Poland’s government is preparing a new demographic strategy intended to tackle one of Europe’s lowest fertility rates. The programme will be based on “supporting families” and “not migration”, says the minister for labour, families and social policy, Marlena Maląg.
Speaking to Polsat News, the minister said that the plan would “soon be adopted” by the government. While full details have not been disclosed, it will include measures to help parents combine work with family life as well as housing, care and financial incentives.
The aim would be to help Poland “escape the low fertility trap” by increasing the birth rate to one that sustains the population, said Maląg. She cited research showing that 95% of young people in Poland would like to start a family, but noted that this requires stable employment and housing.
The new strategy will therefore “be based primarily on the creation of a systemic, comprehensive pro-family policy, not on migrants”, said the minister.
As Poland faces a growing demographic shortfall – with its population expected to fall below 34 million (from around 38 million at present) by 2050 – the country has attracted large numbers of migrants, mostly from Ukraine, to plug the resulting labour gap.
Since coming to power in 2015, the national-conservative ruling coalition has implemented a number of “pro-family” policies, most notably its flagship “500 Plus” child benefit programme. However, such schemes, though popular, have so far failed in their aim of boosting the birth rate.
At the start of 2022, an additional new child benefit scheme will be launched. Under the so-called “parental care capital” programme, parents will be entitled to 12,000 zloty (€2,612) for each child after their firstborn between the age of 12 and 36 months.
The government is also planning to establish new institutions devoted to “comprehensive studies” of demographic processes that would aid in boosting demographics.
While parliament is still considering a bill on creating a Polish Institute of Family and Demography, earlier the month the prime minister issued an ordinance to create a Generations Institute. The two bodies will have similar tasks and competences.
According to the latest figures from Eurostat, the average number of children born per woman in Poland has dropped to 1.44. That is one of the lowest figures in the European Union and significantly below the so-called replacement level of 2.1, at which enough babies are born to sustain population levels.
Experts note that the pandemic has also exacerbated Poland’s pre-existing demographic problems. Statistics Poland (GUS), a state agency, estimates that the country’s population stood at 38.515 million at the end of September this year, falling by 200,000 since last year, reports Business Insider Polska.
Main image credit: P. Tracz / KPRM (under public domain)
Maria Wilczek is deputy editor of Notes from Poland. She is a regular writer for The Times, The Economist and Al Jazeera English, and has also featured in Foreign Policy, Politico Europe, The Spectator and Gazeta Wyborcza.