Économie et Statistique n° 383-384-385 - 2005Approaches to Poverty: the Test of International Comparisons
Poverty and exclusion in Poland
Poland had one of the fastest population growth rates in Europe through to the mid-1980s. This trend turned around in the 1990s with the result that the population decreased for the first time in 1999. Life expectancy is on the up and is slightly longer for men than for women. The country has become extremely urbanised since the end of the Second World War, despite the fact that this trend has slowed in recent years. The social structure has also changed, with more white collar workers and fewer farmers. Children living with their parents remains widespread and the percentage of large families is fairly high. Although the labour force participation rate is high, unemployment fluctuates at between 13% and 18% and hits young people hard. Per capita GDP fell during the period following the transition to a free market economy, before steadily and sharply rising from 1992 to 1997. This growth posted a downward trend from 1998 and only appeared to come to a halt in 2003. Income inequality, previously lower than in the most of the European countries, has risen but the average standard of living still stands at roughly only one-quarter of its level in countries such as France. Nearly half of the average budget is spent on basic needs. Nearly half of all Polish households cannot afford meat or fish and nearly 40% of all housing is reported to be in need of repair. Monetary poverty affects essentially large families and young households. Some 9% of households and nearly 18% of children under fourteen are affected. Country dwellers, farmers and single men are also more likely to suffer from poor living conditions whereas problems with balancing the budget are found more frequently in the towns. There is a correlation, albeit weak, between poverty and exclusion: family bonds are strong in Poland, which could ease certain effects of poverty, except possibly among unskilled unemployed individuals who tend to suffer from an accumulation of handicaps.