3.11 Current debates and reforms
The improvement of the situation on the labour market in Poland (decrease of unemployment, increase of employment rate, limitation of fixed-term contracts) contribute to a better situation of young people. However, not all barriers hampering the labour activity of young people have been removed. Many young people still face severe difficulties preventing them from starting an independent addulthood. In this respect, the young people not in education, employment nor training need to be mentioned.
According to Eurostat data (2021), they account for 10.8% of all Europeans (UE27) aged 15-24 and 17.3% of those aged 25-29 (in Poland 11.2% and 16.9% respectively). Early school leavers (aged 18-24, 2021) account for 9.7% in Europe (EU27) against 5.9% in Poland. The employment rate of young people aged 20-29 (2021) is at the level of 63.5% in the EU27 and in Poland 66.7% (however in many countries it is significantly higher – 84.31% in the Netherlands, 77.2% in Austria, 76.5% in Germany and 72.6% in Estonia). The unemployment rate for young people aged 20-29 in the EU-27 was 12% and in Poland, 6.9%.
Current issues and reforms regarding youth employment and entrepreneurship are linked to the following issues.
Better support for the process of youth transitioning from school to the labour market. This is to be achieved through, among other things, the education reform (effective from the 2017/2018 school year) and the modernisation of higher education study programmes (as a result the introduced reform of higher education from the 2018/2019). The main goals of those changes are the real inclusion of employers in the education and traineeship processes, at all stages of education, and approximation of the education and research process to the labour market and business needs. Significant emphasis is also on improving the functioning of psychological and pedagogical counseling for students and career counseling for youth and young adults.
Competencies of the future and lifelong learning. Improving the forecasting system in the area of demand for occupations and skills and competencies required in the labor market, including in the context of the requirements arising from the so-called "Industry 4.0" model, the European Green Deal (EZ³) plan, the growing demand for skills needed in the health, care and education sectors. Launching programs and services to improve the professional skills of young people and support continuing adult education.
Support for the development of young entrepreneurship and start-ups. The emphasis on developing innovative attitudes and launching start-ups is related to the development policy of the country, which is geared towards investment objectives and increasing the competitiveness of the economy, by increasing expenditures on science and development of new technologies, supporting Special Economic Spheres, Business Incubators and improving the functioning of the business environment, including tax preferences for young people (e.g., tax breaks for young entrepreneurs, the so-called "relief for start-ups", tax exemption for those under 26 years of age "No PIT for the young").
Measures to facilitate the reconciliation of working and private life. This is to be achieved through initiatives aimed at the development of childcare infrastructure and forms of childcare, and the development of housing programmes for young people and families with children (Mieszkanie+ scheme, Starting in 2023, a new housing program 'First Housing', Toddler Plus). Changes to the Labor Code in 2023 to allow separators to work from home using flexible work arrangements. Support for disadvantaged groups in the labour market. These are the actions undertaken under the Youth Guarantee Initiative and the Knowledge Education Development Operational Programme, as well as PFRON initiatives for the disabled. It is important to support the development of the social economy sector by implementing a system of accreditation of centres for support of social economy entities and allocating additional financial instruments for their development.
Limitation of various forms of temporary employment (under employment contracts and civil law contracts) and better protection of employees. The minimum wage and hourly rate are constantly being raised. In 2019, zero PIT was introduced for young employees up to 26 years old. Consultations on the new labour law are ongoing. Particularly important in this context is the regulation of certain forms of work based on the use of modern technologies (such as platform work). This form of work is becoming more widespread in Poland and, as the experience of other countries indicates, this may lead to an increase in the percentage of people working based on unusual forms of employment.
Public policy in the area of employment and entrepreneurship (cf. documents such as the Strategy for Responsible Development until 2020 (with a forecast up to 2030), the National Employment Action Plans for the following years (Krajowe Plany Działań na rzecz Zatrudnienia) is aimed at better preparing young people for the labour market, creating attractive and development-promoting workplaces for young people in Poland as well as encouraging entrepreneurship and encouraging the establishment of new businesses. Priority is also given to creating conditions for better integration of working and private life by supporting the development of housing and social infrastructure (Mieszkanie+ scheme, new housing programs for young people, development of various forms of childcare i.e. Maluch Plus) and by supporting the demographic development of the country and counteracting the poverty of families with children (Rodzina 500+ scheme: benefit in the amount of 500 PLN, monthly paid for every child under 18 years of age). An important aim is to stop the emigration of young people from Poland and to create conditions for the return of economic migrants to the country.
The COVID-19 epidemic has accelerated the pace of change in many companies related to the use of remote working and automation. Debates about the process of educating and preparing young people to enter the labour market address the digital skills needed for a changing work environment increasingly based on remote work. On the other hand, accelerated processes of automation and robotisation of workplaces may reduce the demand for labour and increase unemployment. The debates and reforms concerning the shortage of workers and demographic policies related to the ageing of the Polish society are gaining importance. In this context, activities aiming at appropriate preparation of young people to enter the labour market and equipping them with relevant competences for Industry 4.0 are of particular importance.