IN THE EXTREME POVERTY

WOJCIECH DUDKIEWICZ

The recently published report of the Main Statistics Office is alarming. Despite the economic growth and bigger expenditures on social help, poverty in Poland is growing instead of decreasing

It is not seen in centres of big cities. However, one can only go to tollgates or slightly aside from the main streets, in order to get to the world unknown in governmental saloons. And although president Bronisław Komorowski said during the recent electoral campaign that we must be blind not to see that we live in the golden age for Poland, facts and numbers show something different. And they go without saying. According to the Main Statistics Office, nearly 3 million Poles live in the extreme poverty, their expenditures are not sufficient for the minimum of existence.

Making ends meet

Place to live, the cheapest food, money sufficient only for basic needs. One cannot think about a newspaper, cinema or at least the shortest holiday. But it may be worse: in Poland there are nearly 3 million people whose income is not sufficient for even basic needs, to make ends meet. This is over 7 per cent of Poles!

According to the Main Statistics Office, recently a percentage of people living in the extreme poverty was decreasing – from 12 percent in 2005 to 5.5 percent in 2008 (from 5.6 million to 2.2 million people living in poverty) – and for other few years it remained on the same level in order to increase clearly in the years of crisis – even to 7.4 percent of population, that is, 2.8 million people.

The rapid growth of number of people living in the extreme poverty appeared despite the economic growth, and also gaining enormous funds from the EU budget by Poland. In the extreme poverty (the level of income which causes biological destruction) every tenth Pole lives at the age up to 17. This tragedy touches over ¼ families with four or more children, every ninth family with three children and every tenth family with one parent with children.

- If the gross domestic product grows by ¼, and also the number of people living below the minimum of existence is increasing, it proves the extreme splitting of the society and the state’s turning its backs to those who are in need -says Dariusz Kucharski, a sociologist, a chief of Solidarity movement of the Retired and Pensioners.

On ‘islands of poverty’

According to the data of the Main Statistics Office it is the best to live in Silesia. Mazowsze is full of contradictions because if it was not for Warsaw, numbers would show much higher poverty – nearly the same as on ‘islands of poverty’ which Warmia and Mazury and Świętokrzyskie Province have been for years. Every sixth inhabitant lives there below the minimum of existence.

- The state is doing something which is negation of EU politicians declarations, that is, aiming at balanced development – says Dariusz Kucharski. – Two provinces are in a very dramatic situation, but if we look at particular provinces or communes, delves of poverty are in whole Poland.

- On Warmia and Mazury it was bad three years ago, but now it is dramatic – says prof. Mirosława Grabowska, a director of the Centre of Public Opinion Research. – Waiting till the situation gets improved itself, leads to the deepening of the tragedy. If we do not do anything, it will be much worse in 2016. The above-mentioned provinces are not able to get out of it by themselves. The policy of the state is essential here.

Poverty is getting deeper. And this phenomenon will have this tendency if criteria of granting help are not varied regionally, for example, depending on the degree of unemployment. – Communes can help a bigger number of people only theoretically because they are poor themselves – says dr. hab. Tadeusz Kamiński from the University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in Warsaw. More and more tasks are moved to the commune self-government, and the commune must look for money for these actions. If it is poor, it is not able to cover these needs, and only little help is provided by the state.

Pension for a grandchild

Among extremely poor people, 2/3 are inhabitants of villages. In metropolis the poorest are only 1 percent of the society and in villages their percentage is several times higher.

Below the so-called statutory real border of poverty, in 2014 every fifth family live which is kept from agriculture and every sixth family are pensioners. Poverty is touching more and more people who finished their professional career and in a large extent pensioners. Generally, these are the disabled who can only rely on lower and lower state grants. The state marginalizes them completely and they are the most excluded people.

Some people perceive pensioners, living in poverty but having permanent income in poor regions as Croesus. – In villages or small towns, where households are in the sphere of extreme poverty, a pensioner is a source of the only permanent income. Many of them keep children and grandchildren – emphasizes Dariusz Kucharski.

Help cannot catch up with needs. – If the average dole, the so-called periodical, is about 330 zlotys monthly, it is easy to imagine that this is evidently below the threshold of a decent life of a man – emphasizes dr. Kamiński.

Without hope

- Feelings about how people live in their families generally go together with meters used by the Main Statistics Office – notes prof. Mirosława Grabowska. What does it mean to be really poor today? It means that there are not enough money for holiday, house equipment, culture, expenditures connected with treatment, for clothes, shoes and also regular payment of electricity, rent. etc. According to the Centre of Public Opinion Research, such people are 18 percent of the society in Poland.

Half of Poles state that the standard of their lives is average (sometimes they cannot afford any expenditures connected with holiday), ¼ of them think that the standard of their lives is good or very good, and also ¼ of them think that the standard of their lives is very poor and they do not hope for any radical improvement in the nearest years. 2/3 of us think that the material situation of our families (and also the economic situation in our country) will not change.

What could improve it? The economic development and the policy of the country. – the country has got a lot to say here, because it can create better conditions for economy development, better conditions for existence of endangered families with many children and support endangered regions – emphasizes prof. Grabowska. – Poles are waiting for benefits for their other children, tax reliefs for families with many children, providing children with cheap childcare, so that mothers could take up work.

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„Niedziela” 26/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Lidia Dudkiewicz • Translation: Aneta Amrozik • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl