The Polish institute of labour and social policy (Instytut Pracy i Polityki Społecznej) has released figures that place 40% of Polish households below it’s defined quality-of-life threshold.

image Polish girl holding empty wallet

40% of Poles financially vegetating

They calculate that a couple with one small child require 2661.36 złoty (€630) per month to survive above subsistence, or, be able to do more than just vegetate. A family of four, 3437.68, a family of five, 4216. A childless couple, 1793.60 (€425) per month and a retired couple 1799.24.

Explains Dr. Piotr Kurowski, author of the “Rzeczpospolita” report, this amount is meant to indicate how much income is needed in the family to participate in a social life – examples given:

  • go for a cheap vacation
  • have a phone
  • the cheapest tv subscription
  • do something with kids from time to time
  • go out with friends
  • adults commuting to work

The amounts exclude mortgage payments, which would need even more income.

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Prof. Janusz Czapiński, social psychologist and author of “Diagnoza Społeczna” said:

We estimate that revenues at the level of the subsistence minimum or below applies to about 40% of families in Poland.

Rafał Betlejewski’s 30 days

Following in the footsteps of “Mr 30 days“, American Morgan Spurlock, Polish performer and journalist Rafal Betlejewski last year conducted an experiment, and tried to survive the month for 1436 złoty net.

“On this, or lower amounts, live the majority of Polish pensioners” Betlejewski explains. He adds that his experiment failed, he came up 300 zł short.

“For subsistence you can survive, but it comes with an extraordinary effort and one must give up on any goods of civilization, gains of culture” – believes Betlejewski.

In his opinion such a low income means that contacts with the world is broken, with other people, a man with such income loses all ambitions and aspirations.

An example family of four

But people must cope. Elwira from Warsaw together with her husband raise two teenagers. She is a cook, her husband does not work.

We earn 2.5 thousand złoty gross per month. My husband earns 500zł per month working under the table.

– She acknowledges if they save anything, it’s mainly on food and matters related to culture.

I shop at discount stores, sometimes I can bring food home, when the boss lets me take something that is left over after an event.
We don’t go to the cinema, theatre or concerts. Newspapers and books, we do not buy. We try not to save when spending on the children.
We have provided pay-as-you-go sim cards for mobile phones and our computer for them. But for vacations the kids have to earn the money. I am trying to earn some extra money myself. In the summer I took care of a friend’s dog, in September, she was in a conference.

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Dr. Ewa Flaszyńska, the Director of social welfare at Bielany, says that for people on low incomes the hardest thing is to live in small towns and in the countryside:

In larger cities such as Warsaw, the possibilities are greater, in smaller ones everything depends on the wealth of the municipality.

Except that in large cities, people have greater opportunities to benefit from cultural events or are free to enter a Museum. Poor rural children do not benefit from that, because they cannot afford it, it would be on a ticket to get into the city.

Poverty and unemployment

If the parents are excluded socially, their children do the same. Often they inherit this poverty and unemployment.

She explains, also noting that children from poorer families it is true for minimal school supplies they get funding e.g. social grants, but they are digitally excluded, because their parents can’t afford a computer, and there is a fixed fee for the internet.

Poorer children do not go on trips. Do not go on vacation. They sit in their homes.

..says Dr Flaszyńska. She recognises that, in many cases, poverty has a close relationship to unemployment, the most enduring connection.

Children inherit joblessness, following their parents. Some habits are at home, so they can see their father has not worked all his life, and later reproduce this behaviour. That is why it is important to not only the work of social workers, but also families, to teach families and children other behaviour, habits and examples.

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