Poland: EIRO CAR on ‘Helping young workers during the crisis: contributions by social partners and public authorities.’

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 28 July 2011



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Country:
Poland
Author:
Adam Mrozowicki
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In the last decade, the unemployment rates of young workers have been consistently higher than those noted in the general population. The economic crisis in 2008 only intensified labour market problems faced by young workers. In Poland, government plays the most important role in helping them. The significance of collective bargaining and social dialogue institutions in addressing the problems of young workers during the crisis has been limited. Activities of social partners were mostly focused on awareness raising campaigns, trainings in soft skills and consultation of legislative acts aimed at increasing employability of young people.

QUESTION 1: LABOUR MARKET SITUATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE

1.1 Please briefly indicate whether there is a debate in your country regarding the situation of young people in the labour market. Are gender differences one of the preeminent topics of the debate?

The problems of young workers have been present in the public debates in Poland for the last two decades. Since late 1990s, several governmental programmes aimed at helping the young unemployed were launched, including ‘School Leaver’ (1998-2002), ‘The First Job’ (2002-2004) (PL0208101N, PL0212107F), ‘Work for the Youth – Good Start’ (2007-2010). Gender differences rarely appeared as one of the core topics of the debate on the problems affecting young workers.

1.2 Is there evidence that young people are in a particularly disadvantaged position in the labour market? If so, please summarise the key factors that lead to that situation and whether if there are gender differences for these. Is there evidence that the situation has become worse since 2008?

As documented by Eurostat data, high unemployment of young people has been a permanent feature of the labour market situation in Poland in the last decade (see table 1). The youth unemployment rate increased during the economic crisis in 2008-2009, but it has not reached its peak level from 2002.

Young women have experienced higher unemployment both before and during the recent economic crisis. According to the data of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (Ministerstwo Pracy I Polityki Społecznej, MPiPS), young women made 77.9% of the total number of 15,100 young people who could not find job longer than two years in 2009. On average, young women stayed unemployed two months longer than young men even though they were better educated. Cutbacks in the public provisions of social care services in the 1990s, such as state kindergartens, led also to the intensification of ‘double burden’ experienced by women at home and in the sphere of paid employment.

Table 1. Unemployment rates in Poland by age and gender, 2000 – 2009 (%)
 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Total

16.1 

18.3 

20.0 

19.7 

19.0 

17.8 

13.9 

9.6 

7.1 

8.2 

Total 15-24

35.1 

39.5 

42.5 

41.9 

39.6 

36.9 

29.8 

21.7 

17.3 

20.6 

Men, 15-24

33.4

38.3

41.9

40.9

37.7

35.7

28.3

20.0

15.2

20.2

Women, 15-24

37.1

41.0

43.3

43.1

41.9

38.3

31.6

23.8

19.9

21.2

Notes: Data for the fourth quarter of a year

Source: Eurostat

According to the Act on Minimum Wage from 10 October 2002, in their first year of work workers are paid not less than 80% of the national minimum wage. Thus, the Act makes it possible to lower down the remuneration for young workers at the beginning of their careers.

Young people are more often employed part time. According to Eurostat data, the share of the part-time employed among those less than 25 years old has been on average twice as high as in the general population in the last 10 years (table 2).

Table 2. Part-time employment as a percentage of the total employment by age, 2000-2009 (%)
 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

15-24 years old

16.4

21.5

20.3

20.7

23.9

22.0

17.1

14.9

14.0

14.1

Total

10.8

10.8

10.7

10.8

11.1

10.9

9.3

9.3

8.5

8.1

Notes: Data for the fourth quarter of a year

Source: Eurostat

The anti-crisis legislation (PL0909019I) passed in July 2009, suspended until the end of 2011 the Labour Code Clause 25/1 stipulating that only two consecutive fixed-term contracts are allowed and that any subsequent contract shall be an open-ended contract. There is no data on the share of young employees with contracts of limited duration. However, according to Eurostat, in the last 10 years the share of those with fix-term contracts in the general population steadily increased from 5.8% (in 2000) to 26.5 (in 2009). As the fixed-term contracts are generally more typical for those entering the labour market, trade unions accused the anti-crisis legislation of worsening the situation of young workers.

Not related to the economic crisis are the structural reasons of youth unemployment . First, there is a systematic mismatch between educational policies and labour market demands. According to the Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny, GUS) data, the majority of graduates in academic year 2008-2009 majored in humanities (40%), business, law and administration (28%). Much less popular were engineering and sciences, which are the areas sought for in the labour market. While the number of university students grew five times between 1990 and 2008, the number of pupils in basic vocational schools and technical secondary schools, who were sought for by employers, decreased by almost two times in the same period of time. Vocational education was often defined in the public discourse as less advantageous and prestigious than tertiary education.

Secondly, according to survey data by GUS, young people enter labour market in Poland relatively late and with increasing wage expectations. The survey data suggest that 71% of young people in 2009 had their first work experience only after finishing education. However, employers tend to choose candidates who have already had some work experience and do not require costly training (PL1004019I). The outcome is that it is difficult for young people to find their first job because they usually lack the experience expected by the employers.

1.3 Have the challenges of young workers been particularly important in certain sectors? If yes, please indicate the sectors involved (up to three). Please comment on the main reasons behind the particular relevance of these issues in these sectors, and its most significant expressions.

In the wake of the 10% employment reduction in public administration planned for 2011, young workers are expected to be the first to lose jobs. The main reasons for this situation are lower costs of layoffs in case of those on fixed-term contracts, which include the majority of young workers. Fragmented evidence suggests similar logic behind layoffs of young people in other sectors, including retail automotive sectors.

1.4 Have the challenges of young workers been particularly important in certain regions or areas of the country? Please comment on the main reasons behind the particular relevance of these geographic differences.

According to the data of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (Ministerstwo Pracy I Polityki Społecznej, MPiPS), the lowest youth unemployment rates in 2009 were noted in big cities, such as Warsaw (9.7%), Wrocław (11.1%) or Częstochowa (11.7%). The highest rate of youth unemployment growth as compared to 2008 was noted in industrialized regions hit by the crisis, including Wielkopolskie Voivodship (26.3% youth unemployment rate in 2009, growth of 60.5% as compared to 2008) and Śląskie Voivodships (20.9% youth unemployment rate in 2009, growth of 59% as compared to 2008).

QUESTION 2: COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND SOCIAL DIALOGUE IMPACT ON YOUNG WORKERS

2.1 Please indicate whether multi-employer collective bargaining since 2008 has addressed particular issues affecting young workers. Illustrate with examples and explain the coverage of any specific agreements identified (national, sectoral, regional, etc.). Please also provide an assessment of these measures.

Evidence that multi-employer collective bargaining addressed the issues affecting young workers is very scarce due to a limited coverage of such agreements in Poland and lack of systematic information on the content of collective agreements. In general, the issues of apprenticeships, traineeships, on-the-job training and job matching are not considered to be the core subjects of collective bargaining in Poland at any level.

2.2 Please indicate whether single-employer collective bargaining and social dialogue practices at company level since 2008 have addressed particular issues affecting young workers. Please illustrate the most important of such initiatives (up to three) and also provide an assessment of these measures.

Evidence from the automotive sector suggests that one of the core issues addressed since 2008 concerned the problems of young workers with fixed-term contracts. In General Motors Manufacturing Poland (GMMP), an agreement was reached between the management and Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union ‘Solidarity’ GMMP (Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy ‘Solidarność’ GMMP, NSZZ Solidarność GMMP). The agreement, signed with the management of General Motors Europe in May 2010 and transposed to Polish Opel factory in Gliwice in September 2010, assumes that 100 employees on fixed-term contracts will be given open-ended contracts till the end of 2010. Fragmented evidence suggests that the negotiations of open-ended contracts for young workers also took place in other automotive companies, including Volkswagen Motor Poland and Fiat Auto Poland.

As there is no data on the content of collective agreements, it is difficult to assess to what extent issues affecting young workers were addressed in collective negotiations in other sectors.

2.3 Please outline particular initiatives that have been developed by tripartite or bipartite social dialogue to help young workers. Illustrate the most important of these initiatives and, where possible, please also comment on their effectiveness in achieving their objectives.

As the Polish industrial relations system does not assign any specific role in developing and managing employment policies to social partners, trade unions and employer organisations play only a ‘weak’ consultative role in developing policies aimed at helping young workers.

At the regional level, according to official reports, young workers’ problems , such as emigration and vocational training, were discussed by three (out of 16) Voivodship Social Dialogue Commissions (Wojewódzkie Komisje Dialogu Społecznego, WKDS) in 2008. WKDS are regional social dialogue institutions which involve the representatives of nationally representative employer organisations and trade unions, as well as the regional representative of the government (a provincial governor) and the representative of the local government. However, WKDS has no real power in policy making, so no actions besides discussions were taken. There is no information about the type of recommendations made by WKDS.

The problems of young workers were not directly discussed by the national social dialogue institution, the Tripartite Commission for Social and Economic Affairs (Trójstronna Komisja ds. Społeczno-Gospodarczych). The Commission involves the representatives of the government and nationally representative employer organisations and trade unions. However, they were indirectly present in negotiations of anti-crisis regulations in 2009. The measure, which directly affected the situation of young workers, was the establishment of enterprise training funds to cover costs of vocational training and continuous education from the Labour Fund (Fundusz Pracy) for a period of 6 to 12 months. There is no official evaluation of the effect of these policies on employment of young workers.

Finally, there were attempts to address specific problems of the youth in some sectors; the mining sector being an example. Joint lobbying by social partners contributed to reopening of the mining schools in the Silesia region. The issue of employing young workers in the mining sector was also discussed within the Tripartite Team for Social Security of Miners (Zespół Branżowy ds. Bezpieczeństwa Socjalnego Górników). The Team involves 55 members, including the representatives of the government, the representatives of 14 miners’ trade union federations and the representatives of the Hard Coal Mining Employer Union (Związek Pracodawców Górnictwa Węgla Kamiennego).

QUESTION 3: ATTITUDES AND POLICIES OF SOCIAL PARTNERS TOWARDS YOUNG WORKERS

3.1 Please indicate whether the labour market situation of young people has figured prominently on the agenda of employer associations since 2008. In the analysis of employer associations, what are the main causes of the likely disadvantaged position of young workers?

Four dominant employer associations address the labour market problems of young people on a regular basis, however, there is no evidence that employers have intensified their involvement in these issues since 2008. According to Piotr Sarnecki, an expert from the Polish Confederation of Private Employers ‘Leviathan’ (Polska Konfederacja Pracodawców Prywatnych Lewiatan, PKPP Lewiatan), the disadvantaged situation of young workers is determined by structural and institutional factors, including insufficient compatibility between educational programmes and labour market demands. Employers also emphasise the necessity to teach young people practical, occupational and market skills in close connection with business and industry.

3.2 Have the employer associations developed any specific policies or activities beyond collective bargaining? Where relevant, please comment on any barriers or challenges identified by employer associations to improving the position of young workers.

The Polish Craft Association (Związek Rzemiosła Polskiego, ZRP), which associates small and medium employers, is involved in organising apprenticeships for junior workers under 18 years old, based on the Government Order of 28 May, 1996. In 2009 only, there were 93,814 junior workers who were trained by 26,847 employers associated in ZRP. The number of trainees grew in comparison to 2008 by around 1,100. In order to increase the number of occupational instructors, ZRP supported legislative change that enabled to train junior workers by craftsmen who have no secondary school diploma (matura). The latter decision was regulated by the Order of the Ministry of National Education of 24 March, 2010.

In order to increase employability of young people, Employers of Poland (Pracodawcy RP) proposed changes in the law on employment of temporary workers that diminished administrative barriers to the functioning of temporary work agencies, such as the employers’ obligation to issue employment certificates after each period of employment. According to Employers of Poland, the changes gave the young an easier entry into labour market for the youth.

Business Centre Club and PKPP Lewiatan are systematically involved in organising seminars and trainings on the topics such as starting up own business and human resource management. Since 2008, the Youth Forum of PKPP Lewiatan (Forum Młodych PKPP Lewiatan) organises annual ‘Week of Entrepreneurship’ that promotes entrepreneurial attitudes among young people. PKPP Lewiatan also supports organising traineeships in affiliated companies. An example is the systematic cooperation between two PKPP Lewiatan affiliates, Vatenfall Poland and Metro Group Poland, and basic vocational schools in organising traineeships for students.

3.3 Please indicate whether the labour market situation of young people has figured prominently on the agenda of trade unions since 2008. In the analysis of trade unions, what are the main causes of the likely disadvantaged position of young workers?

Trade union leaders expressed their concern about the disadvantaged situation of young people on different occasions, including the negotiations of anti-crisis legislation (PL0909019I). According to the official ‘Appeal’ of the Youth Commission of the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (Komisja Młodych Ogólnopolskiego Porozumienia Związków Zawodowych, KM OPZZ) from March 2008, the problems of working youth reflect an inefficient educational system, in which vocational training, apprenticeships and life-long training are not adequately promoted and financed. Trade unions also indicate that jobs offered to young people are often of worse quality, including fixed-term contracts and lower wages.

3.4 Have the trade unions developed any specific policies or activities beyond collective bargaining? Where relevant, please comment on any barriers or challenges identified by trade unions to improving the position of young workers.

According to surveys of the Public Opinion Research Centre (Centrum Badania Opini Społecznej, CBOS) summarised by Wenzel (2009, p. 549), merely 2% of young people aged 18-24 belonged to Polish trade unions in 2006. In order to reverse this situation, since May 2010, the Youth Commission of OPZZ (KM OPZZ) carries on an information campaign encouraging young people to join trade unions. So far, the campaign was limited to publishing posters and leaflets about the relevance of trade unions in protecting workers’ rights and solving practical problems in the workplace.

Although the Union Development Office of NSZZ Solidarność (Dział Rozwoju Związku NSZZ Solidarność, DRZ NSZZ ‘S’) does not particularly target young people in its activities, it also recruited young workers in several sectors, including the private security sector and the retail sector. In the private security sector, out of 4,000 new union members 50% are under 35. NSZZ Solidarność also carries out trainings for young union leaders that consist in teaching labour law and communication skills. Similar trainings were also organised by the Miners’ Trade Union in Poland (Związek Zawodowy Górników w Polsce, ZZG).

Trade unions are also engaged in promoting legislative changes that could enhance the access of young workers to the labour market. An example is the initiative ‘Kindergarten for every child’ coordinated by the Polish Teachers’ Union (Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego, ZNP). It aims at widening access to pre-school education by reintroducing central governmental subvention to nurseries and kindergartens. One of the goals is a better inclusion of young mothers in the labour market.

QUESTION 4: GOVERNMENT RESPONSES TO HELP YOUNG WORKERS

4.1 Please provide information and examples on government initiatives aimed at helping young people into employment and keeping them in work.

Since late 1990s, governments have carried out several initiatives aimed at helping the young unemployed. All combined measures aimed at increasing employability of young people through projects coordinated by Local Labour Offices (Powiatowe Urzędy Pracy, PUP), including subsidised trainings and studies, apprenticeships and support for business start-ups.

Based on the Act on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions from 20 April 2004 (thereafter the 2004 Act), the unemployed who are younger than 25 years old acquire the status of being in a special labour market situation. Local Labour Offices are obliged to present them a job offer or grant them other form of employment support within six months from registration as unemployed. In 2010, government granted PLN 324.4 million (EUR 81.1 million) to 214 Local Labour Offices for the activation of people under thirty.

Two main forms of the support from Local Labour Offices, which specifically target people younger than 25 years old, include scholarships for the continuation of learning and apprenticeships whose costs are covered by local authorities. Scholarships can be granted to young people whose income is lower than PLN 351 (EUR 87.7) per family member and who have no formal qualifications. People under 25, can also be offered apprenticeships that last up to 12 months. During the apprenticeships, trainees obtain a scholarship paid from the Labour Fund that is equal to 120% of the unemployment benefit. Young people, similar to other unemployed, can also benefit from free trainings offered by Labour Offices, advantageous loans for paid trainings and subsidies for occupational exams and postgraduate studies.

A governmental institution specialised in helping the unemployed younger than 25 years old are Voluntary Labour Corps (Ochotnicze Hufce Pracy, OHP). There are two types of activities carried out by OHP. The first type relies on providing occupational and general training for young people threatened by social exclusion, who dropped out of mandatory education before turning 18. It involved 33,500 pupils in 2009-2010, of whom 31,000 worked and were offered occupational training. The second type of OHP services is based on job matching and counselling services addressed to all young people. In 2009, there were 175,000 young people included into the job centres led by OHP, of whom 101,000 started to work.

4.2 Where possible, please provide an evaluation of the success of these initiatives. Where available, this should be an official evaluation. Where that is not possible, correspondents are asked to comment on their own views.

According to official statistics, 268,000 people under 25 were covered by various labour market activation programmes. The scope of participation of young people in the selected programmes is presented in table 3.

Table 3. Participation of the unemployed younger than 25 years old in the selected labour market programmes
 

2008

2009

 

Registered unemployed

Programme participants

% of the registered

Registered unemployed

Programme participants

% of the registered

Trainings

298,966

41,037

13.7%

378,765

40,080

10,6%

Apprenticeships

317,943*

150,272

47.3%

378,765

151,440

40%

Trainings at the workplace

298,966

12,444

4.2%

378,765

6,690*

1.8%

Notes: *In 2008, the number of young participants in apprenticeships was calculated based on the age threshold of 27. In 2009, the age threshold was changed to 25.

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy,2010, “Szkolenia, staże i inne formy wspierania podnoszenia kwalifikacji bezrobotnych”, Warszawa

Table 3 suggests that the participation of young people in trainings and apprenticeships decreased between 2008 and 2009. This situation reflects the reduction in the share of expenditures for these measures from the Labour Fund (see table 4). In addition, trainings at the workplace have become a part of apprenticeships since February 2009. It also contributed to the decrease in the number of participants as this programme was simply stopped. At the same time, lesser participation of the young people in apprenticeships can be explained by the changes introduced by the new Act on the promotion of employment and labour market institutions from 1 February 2009. While overall expenditures for trainings and apprenticeships were reduced, the Act expanded the access to apprenticeships, previously limited only to young people, to all groups in a ‘special labour market situation’, including the young unemployed, the long-term unemployed, the unemployed over the age of 50, the unemployed without qualifications, single parents with a child under the age of 18, ex-prisoners and the disabled.

Table 4. The share of expenditures for trainings and apprenticeships in the total expenditures on the active labour market policies (ALMP) (%)
 

2008

2009

Trainings

8.33

6.46

Apprenticeships and trainings at the workplace

37.7

25.2

Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policy,2010, “Szkolenia, staże i inne formy wspierania podnoszenia kwalifikacji bezrobotnych”, Warszawa

No official overall evaluation of the effectiveness of governmental initiatives targeting young people is available. Data for all participants, including young people, suggests that 42% of participants of apprenticeships and 53% of the participants of the trainings at the workplace kept their jobs three months after the end of the activation programme. It should be noted that despite the variety of governmental programmes, the relationship between general unemployment and the unemployment of youth has remained unchanged in the last ten years; the latter being twice as high as the former.

QUESTION 5: Commentary

5.1 Please provide your own assessment and comments on the initiatives to address the situation of young workers in the labour market including any further information that you consider important to illustrate the current situation of those groups in your country.

There is limited evidence that the mechanisms of social dialogue and collective bargaining were actively used to help the working youth during the recent crisis. The main actor in developing labour market policies targeting young workers in Poland is the government. However, governmental programmes are currently threatened by austerity measures. According to the budget draft for 2011, the expenses for active labour market policies financed from the Labour Fund shall be cut by 50%. This can negatively affect the labour market situation of young people, who in the last years benefited from a range of subsidised activation programmes.

However, the persistently high unemployment of the youth suggests that even ambitious labour market policies might be insufficient to tackle the problems faced by young workers in Poland. As indicated both by employers and trade unions, educational policies are needed which would create a better link between industry and schools and increase the attractiveness of science and engineering among young people at all levels of education.

Sources

Adam Mrozowicki, Institute of Public Affairs and University of Wroclaw

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