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a blog from young economists at Nova SBE

Poverty in Poland – big problem

The biggest inequalities among Polish children are concerned on material situation. From 24 OECD countries, Poland was ranked 21st place. Making this result noticeable, that poverty among children is a wide problem in the country. Comparing to European Union, in spite of the overall wealth, it is stated that, poverty in the EU is still at a relatively high level. Almost 1 in 7 people are at risk of poverty. The figures are even higher for some groups such as children and older people. In this article I would like to present the problem of poverty in OECD countries concentrated at children.

The article is based on UNICEF report – “Excluded Children”, which shows social inequalities among children in the 24 OECD countries in three areas (UNICEF  report examined the distance between the median – the conditions are considered to be the norm in a given society – and the lower end of the scale):

  • financial situation
  • education
  • health

Mrs Ewa Fiałkowska from UNICEF Poland states, that in this report they look at the situation from the perspective of children in the worst situation and check where stratification is greatest. It can also be made a valuable comparison with other countries and those that perform better, are richer, or maybe run a more effective social policy (that might be taken as a helpful example for solution also for others).

During the research, the inequality in child well-being was measured using three indicators:

  • household income
  • access to basic educational resources
  • the local conditions

Who is leading?

There are three countries that have the lowest rate of children’s material situation of inequality, there are: Switzerland, Netherlands and Iceland. On the other side are countries: Germany, Belgium, Great Britain, Greece and Slovakia, which  scored lower in the ranking due to the very large inequalities. Mostly noticeable in the access to educational resources. Moreover, Spain, Canada, Portugal and Greece have lost their (previously held) high positions because of the large inequalities in income distribution. In this ranking Poland was at 21st place.

In Poland the situation can be depicted as follows. There exists the greatest inequalities on local conditions, slightly lower income, but the best job is done in terms of access to educational resources.

This present situation of the children, has the impact not only on their present lives, but also on their future. While they are growing up in poverty, the results are seen in a lower level of health care, school achievement results (below normal), weaker skills and aspirations. This can lead to future lower earnings, as well as accumulation of deprivation across generations.

Better education

While considering education, Poland is in a much better position than other OECD countries. Data was collected basing on PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) – surveys are carried out regularly in 40 countries, taking representative sample of the given country for the 15-year old students. The best results (the smallest distance between the worst-performing and these located in the middle of the scale) were achieved in Ireland, Finland and Canada. Here Poland scored a high 5th place. On the other side (the largest disproportions) were in France, Belgium and Australia. However, the access to good education in Poland is dependant also on the social and economic situation. Basing on other studies made, there are low disparities while concerning natural sciences, ability to read and mathematical skills, while they are higher in, for instance English language skills. In Poland, to learn English well, lectures at school are not sufficient. There is a need to take additional lessons and courses. This situation is some kind of barrier for children in poorer families, because they are not able to spend additional 50-100 euro per month (it depends whether lectures are given individually, or in group, how many times a week).


Poland is ranked poorly in terms of health care. The report examined three indicators:

  • health problems reported by the children themselves
  • healthy eating
  • physical activity

Here, the smallest inequalities were observed in the Netherlands. On the other side were United States, as well as Italy and Hungary (with the highest inequalities). Poland was ranked at 18th position. The biggest problem for Polish children was observed in physical activity. It might be caused by some kind of Americanization of the society (especially children), where physical activity is not so popular (sick notes, because children do not want to attend physical education classes, and parents in most cases allow them to do so), and children prefer to stay at home in front of the computer or TV. However the problem is not only in the parent’s behavior, or children’s habits, but also the school can not attract children to have some fun from the sport, to change their lifestyle into more pro-active one.

Ewelina Zimny



Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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