Survey reveals public discontent about wage inequality

A public opinion survey in Poland shows there is discontent about wage inequality in the country. The survey, published in September 2013, reports that the majority of respondents consider the gap between the incomes of professional people and the lowest paid is far too great. Polish people want a flattening of incomes. They want to see the wages of the poorest paid workers to be raised significantly, and urge a lowering of the salaries of the country’s highest earners.

Background

A public opinion survey (in Polish, 291 KB PDF) in Poland has found there is concern about wage inequality in the country. The survey was carried out by Poland’s Public Opinion Research Centre (CBOS). It was part of larger research project, Current problems and events, and carried out between 1–12 August 2013. It used a representative random sample of 902 adult Poles using computer assisted face-to-face interviews (CAPI).

Perceived and suggested earnings

Respondents were asked for their perceptions about the earnings of different professions and occupations. Among the perceived highest earners were directors of large companies, and the country’s president and ministers, as shown in Table 1. Respondents believed that university professors, judges and doctors were middle-income earners while unskilled workers, shop-assistants and cleaners were the lowest earners.

These perceived earnings came close to the actual average earnings of those selected groups.

Respondents said they wanted a narrower gap between the highest and lowest earners. They said the highest monthly wage should be €4,012, not the perceived €6,168. The lowest wage should be €550, not the perceived €338.

If the gap was to be narrowed in line with these suggestions, the average earnings of directors of large companies would drop from 18.3 times higher than the lowest average wage to 7.3 times higher.

Table 1: Perceived and suggested earnings of selected groups (€)
 

Profession/Occupation

Perceived earnings

Suggested earnings

1

Director of a large company

6,168

4,012

2

President

4,897

3,470

3

Minister

3,745

1,895

4

Entrepreneur

3,079

2,289

5

Member of Parliament

2,947

1,400

6

Mayor

2,350

1,824

7

University professor

1,956

1,960

8

Judge

1,916

1,793

9

Doctor

1,885

1,624

10

Army officer

1,462

1,399

11

Priest

1,298

672

12

Engineer

1,297

1,437

13

Miner

1,154

1,476

14

Repair or construction services contractor

1,142

1,192

15

Police officer

857

1,057

16

Small shop owner

836

1,063

17

Farmer

806

1,165

18

Teacher

694

967

19

Middle-rank public officer

684

796

20

Skilled worker in a factory

664

969

21

Nurse

528

837

22

Unskilled worker

436

681

23

Shop-assistant

384

625

24

Cleaner

338

550

Note: Conversion rate at 16 January 2014 – average rate of National Bank of Poland (0.2401).

Source: CBOS 2013.

Respondents suggested the earnings of MPs, ministers and priests should be reduced by the largest amount – MPs by 52%, ministers by 49% and priests by 48%. Most radically increased should be the earnings of cleaners, shop assistants, nurses and unskilled workers – by 63% for cleaners, 63% for shop assistants, 59% for nurses and 56% for unskilled workers.

Figure: Proposed incomes in relation to perceived incomes


Figure 1: Proposed incomes in relation to perceived incomes

Source: CBOS 2013

Revised structure of earnings

By proposing different earnings for different professional groups, respondents also reordered the hierarchy of incomes. The most striking reshuffle concerned four professional groups – MPs, priests, miners and university professors. MPs dropped from 5th to 11th place and priests from 11th to 22nd

University professors climbed from 7th to 4th and miners from 14th to 9th as shown in Table 2. It reflects, to some extent, the hierarchy of occupation prestige, where university professors and miners are traditionally ranked very high and MPs and priests very low (CBOS 2009; CBOS 2013).

Table 2: Proposed hierarchy of earnings
 

Professional group

Proposed earnings

1

Director of a large company

4,012

2

President

3,470

3

Entrepreneur

2,289

4

University professor

1,960

5

Minister

1,895

6

Mayor

1,824

7

Judge

1,793

8

Doctor

1,624

9

Miner

1,476

10

Engineer

1,437

11

Member of Parliament

1,400

12

Army officer

1,399

13

Repair or construction services contractor

1,192

14

Farmer

1,165

15

Small shop owner

1,063

16

Police officer

1,057

17

Skilled worker in a factory

969

18

Teacher

967

19

Nurse

837

20

Middle-rank public officer

796

21

Unskilled worker

681

22

Priest

672

23

Shop-assistant

625

24

Cleaner

550

Source: Own calculations on the basis of CBOS 2013.

Commentary

The survey gives an interesting insight into the values underlying Polish society. The proposal for a smaller gap between the highest and lowest earners, and an improvement of the situation of the poorest paid refers to expectations such as greater social cohesion and solidarity. This seems to be an interesting voice in the public debate on the share different groups should have of the overall improvement in Poland’s economic situation following accession to the EU.

References

CBOS (Public Opinion Research Centre) (2009), Prestiż zawodów [Prestige of occupations], Warsaw.

CBOS (2013) (Public Opinion Research Centre), Polacy o zarobkach różnych grup zawodowych [Poles on the earnings of different professional groups], Warsaw.

CBOS (Public Opinion Research Centre) (2013) Prestiż zawodów, [Prestige of occupations], Warsaw.

Marianna Zieleńska, ISP

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