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 (2019), they account for 10,1 % of all Europeans aged 15-24 and 16,6% of those aged 20-34 (in Poland 8,1 and 17,7 respectively). Early school leavers (aged 18-24) in 2019 account for 10,3% in Europe against 5,2% in Poland. The employment rate of young people aged 20-29 as of 2019 is at the level of 66,3% in the EU28 and in Poland - 68,7% (however in many countries it is significantly higher - 78,3% in the UK, 80,1% in the Netherlands, 74,5% in Estonia and 76,8% in Germany).
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.
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 and improving the functioning of the business environment (planned reduction of social security contributions (ZUS) for small enterprises in 2020).
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, Maluch Plus).
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.
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 Reform Programme. Europe 2020), 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, 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.
Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition towards remote forms of employment and automatisation in many companies. The debates on the education system and the preparation of young people to entering the labour market often tackle the issue of digital competences necessary in the changing labour market. At the same time, automatisation and robotisation might negatively influence the demand for labour and in consequence, increase of unemployment rates.