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Poland: A leading country in combating child poverty

Poland: A leading country in combating child poverty

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
23.02.2024 16:15

UNICEF has released a report on child poverty in developed countries. While the data on Poland is encouraging, there is still work to be done.

In December 2023, UNICEF published a report on child poverty in developed countries. Entitled 'Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth', the document is an overview of the state of child poverty in 43 European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) high-income and upper-middle-income countries. It provides data and assesses the progress – or lack of progress – that these countries have made towards eliminating child poverty.

Poland leads the way in eradicating child poverty

Poland has been ranked number one among the countries where income poverty among children decreased the most from 2014 to 2021. This percentage fell by up to 38% during that time in our country.

Proportional change in child income poverty rate (%)
Proportional change in child income poverty rate (%) (UNICEF)

Cash transfers: An effective tool for tackling child poverty

"Cash benefits, also known as cash transfers, to poor families are among the most immediately effective tools for tackling child poverty. During the recent period of prosperity, some countries chose to increase cash benefits while others reduced them. Particularly remarkable efforts were made in Greece, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Poland and Türkiye," reads the UNICEF report’s conclusions.

"Slovenia and Poland, the top two countries in the UNICEF Innocenti ranking, have made strides in reducing poverty. For Slovenia, the key to success was improving living standards by increasing the minimum wage. In Poland, the government’s decision to increase cash benefits for families helped to reduce child poverty," the authors wrote.

In the case of Poland, the report refers to the Rodzina 500+ benefit (increased to 800+ from January 2024), which legal guardians of children under 18 have received since 2016. Although such social cash transfers are common in developed countries, the introduction of this programme by the PiS government has made it controversial among some individuals even today.

During a discussion on X about the UNICEF report on poverty and the effectiveness of the Rodzina 500+ programme, some argued that the programme was intended to boost the birth rate but has failed to do so. Others countered that it is still effective and that the initial intentions of the programme are not as important as its current impact. However, despite the programme's benefits for parents, the fertility rate in Poland has continued to decline steadily over the years.

Are there no longer any poor children in Poland?

According to the report, the 500+ benefit has improved the situation of children in Poland. However, it also highlights that over 14% of children in Poland still live in poverty. While one commentator on X shared an anecdote about how their mother, a teacher, claimed that poverty no longer exists and children from poor families are doing well in school, it should be noted that this is just one individual's experience and does not necessarily reflect the overall situation.

Some have criticised the lack of an income requirement for the Polish benefit. However, it's important to note that the money is only paid at the request of the guardians of those under 18, not automatically. It's collected by families who feel these funds are necessary in their budget. The absence of an income criterion simplifies access to the benefit and the cost of handling it, eliminating government officials' need for ongoing and continuous verification of family income.

UNICEF is a United Nations agency founded in 1946 in New York. It is responsible for providing humanitarian and development assistance to children across the globe.

Source: unicef.org

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