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Synthesis 2013 > Poland

Poland 2013

Poland, rather spared last year, is now caught up by the crisis.

The level of concern of Poles is still moderate but has significantly increased

Poles remain less worried when it comes to various aspects of their lives than other Europeans on average. Polish people remain indeed less preoccupied than the European average by the seventeen risks tested that can affect someone’s health, property or family members (ranging from the death of a member of the household to a possible loss of autonomy or the theft of one’s car). The only risk that concerns Poles as much as the European average is the possibility of their spouse/partner losing his/her job (49% fear this possibility).

However, the level of concern of Poles has significantly increased in all the dimensions tested. Now 12 of these 17 risks are a source of concern to a majority of people, compared to only 5 last year. The possibility of contracting a serious illness is what worries Poles the most, be it for themselves (69%; +15) or their closed ones (70%; +15).

The fear of unemployment has increased a lot in a year: 55% of the Polish respondents feel now concerned by the possibility of losing their job (+12) and 49% by the fact their spouse/partner could lose his/hers as well (+7). Long time spared by the spectra of unemployment, Poland is now caught up by this fear.

More generally, concerns are now dominated by risks linked to the economy: financial risks (52% cite it among the 3 most worrying risks compared to 43% for the European average) and unemployment (50% compared to 38% on average). These risks are significantly more cited by Poles this year (respectively +3 and +6 points). Poland is the country where the fear for unemployment has increased the most compared to last year.

The most criticized welfare system

Poland has the most criticized welfare system among the 7 EU countries surveyed this year: 86% of its population consider it works poorly (compared to 57% on average). Among them, 36% even believe it works “very poorly”. A record of 80% of the population (compared to 68% on average) consider at the same time that they contribute more to the social welfare system of their country than they benefit from it (health, unemployment, pension, etc…).

It is therefore no surprise that 71% of the Polish population consider their country less advanced than its European neighbours when it comes to social welfare. Among them, more than one in two even considers their country is in this regard “much less advanced” (55%).

As a consequence, 99% of the Polish population believe the Polish welfare system should be reformed. Among them, 82% even think it must be “extensively” reformed, which is more than the European average (57%) and than any of the other EU countries surveyed.

Polish citizens seem to consider that given the current state of the welfare system in their country, raising public levels of assistance is a must. At least 9 out of 10 consider the state should increase its help when it comes to retirement pensions (93% compared to 79% on average), inability to care for oneself (90% compared to 75%) or disability (90% compared to 75%). In all of the other dimensions tested (except unemployment benefits), more than 8 out of 10 think the public level assistance should also increase. The gap with other European countries is often very significant on certain areas where public intervention is often taken for granted, like hospitalization (86% in Poland consider the level of public assistance should increase compared to 66% on average), reimbursement of medication and medical examinations (88% compared to 64%) or family assistance (87% compared to 64%).
In all of the dimensions tested (again except unemployment benefits), a majority even thinks the state should “greatly raise the level of assistance”, compared to 30% to 44% for the European average, depending on the dimension tested.

However, Poles are not very optimistic with the evolution of the levels of public assistance. Only 20% to 32% (depending on the dimension tested) believe that they will increase in the coming years. These levels being already low, Poles are however slightly less thinking than the European average that the state will lower them. Hospitalization and reimbursement of medication and medical examinations are the only areas where a majority of Poles anticipates cuts.

A majority of Poles consider that the state will in the coming years play an ever smaller role when it comes to social welfare (59% compared to 49% on average). However, unlike the European average, only a minority of them consider solidarity will increasingly rely on families (35% only consider they will have an ever larger role in social welfare, compared to 59% on average) and private and mutual insurance (48% compared to 60% on average). Poles are also less convinced that associations will have a larger role in this regard (30% compared to 42%). No wonder why Poles are feeling increasingly vulnerable.

An increasing sense of vulnerability, especially to unemployment

In Poland, the failing welfare system has not been able to cushion the effects of the increase of unemployment and fears. The feeling of vulnerability of Poles has therefore dangerously increased. One year ago, Poles seemed to believe than their economic dynamism was partly compensating the weaknesses of their social system. Things have changed a lot today: 79% (+6) consider now that they have more risk than 5 years ago to experience financial difficulties, 83% (+12) more risk of being plunged into a precarious situation, 79% (+14) more risk of losing their job and even 50% (+2) more risk of experiencing family related difficulties.

Polish citizens feel now much more vulnerable to these risks than the European average, especially when it comes to the risk of unemployment. With 79% feeling more at risk of unemployment today, the difference with the European average is of 28 points. Furthermore, among these 79%, 58% feel “much more” at risk today, compared to 31% on average. This fear is much more acute in Poland today.
Moreover, almost one Polish respondent in two also considers he/she is less well protected against these risks than 5 years ago (48%; +6 compared to 40% on average).

A changing attitude towards risk

As a consequence of the sharp increase of the level of concern and the feeling of vulnerability, the attitude towards risk has changed in Poland.
Whereas risk was rather attractive to a majority of Poles only one year ago, it is now more often considered as a danger to be avoided
(51%, +9), and people are much more likely to think that in order to be successful, it’s better to be careful and not take too many risks (50%; +11).

However, Poland remains one of the countries which values the most risk-taking, especially when it comes to young people’s education: 70% (+1) consider that they should be taught that in life, you have to be able to take risks, even if you end up paying the price of failing.

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