Is the state against family?
The priority of the ruling party should be an active and long-term pro-family policy. The economic and social development depends on it. Unfortunately, many-generational families are today strongly supported in poorer countries than us.
‘Pro-family policy must meet the needs of the society’, said Joanna Krupska at the conference entitled ‘Family Policy as a Chance for Poland’. Among the participants were Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz, politicians, local activists and scientists. ‘Family policy should result from the understanding of the country’s history, culture and the present situation’, added the President of the Union of Extended Families ‘Three Plus’. The present diagnosis, which was presented during the conference, is alarming. The Polish People’s Republic was an anti-family state and the Third Polish Republic did not break off that adverse policy but continued it in many ways. Only in recent years the situation has been changed. Longer maternity leaves have been reintroduced, maternity benefit was brought in and a bill concerning income tax allowances for every child was passed. But these changes are too small to stop the negative tendency of population decrease (depopulation) in Poland.
Our expenditures for family policy are one of the lowest in Europe. And as far as the benefits for children are concerned they are the lowest in Europe and even lower than those in Ukraine and Russia, so in the countries with much smaller national income. For example, the benefit in Ukraine amounts to 5,000 zloty.
Children - common good
Most specialists think that there will be a social and economic crisis in Poland, resulting to a considerable extent from the anti-family policy. In this light the appeal to introduce pro-family policy does not mean giving privileges to families with children. This is simply in the best interest of the country and of all its citizens.
This is also beneficial for those who make careers instead of having children. Why? ‘The condition for successful system of retirement allowances is a healthy demographic structure of the society. Otherwise, less numerous generations make fewer products and services than in the case of the rising population. So the pensioners cannot spend their saved means’, explained Dr Mateusz Mokrogulski, an economist from the Warsaw School of Economics. If the future generations were bigger, and well educated, the pensioners could count on bigger help from the more affluent budget, better rehabilitation and medical care, etc. Several years ago the Western countries initiated many activities to support family. Our ruling elite ignored the problem. Consequently, we have the lowest fertility level in the European Union. And this happens when the sociological research shows that Poles have regarded family as the highest value for years. ‘Simple generation replacement occurs when the birth rate is 2.1. We had it for the last time in 1988. In the next 16 years the population growth dropped to just 1.2, which means that the generation of children born in those years is 42% less populous than the generation of the parents’, said Joanna Krupska. Thus we will suffer from lack of labour force in several years. The future slump will be different than the present one, i.e. when employers look for workers and the labour offices burst at the seams with the unemployed. Economists estimate that the Polish economy will lack 1.5 million people to function at the present level. The state investment in fertility level is long term and the results occur in about 20 years. But recently our media have triumphantly announced that we have a ‘baby boom’. But we should harbour no illusions about that, the success is apparent. We have more children because demographically we have more women of child-bearing age. The fertility level in Poland has not increased at all. The latest EU prognoses say that in the years 2007-2050 our population will have a 20% decrease. This is the worst result out of the six main EU countries. The decrease will be smaller in Germany and Italy. But there will be an increase in the population of Spain, France (10%) and Great Britain (15%). So one can see that some Western countries have found solutions to replace their generations. Others have managed to limit the phenomenon of depopulation. Among the means we should mention an active family policy.
Taxes hurt many generation families
‘The modern family policy in the European countries and in the OECD countries is based on three fundamental pillars: tax pillar, social factor and intervention in the labour market’, explained Dr Leszek Bosek from Warsaw University.
What does the situation look like in our country? ‘Until last year Poland was the only country in the region that did not use any system of tax policy regarding family’, said Dr Mokrogulski. This year the tax relief for children has been introduced. It is 1,145 zloty for every child. The new relief is a good tendency although families will not be able to use it because of their low incomes. In case of a family with two children the monthly gross income should be 3,300 zloty to benefit from the relief.
Generally speaking, our tax system still discriminates families with children. They pay much higher VAT than childless families and singles. Only in France and Sweden a family with two children (and one parent working) pays higher taxes than in Poland. When we consider singles Poland has the 11th place among the 21 OECD countries.
The consequence of the situation is the pauperisation of families. In 2001, over 90% of families with many children had the lowest earnings. ‘A large minority was made to be customers of the social care houses’, complained Krupska. ‘The Polish poverty touches children in the first place’, she stressed. ‘Anti-family solutions incline people to have fictional divorces. During the rule of SLD (1999-2004) the Alimony Fund was closed. And the party passed a bill that favoured single parents. Within eight months the number of divorce rose to over 200%. The second pillar of modern family policy is social politics. Our country spends over 10 billion zloty a year on it. And this money has not been distributed to families that really needed it. The first reason is that the system is too bureaucratic and costly. Secondly, the means are distributed regardless of the needs, for example benefits for disabled children. ‘The ruling party should be ashamed that it offers eugenic abortion as the only ‘help’ for a family that expects a disabled child’, said Dr Leszek Bosek. During the conference the lawyer from Warsaw University critically evaluated the idea to build a network of creches and nursery schools. The purpose was to give more chances to find jobs for families (the third pillar of family policy). ‘Parents should choose between state support to send their children to creches or to leave them under grandparents’, aunts’ or babysitters’ care,’ said Mr Bosek. Joanna Krupska opposes the solution that combines professional life and family life. ‘It does not reflect the specific character of the Polish society and family’, she concluded.
The conference ‘Family Policy as a Chance for Poland’ was held five days before the parliamentary election. We hope that the main actors of the political scene will get to know the theses of the conference talks. And they will do that with the attitude, which was suggested by Senator Antoni Szymanski, ‘We need a social debate on the situation of Polish families, debate devoid of political contexts and directed towards solving the problems that afflict Polish families.
POLISH FAMILY - Figures
In our country there are 6.1 million families raising 10.8 million children.
- 5% of the families have four or more children
- 17% of the families have three or more children.
- 28% of the total population are children
- 30% of children are raised in many generational families
- 83% of children are brought up in full families.
- 92% of the many generational families are full families.
Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw
‘If we reduce the pro-family policy to one aspect - the material aspect we can often do a lot as far as economic solutions are concerned but it can occur that the mechanism does not work. That applies to many things. One can create solutions for concrete families, e.g. possibilities to send children to good schools - I had such situations in the Diocese of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg - but we will still face the mentality barrier. They will not use this form because they are not convinced to it.
The social aspect of family policy, the material aspect - creating material and financial conditions for families so that women can return to their work places after they bear children - is very important. But we will not succeed completely if we do not consider upbringing actions as well as activities concerning human religiosity.’