Family policies in Poland – addressing one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe

The brief opens a series of FROGEE Policy Briefs aimed at providing overviews and the popularization of economic research related to gender equality issues. The current brief introduces the general rationale behind fertility decisions and policy interventions. It summarizes the economic literature on the effects of different types of policy interventions on enhancing childbearing. A well-documented phenomenon in developed countries is that fertility declines with income levels and as countries become richer, fertility rates fall over time. This negative fertility-income relationship is mainly due to two distinct trade-offs faced by individuals. The quality-quantity trade-off manifests itself in the tendency of well-off individuals to choose to invest more in a child’s quality and therefore forgo quantity. Another trade-off arises from the fact that raising children takes time, which confronts parenthood with people’s career opportunities. The brief continues by summarizing economic research on the effectiveness of various pronatalist policies. It appears that the most effective ones are exactly those which aim at the elimination of the discussed trade-offs. In particular, policies which are able to free the time of potential parents or combine parenthood with career, appear to be most promising.

In the last two decades family has been at the center of social policy in Poland. The policy approach prior to 2016 focused on extending parental leave policies, improvements in formal childcare and adjusting employment incentives for parents and addressing gender inequality on the labor market. Family policy has taken a turn under the current government by focusing on a generous new benefit for families with children. Despite numerous generous policies, the fertility rate in Poland is still one of the lowest in Europe. This calls for an appraisal of the entire family-focused package and designing a comprehensive approach that includes policies to address gender imbalances on the labor market, as well as a more equal division of family responsibilities between men and women.


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