Friday, March 09, 2007

Poland Launches Pro-Family Programme

Several news sources are reporting that Poland is launching a fertility drive aimed at increasing its shrinking population. Poland ranks at the bottom of the EU's birth rate of 1.22 children per women, and some analysts suggest that by 2030, there will be four million fewer Poles, leading to economic disaster and worker shortage.

Now you would think that, as a very Catholic country, family would be incredibly important. In fact, having a family does consistently rank as one of the most important things in the lives of the Poles, er, poled. So we have a very Catholic, pro-family country with a rapidly declining birth rate - obviously there's an issue somewhere. As it turns out, that issue is in how Polish women are treated in the workplace. A majority of women are afraid that they'll lose their jobs if they have children, and in the economically depressed region, everyone needs to work.

Joanna Kluzik Rostkowska, deputy labour minister, has announced a series of plans aimed at addressing the discrimination women face in their work environments, including increasing maternity leave, extending opening hours for kindergartens and introduce tax breaks for families with children. And there's precedence for this - fifteen years ago, France instituted similar work policies for similar reasons, and today has the highest birth rate in the EU.

Maybe it's just my jaded American attitude talking, but it seems to me that this is just sensible policy to have in place. And admittedly, I thought it was telling that my reaction to the idea of "pro-family policies" was to think they were going to be encouraging women to stay home and bear children, rather than working to create better working conditions.

(With thanks to Laurie for the tip!)

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