When in 2010 we decided that one of our main directions of action and stimulation to public discussion in Liberte! should be liberally understood social policy, our political class was busy with discussing issues completely not connected with people’s life. Smolensk, rhetoric of deterring Law and Justice Party, Tusk’s small steps (a real stagnation), changes in the Open Pension Fund (OFE*) – all it was a sad reality of the previous term. That’s why I’m even more happy about the change in the quality of governing and public debate in 2012. The government suddenly took up important issues such as increasing retirement age and now housing cooperatives and family policy. The public debate unexpectedly has sense again and concerns the citizens.
Increasing retirement age was an indispensable step. However, it’s time for changes in the family policy now. We should obviously know its restrictions, which I wrote about in the article called Family policy – facts, myths, solutions in Liberte!, but it’s very good that we are sparking off a debate on this very important topic. I’m glad that there are two concurrent projects arising in the Presidential Palace and the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers. It may contribute to the dynamics of the public debate which is needed to avoid many mistakes as it happened not once in this field in the past. The country should act via family policy in order to facilitate the reconciliation between young people’s professional life and the possibility of having children. At the same time, such philosophy should motivate politicians who want to build an effective family policy today, because professional aspirations are absolutely normal when it comes to generation of today’s twenty- and thirty-year-olds. Simultaneously, because of financial reasons, the country cannot afford to finance the exclusion of capable of working and young people from the labour market for a longer period of time.
The propositions, which are being discussed in the government, seem to make its way in this direction. The Prime Minister has announced creating crèches and kindergartens on a huge scale, something similar to the investment in football pitches in the previous term. It’s a very good direction, the more so because today’s plans of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy assume the possibility of providing with the institutional care only 7.8% of children in the age up to 3 years old until 2014. The only effective family policy is the one which will allows young mothers/parents a quick comeback to the labour market. Then, there’s a chance that decisions on having a baby won’t be put off by young couples for the next five years, so for “the last bell” when a woman is in her mid- or late thirties. That’s why I’m rather in favour of the governmental, not presidential propositions. The restoration of paid extended post-maternity leave, proposed by the Minister Wójcicka, is an idea that, in my opinion, won’t encourage people for whose career is important to having children earlier. However, it may lead to very negative consequences for people with worse health who will take advantage of this proposition and drop out permanently from the labour market. Unfortunately, mothers who decided to stay at home a child for a long time find it very difficult to come back to the labour market.
The propositions, which are being discussed now, are missing the reference to the functioning solutions in the field of family policy, which should be considered an extremely inefficient waste of public money. The mass building of crèches and kindergartens should be connected with a radical liquidation of family pseudopolicy consisting in offering people child benefits, which are so low that they will convince nobody to have a baby and which in a global scale constitute a huge expense for the state budget. I’ll remind you the data from the last year when an astronomical amount of PLN 3.090.915.000 was spent on child benefits. At the same time, the government has planned to spend this year PLN 40.000.000 for building crèches and kindergartens as a part of a programme called “Toddler”. The scale is completely incomparable. The propositions of the government are definitely too gentle. The enforcement of new methods as a part of the defined public policy should be always connected with the review of the existing solutions, the majority of which turn out to be ineffective with time. It’s the best moment to do some cuts in the programmes which don’t bring the desired effects, because the public opinion can see that it’s not a callous liquidation of social programmes, but their change for tools which are more efficient and better adaptable to changeable realities.
Governing the country is the art of tackling important issues. I hope that Donald Tusk remembered it for good.
Translation: Agnieszka Łysanowicz
*Polish: Otwarty Fundusz Emerytalny