the birth of one child. Depending on the request of the entitled person, the following levels of payment have been foreseen:
    • without prior declaration of taking leave – 26 weeks of maternity and additional maternity leave paid 100% of salary and 26 weeks of parental leave paid at 60% of the salary,
    • on the condition of prior declaration – one-year’s leave (52 weeks) – this leave is paid at 80% of the salary.

According to Polish Labour Code, the person employed, for at least 6 months, is entitled to up to 36 months of childcare leave in order to provide personal care to a child under 5 years of age. If the child is disabled – an employee is entitled to an additional period of childcare leave of up to 36 months for a child under 18. As a rule, childcare leave is generally unpaid, but the low-income families are entitled to a flat monthly payment of 400PLN (€100). 

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2014.

The Programme “Flat for the young”

Since January 2014 young adults (up to the age of 35) can count on state support while buying their first flat in the framework of the Programme “Flat for the young”. Their own contribution will be subsidized. Families with three or more children can count on additional state support not only to contribute, but finish payment of the credit early. Besides, people who build their own, first home (flat or single-family house) can avail of a partial refund of VAT on construction materials on the basis of new rules. There are some conditions which have to be met in the case of using this support:

  1. People cannot have owned any other flat.
  2. People must be under 35, in case of families – the age of the younger spouse counts.
  3. The maximum useable floor area for flats bought on the primary market is 75m2 and for single-family houses is 100m2. For families with at least three children – 85m2 and 110m2 respectively.
  4. The mortgage loan must be taken for at least 50% of the house price for at least 15 years.

The price of the flat cannot be higher than the special index for the location.