Approaching catastrophe

Marian Pilka

Recently ‘Gazeta Prawna’ has reported that in the years 2009-2013 our public retirement system will lack 157 million zloty. It means that the pension system will have to be supported by the state budget, which means considerably smaller sums for investments, for salaries paid from the budget, for education, police, etc. In the following years, when the generations of the baby boom in the 1940s and 1950s retire and the generations born during the population decline in the 1990s enter their working age, the expenses of the retirement system will grow rapidly and this growth will be a constant and increasing phenomenon. At the same time the number of those who will pay their pension contributions will decrease.

Demographic crisis = economic crisis

This means entering a deep crisis of the retirement system, which today is inefficient without the budget support, and its consequences will also mean an economic crisis. Since the attempt to finance the systematic growth of pensioners from the budget will lead first to stagnation and then to an economic recession. Furthermore, in the light of the present day demographic situation you should expect constant lacks in the retirement system and economic problems. Naturally, there will be attempts to prevent the tendency by lengthening working life, which has taken place in many Western European countries, and decreasing the level of pensions, but all these kinds of half measures will be ineffective over the long term. When economy is loaded with increasing costs of pensions it will cause a growth of the immigration of young people who are not eager to pay the cost of the growing crisis. And the immigration of young people will make this crisis bigger. Today we know that we cannot avoid the approaching crisis. There will be simply no people who will work for the growing population of pensioners. Radical actions are needed to prevent us from the effects of the crisis of the retirement system and its total catastrophe, i.e. its complete bankruptcy. The actions should support birth rate, which mean material support for young families and families with many children because Poland has no pro-family politics. We have our social policy, but a pro-family policy is to support families because of their children. And it is not the same as the social policy that the left-wing party and other parties having similar concepts juxtapose pro-family policy. The demographic crisis in Poland, which began in the period of the Polish People’s Republic, is one of the deepest crises in European countries. The generation of children has not enough children to replace the generation of parents and it is 40% less populous than their parents’ generation, which means that the present demographic crisis will turn into a demographic catastrophe within a generation.

Family needs support

It is curious that the dominant political parties Law and Justice (PiS) and Civic Platform (PO) have not noticed this most important and dangerous challenge that our nation faces. The fact that they cannot see this problem and consequently, have taken no activities concerning pro-family policy disqualifies them as the parties that aspire to national leadership.
The research conducted in Poland shows that the most important barrier of not having children is material and not cultural reasons. Young families and multi-children families are the poorest social groups. Therefore, not ignoring the factors that destroy Polish families as far as models of attitudes and values are concerned, material support for multi-children families will bring about more births. And an increase in births is the most important factor that will let the symptoms of the retirement system become milder, and when the increase is high enough it will let us avoid a catastrophe of the pension system. Unfortunately, the dominant political parties, being involved in quarrels about nothing, do not notice the problem of the demographic crisis as well as its social and economic consequences in their real, not propaganda, programmes. The only measurable and notable, although insufficient, support that Polish families have received recently, has been the tax relief law, which the Republic Right Party (Prawica Rzeczypospolitej) managed to pass in the previous Parliament. The bill was passed although the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the Law and Justice Party did not want it. The Civic Platform (PO) supported the project for opportunistic reasons and connected it with the approaching election.

Actions that should be undertaken at once

Very urgent actions that will provide wide material support for Polish families need to be taken. The support should be multi-dimensional. Most of all, the tax relief should be at least doubled for third child and subsequent children. An analogical system of support, but in the form of benefits, should embrace children of rural families and craftsmen. I wonder why the Polish Peasant Party does not use the precedence of the tax relief for children of income tax payers and it does not propose projects to enlarge the support for rural children. This lack of interest testifies that the Polish Peasant Party does not completely understand the problems of the rural population. The paid maternity leave should be radically expanded according to the project of the Polish Right Party, i.e. six months for first child, nine months for second and 12 months for subsequent births. This way of material support for young families will be most effective to cause a baby boom. The social insurance for women on maternity leave should be also increased. Then the time of maternity leave will not be lost but will be taken into account in future pensions. Finally, we need an integrated system of support for multi-children families to give equal opportunities for their children. We need various actions, especially those that will prevent divorces and other social pathologies concerning family life, upbringing and education. However, material support is an absolute priority. We are facing a crisis that can turn into a catastrophe. Currently, we are able to limit its most dangerous effects. In several years it will be too late if effective actions are not undertaken.

"Niedziela" 29/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: