High levels of child poverty in Poland are compounded by the lack of appropriate childcare facilities, which contribute to low birth rates. In order to improve the conditions for families and help parents achieve a better work-life balance, the Polish government has recently launched a “Family Policy Package” that includes the expansion of childcare facilities, the improvement of maternity leave and the introduction of paternal leave.
Polish expenditure on family-related benefits is low compared to other EU countries. In 2009 it amounted to 0.8% of GDP compared to the EU average of 2.3%. The current family benefits mainly target low-income families – those with a monthly income per person not exceeding 504 PLN(around €126). A slightly higher income ceiling is set for families with a disabled child.
Child benefit ranges from 48 to 68 PLN(€12 to €17) per month and per child and can be complemented by a variety of other modest allowances. The allowances are administered by local authorities (gminy) that can increase benefits using their own resources.
Poland has one of the five lowest total employment rates in the EU. In 2011, only 59.7% of the population of working age was in paid employment, compared with an EU average of 64.3%. Female employment, at 53.1%, also lags behind other EU Member States and is well below the Lisbon target. Also, at 56.9% in 2011, the employment rate for mothers of children under six was lower than the EU average. In 2009 the gender pay gap was low (5.3%) compared to the EU average (16.4%).
Low benefits for families, low employment rates and a large rural poor population result in a high risk of child poverty. In 2011, 22% of Polish children were at risk of poverty. Child poverty is particularly acute in large and in single-parent families. The difficult situation of families is also reflected in Poland’s fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman in 2011, one of the lowest in the EU.
Parental leave can be taken for up to three years, before the child reaches the age of four. If caring for a disabled child, parents are entitled to an additional period of leave of up to three years. During parental leave, a flat monthly payment of 400 PLN(€100) is available for low-income families. The same ceiling as for family benefit applies. The parental leave allowance is paid for up to two years for a single child, three years in the case of multiple births, six years if a child has disabilities.
Currently, the provision of childcare does not meet parents’ needs. In 2010, only 2% of children under three and 42% of children between three and school age attended formal childcare. This is far below the EU Barcelona targets and the EU averages of 28% and 84% respectively.
According to a Eurobarometer survey , Poles, like most Europeans, see crèches and pre-school education as the preferred way of organising childcare for pre-school children. However, as many as one third believe that total withdrawal of one of the parents from the labour market is the most practical and realistic way of combining work and family life. Along with Luxembourg and Malta, the Polish parents were the most likely to give this answer.
To address the lack of childcare, nursery schools are being rebuilt with significant support from EU structural funds. In addition, the amendment of the Education System Act in 2007 established a framework for the development of small private and non-subsidised crèches and pre-school facilities. Increasing the number of publicly funded childcare facilities remains a challenge as these are legally considered healthcare institutions, a classification that comes with strict technical and staffing requirements.
In April 2011 a new Act came into force that aims to facilitate the creation of new childcare places and improve the provision of childcare for children under four. 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 for up to ten hours a day;
Kids clubs – Municipality run structures that provide care for children from one to three years old for up to 5 hours a day;
Childminders – who can look after maximum five children under 3 in childminders’ homes;
Nannies – a person employed by the parents who cares for the child in parents’ home.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy also launched the “Maluch” (“A Little One”) programme that aims to encourage local government to establish nurseries and kids clubs. In 2011, the government invested 20 million PLN(€4.87 million). This budget was doubled in 2012.
In order to improve the quality of life for families, the Polish government has adopted a series of measures since 2006. They are targeted in particular at women, seeking 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 child birth grant of 1000 PLN(€243) was introduced in 2006 (one-time payment by local authorities) and the tax deduction per child increased tenfold – from 120 PLN(€30) in 2006 to 1112 PLN(€270) in 2009.
In January 2009 the ‘Family Support Package’ came into force including:
The extension of the maternity leave to 20 weeks (in the case of multiple births, leave now ranges from 31 weeks for twins to 37 weeks for quintuplets and more). From 2010, the maternity leave will also be extendable for an optional period of up to 6 weeks in 2014 (8 weeks in the case of multiple births). Mothers on optional maternity leave will be entitled to work-part time with their maternity benefit reduced proportionally.
1 week of paternity leave from 2010 (extended to 2 weeks in 2012).
Employment restrictions lifted for mother/father on parental leave: government will top up their social security contribution.
In addition, in September 2009, the government increased the amount of the family allowance by 40 %. The benefit now ranges from 68 to 98 PLN(€16 to €24) per month. The benefit for disabled children also rose by 23% and now amounts to 520 PLN(€126)).
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
In 2007, the Polish government set up a ‘preferential mortgage loan’ scheme to help middle-income families buy a flat or a house. When buying a house or flat, families or single parents first apply for a mortgage loan from a commercial bank. If they are granted the loan, for the first eight years of it, about half the value of the interest that they would have to pay to the bank are paid by the Polish BGK investment bank directly to the commercial bank.
The scheme applies both to newly constructed flats or houses and to those that are traded on the second-hand market. The maximum useable floor area for flats to be eligible for the scheme is 75 metres squared and for houses is 140 metres squared. A preferential loan is given on 50 metres squared (for flats) and on 70 metres squared (for houses). If the family is having a house built, there is also a maximum cost of the original construction of the house per metre squared based on a restitution index value.