The vast majority of Poles with formal employment are found in the service sector, but the proportion of agricultural employees is twice as high as the EU average. Unemployment is lower than in Sweden. Labor law is about the same as in the rest of the EU, but the wage situation is low.
In 2015, 57 percent of employees in the service sector were found, while 12 percent worked in agriculture and 31 percent in industry (11 percent in the mining industry and 20 percent in the manufacturing industry). The dependence of Polish society on coal has led to the mines still employing many: 82,000 people in 2018, despite the fact that mines have also been closed. State JSW, which produces coal for the steel industry, had 27,000 employees.
Mining is dangerous. In 2014, described as the worst year, 30 miners lost their lives. But the miners earn more than many others. They receive two extra monthly salaries each year and are entitled to bring a certain amount of coal home; Polish housing is largely heated with coal. Miners also have the opportunity to retire after 25 years of work underground.
The share of unemployed was 4.4 percent in 2018, a sharp decrease compared to Poland’s EU entry in 2004 when unemployment was four times as high. The percentage of unemployed differs between the sexes and geographically. Most unemployed are among older women.
During the communist era there was officially no unemployment at all. Consequently, there were no unemployment benefits and hardly any employment services. In connection with the first market economy reform package after the fall of communism in 1989, quite generous contributions were made to the unemployed.
There are two major trade unions. The historically important Solidarity is the heir to the anti-communist movement which, under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa from 1980-1981, had a maximum of 10 million members. Today Solidarity has around 700,000 members. The other large trade union organization, OPZZ, is affiliated with the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD; see Political system) and is expected to have slightly more members than Solidarity. However, the data goes apart. Despite the country’s famous trade union history, Poland is among the EU countries with the lowest share of trade unionists.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Poland, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.
On the employer side, there are a number of organizations that act as both opinion leaders and representatives of employers’ interests.
The relatively low wages give Polish businesses a competitive advantage over other EU countries. There is a fairly large informal, black economic sector in the construction industry and agriculture. Within this, people work without trade union rights and labor law protection.
About one million Ukrainians are believed to be working in Poland. The exact number is difficult to determine as it is in many cases seasonal work, especially in agriculture. The Ukrainians have replaced Polish labor that has moved to other EU countries since Poland joined the Union in 2004. The Polish business community is worried that the Ukrainians will also apply to the EU. In particular, Poland is following how the legislation on work permits is being developed in Germany, where wage levels are higher.
FACTS – LABOR MARKET
3.3 percent (2019)
10.1 percent (2019)
The president wants to stop the court “bickering”
President Duda ignores a request from the Constitutional Court to install three of the five judges appointed by the previous parliament. Instead, he leads the ceremony where judges appointed by the new PiS-dominated parliament are installed. The president says he wanted to put an end to “the senseless squabble” which he says was close to taking away from the court its authority. The Constitutional Court admits that two of the five appointments decided by the previous Parliament before it resigned contravened the Constitution, since the terms of office of the representatives had not yet expired.
Concerns about rapid social upheaval
The conservative government’s swift efforts to repel Polish society are causing concern within the EU and are criticized by Polish lawyers and political scientists. Among other things, the government clearly states that it wants to take control of the state-owned media and try to buy out foreign partners in newspapers and radio stations. The former head of the anti-corruption authority, who was sentenced to three years in prison for abuse of power at the beginning of the year, has been pardoned by the new government and appointed coordinator of the various security services. PiS leader Kaczyński has said he wants to “fix” on Poland and that he needs support from the security services, the judiciary and the state media for that. His goal, as he previously put it, is to “get a Budapest in Warsaw”.
Court goes against the government
The Constitutional Court rejects large parts of the law on appointments to the court adopted by the new parliament after taking office in November. For the time being, the president will not be entitled to appoint new chief judges, which could be crucial to the government’s ability to push through its political program. It is the chief judge who decides which other judges will handle the cases that come up. The five judges appointed by the new PiS-dominated parliament are not allowed to take up any cases on order by the chief judge.
Demonstrations against and for the government
On December 13, 50,000 people in Warsaw demonstrate against the government, for “defense of democracy”. The next day, around 20,000 people attend the capital in support of the Conservative government. PiS leader Kaczyński says he wants to break up the “coterie” he believes leads the Constitutional Court with the intention of protecting his own interests and blocking government policy.
Fear against Polish-Slovak institution
Ministry of Defense officials and military police make a scare against the Polish-Slovak Joint Counter-Espionage Center in Warsaw. Employees are ordered to leave the building, which is then sealed. A new manager is appointed by the conservative new government and employees are deprived of access to secret documents. Former Minister of Defense Siemoniak apologizes to Slovakia and describes the scandal as a scandal that has never been seen in a Natoland country before.
New rules for the Constitutional Court
Parliament’s sub-sejm adopts a law that changes decision-making at the Constitutional Court. Among other things, a two-thirds majority is required for a ruling, against a previously simple majority. In particularly important matters, at least 13 of the 15 judges must participate. This is considered to make it easier for the government to enforce new laws. The Supreme Court has said that the law limits the independence of the Constitutional Court and intends to make its activities more difficult. Former President Lech Wałęsa accuses the new government of undermining democracy and mocking Poland in the outside world.
The EU is concerned by legislative changes
In a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Justice, the EU Commission is appealing to Poland not to allow the amendments to come into effect and be implemented until the consequences can be thoroughly investigated. The European Commission warns of the risk of being questioned whether the rule of law applies fully in an EU country. However, just hours after the letter arrived, the Senate votes through the legislative package on amended rules for the Constitutional Court. A few days later, President Duda signs the law, which immediately comes into force.
Court rules are appealed
The Opposition Party The Citizens’ Platform appeals the law on amended rules for the Constitutional Court. The party submits a complaint precisely to the Constitutional Court.
New tax on banks and insurance companies
Parliament adopts a law on a new tax of 0.44 percent of the assets of banks and insurance companies. The tax is expected to bring in almost one billion euros annually and will be used to finance the new government’s election promises, including a new family allowance, free medicines for everyone over 75 years and a lower retirement age.
The government takes control of state media
Almost without debate, Parliament’s lower house adopts a law that is judged to give the government control over the state-owned media. The law means that all senior public service radio and TV officials are appointed – and can be dismissed – directly by the Minister of Finance. By virtue of the new law, all top executives and board members at public radio and TV are dismissed. The PiS government intends to transform state radio and television and the news agency PAP into “national cultural institutions” to be governed by a national media council that has not yet been appointed. Several international media organizations are jointly protesting against the rapidly adopted law and the European Commission is requesting a statement from the government. The law must also be passed by the Senate and signed by the President to take effect.
Contested ministerial elections
The incoming Prime Minister Beata Szydło raises some resentment with his choice of defense minister. The extremely conservative Antoni Macierewicz has accused Russia of lagging behind the Polish plane crash in Smolensk in 2010 when the then President Lech Kaczyński was killed. Experienced diplomat Witold Waszczykowski becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs and Euro-skeptic economist Mateusz Morawiecki Minister of Finance and Development. Lawyer Paweł Szałamacha becomes Minister of Finance and Zbigniew Ziobro regains his post of Minister of Justice as he had in 2005-2007, when he caused controversy by intervening in cases involving political rivals.
No to Muslim refugees
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, when at least 129 people were killed, the incoming EU Minister Konrad Szymański says it has become politically impossible for Poland to fulfill its commitment to receive around 10,000 refugees from the Middle East. The incoming Foreign Minister Waszczykowski says that Europe must adopt new methods against “the Muslim community in Europe that hates this continent and wants to destroy it”. Former President Lech Wałęsa is very critical that a country that has received so much support and help from the outside world now does not show support for other peoples.
Criticism of the new government’s demolition
On November 16, the new government takes office. Just a few days later, by virtue of its vast majority, it is passing a law in Parliament that gives the Sejm the right to appoint another five judges to the Constitutional Court, despite the fact that the last Parliament has recently appointed five new members. The European Commissioner for Human Rights, before the vote, appeals in vain to Parliament not to approve this rapid change of the country’s most important judicial body. The new government also replaces the top four chiefs of intelligence and counter-espionage. Opposition politicians and analysts accuse the government of a form of “coup” and warn that the Constitutional Court and security services are at risk of being transformed into political tools.
Great conservative rolling victory
On October 25, parliamentary elections will be held, resulting in a grand victory for the conservative, EU-skeptical Party of Law and Justice (PiS), which has long had a clear take on opinion polls. PiS gets 37.58 percent of the vote, giving the party 235 of Parliament’s 460 seats and thus the opportunity to form government without any coalition partner. It is the first time after the fall of communism that any party gets its own majority in the Polish parliament. The former Government Party The Citizens’ Platform (PO) receives 24.09 percent and 138 seats. Prime Minister Ewa Kowacs quickly concedes defeat. PiS is led by controversial former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, who decided to stay in the background. Instead, PiS nominates formerly unknown local politician Beata Szydło as prime minister.Kukiz’15, a populist party led by a well-known rock singer, gets 8.81 percent and 42 seats, while the market-liberal Moderna (Nowoczesna), formed by a former World Bank economist, gets 7.60 percent and 28 seats in parliament. Both parties are brand new. The farmer’s party PSL manages the barrier with a scarce margin of 5.13 percent, giving it 16 representatives. The United Left (Zjednoczona Lewica), a newly formed alliance of several small left parties, receives 7.55 percent of the vote, but misses the eight percent requirement for alliances. Thus, for the first time, the left will be left with no votes in Parliament after Poland’s significant right turn. PiS also wins a major victory in the parallel election to the Senate, the upper house of parliament, where the party gets 61 out of 100 seats.
Environmental law is stopped
President Duda refuses to sign agreements under which EU countries will reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020, relative to 1990 levels. His party PiS has promised to protect Poland’s state coal mines.
Minority language is counteracted
Duda also stops a bill that would have given the small Lithuanian and German minorities greater right to use their own languages at the municipal level.
Referendums without value
On September 6, three simultaneous referendums will be held. Voters will decide whether the proportional electoral system should be changed to direct elections in one-person constituencies, whether state party support should be abolished and whether individual taxpayers should be favored in tax disputes with the authorities. Not even 8 percent care about going to the polling stations, which means the referendums are invalid.
Worse relations with Russia
Poland’s relations with Russia are deteriorating further. Russia’s ambassador to Warsaw has been called to the Foreign Ministry after saying that Poland was complicit in the outbreak of World War II by preventing the formation of an “anti-Nazi alliance”. At the same time, the Russian government is upset by the demolition of a Soviet statue in a Polish city and the vandalism of Soviet war graves.
President Duda assumes office
On August 6, Andrzej Duda (see May 2015) will take over as new president.
Russian protest against demolished monument
The Russian government strongly protests that the authorities of the Polish city of Nowa Sól demolished a Soviet war monument. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the demolition is a gross violation of a 1994 agreement to protect war memorial sites and warns of “extremely serious consequences”. The Polish government claims that the agreement only covers war cemeteries.
Solidarity Prize to Russian
Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of the murdered Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in February, is awarded the Polish Solidarity Prize of one million euros for her and her father’s work for democracy and human rights. Nemtsova, who works for a Russian TV channel for economic news, left her home country in June as a result of the “terror propaganda” which she says is being circulated by the Russian regime.
Scandals shake the government
Sejmen’s President Radosław Sikorski and three ministers resign because of the scandal of leaked audio recordings (see June 2014). They state as reasons that they protect the best of the ruling Citizens’ Platform. In a sound recording, Sikorski, then Foreign Minister, is heard calling Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron “incompetent” because of his handling of EU issues. He also criticizes Poland’s cooperation with the United States as “worthless” and describes Polish subservience to the United States as the Poles “sucking on” the Americans.
Unknown faces of the government
In a major transformation of government, Kopacz appoints a number of relatively unknown politicians to ministers to replace those who have been forced out due to the scandal.
Female prime ministerial candidate for PiS
Opposition leader Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of the Conservative Party Law and Justice (PiS), says he does not intend to become prime minister if his party is expected to win the parliamentary elections later this year. Instead, he presented Vice President Beata Szydło as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
Unexpected winner in the presidential election
Presidential elections will be held on May 10 and 24. Clearly the favorite for victory is the incumbent President Komorowski, but completely undefeated the Conservative Party PiS candidate Andrzej Duda in the crucial round of elections with 51.5 percent of the vote against 48.5 percent for Komorowski. Even in the first round, Duda gets the strongest support. The 43-year-old Duda was legal advisor to former President Kaczyński and sees himself as his political heir. After Kaczyński’s death in the 2010 plane crash, Duda has been a Member of Parliament and a European Parliamentarian. He was relatively unknown to a wider public before being named PiS candidate. Duda was honored for his message of increased social benefits.
Tightened border protection against Kaliningrad
Poland decides to build six guard towers along the 20-mile border with the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. The decision is made after information about the Russian military stationed short-range robots with the capacity to carry nuclear weapons in the area of the Baltic Sea.
“Pressures on accident pilots”
Information that leaked from the investigation into the Russian disaster in Smolensk 2010 (see Modern History) states that the pilots were subjected to strong pressure to land despite dense fog. Both a senior official of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the country’s air force commander were, according to statements from the “black box” inside the plane’s cockpit and ordered the pilots to land.
Criticism of the Council of Europe Convention
President Komorowski signs the Council of Europe Convention which prohibits violence against women. The Catholic Church in Poland criticizes the decision and claims that the convention is based on “extremist neo-Marxist gender theory”. Komorowski’s challenger in the May presidential election, Conservative Andrzej Duda, says the president made a “very bad decision”.
Presidential election in May
Presidential elections are announced until May 10. Sitting President Bronisław Komorowski is a great favorite to be re-elected.