Compared to 2015, income inequalities in Poland slightly decreased. The Gini coefficient1, which shows their scale, in 2019 stood at approximately 29, whereas four years earlier it was about 31. The largest income inequalities were observed in Warszawski stołeczny region, where the Gini coefficient amounted to 35. In other regions, inequalities were closer to Poland’s average or smaller (the smallest inequalities were observed in the Lubuskie region, where the Gini coefficient reached 24).
The disproportions between the incomes of the wealthiest and the poorest inhabitants of Poland2 shrank slightly in the period of 2015-2019. In 2019, the income of 20% of Poland’s wealthiest people was 4.4 times higher than the income of 20% of the poorest, whereas four years earlier, the the income of 20% of the wealthiest people was almost 5 times higher than that of 20% of the poorest. Regional differences in these disproportions were similar as in the case of the disproportions shown by the Gini coefficient. The largest inequalities occured in Warszawski stołeczny region, where 20% of the wealthiest persons had income 6 times higher than 20% of the least affluent. The smallest disproportions were observed in Lubuskie region, where the income of 20% of the wealthiest inhabitants was only 3.5 times higher than that of 20% of the poorest.
The assessment of the scale of poverty depends on the definition adopted. In the economic dimension, it is performed using three boundaries: legal poverty line2, indicating the population entitled to monetary benefits from the social assistance, the extreme poverty line3 that points to people living below the subsistence minimum, and the relative poverty line4 which defines the group of persons whose consumption level is lower than the level of consumption of the majority of the country’s inhabitants, and is considerably lower than the avarage level of consumption in country.
Regardless of the measure adopted, mostly positive trends relating to poverty in Poland were observed until 2019. In 2020, the situation changed – the scope of relative poverty further decreased (the poverty threshold was set at a lower level at that time), but the number of persons living below the subsistence minimum increased, as did the number of persons living below the statutory poverty line, albeit only slightly. However, despite these unfavourable changes resulting from a number of factors, i.a. from the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation with regard to poverty was better in 2020 compared to 2015. In 2020, approximately 9% of members of Polish households were entitled to benefits for the least afluent (approximately 12% in 2015), extreme poverty concerned about 5% of people (almost 7% in 2015), and relative poverty – nearly 12% (almost 16% five years earlier).
Susceptibility to poverty depends on many factors, which can occur simultaneously. The probability of poverty increases with conditions such as disability, several children in a family, low level of education, or lack of income from work or retirement. Poverty more often concerns inhabitants of rural areas or small towns, but also depends on e.g. age. Although the social and geographical map of poverty did not change considerably throughout 2015-2020, the scale of poverty among the majority of social groups threatened with it was smaller at the end of this period than in 2015. What improved to the largest extent was the situation of the youngest inhabitants (below the age of 18) and families with many children5. Poverty rates (according to all the three above-mentioned thresholds) in these groups still exceeded the average, but this difference was smaller than five years earlier. Similarly, the situation of single parents improved. In 2020, poverty was much less widespread among single parents than in the whole population, whereas in 2015, single parents were subject to poverty to a similar extent as the whole population.
The occurence of poverty was geographically varied. In 2019, this problem concerned inhabitants of Małopolskie, Podlaskie and Warmińsko-mazurskie voivodships to the largest extent (approximately 7% of inhabitants of these voivodships experienced extreme poverty, and over 20% relative poverty). The smallest extent of poverty, on the other hand, was observed in Opolskie and Pomorskie voivodships (where approximately only 1% of inhabitants experienced extreme poverty, and 7-8% relative poverty), whereas in 2015, the rate of poverty in these voivodships was similar to the national average.
Social transfers had a positive influence on the improvement of material conditions of Poland’s inhabitants. Taking into account income before social transfers, the risk of poverty in 2019 was similar to that in 2015. Thanks to social transfers (i.a. benefits within the "Family 500+" Programme, introduced in 2016), there was a significant decrease in poverty among children, who were mostly affected by that phenomenon in terms of age in 2015. However, some negative changes occurred among the elderly (above 65 years of age), who were at greater risk of poverty in 2019 than four years earlier even after including social transfers in their income.
Difficult material situation makes it problematic to satisfy needs regarded as desirable or necessary for a dignified life. According to statistical research, these persons in households which out of nine needs5 regarded as basic identify three that they cannot satisfy are threatened with material deprivation; inability to satisfy four or more of these needs signifies a threat with severe material deprivation.
Compared to 2015, the threat of severe material deprivation was smaller in 2019, i.e. it concerned 3.6% of persons in Polish households, which was less by over half than four years earlier. In this period, the situation of all social groups specified on the basis of age, level of education, or type of a household, improved. The situation of children (those below the age of 18) and households with children was ameliorated to the largest extent.
As in 2015, in 2019 households had the greatest difficulty with paying for a week holiday of all household members away from home once a year, and with covering an unexpected expense. Approximately 34% of households had problems with financing these needs in 2019, compared to over 40% in 2015. Considerably more city households were able to afford a week-long holiday than households from rural areas. What was relatively least problematic for households was to become owners of a colour TV, washing machine or a telephone; both in 2015 and 2019, only 1% of Polish households were unable to satisfy these needs.
The threat of exposure to severe material deprivation in 2019 was distributed among social groups in a slightly different way than the risk of poverty6. Poverty concerned children to the largest extent, whereas the threat of material deprivation grew with age (which was different than in 2015, when age did not play any significant role in aggravating the threat of severe material deprivation). Among households with many children, which are most susceptible to poverty, the threat of severe material deprivation in 2019 was similar to the average. Households which were threatened with severe material deprivation to the largest extent were single-person households (which, however, experience poverty less frequently than the whole population).
The accommodation situation of Poles was improving in recent years, both in terms of the satisfaction of accomodation needs and accomodation being sufficiently equipped. Each year saw more completed dwellings on the market; their number per 1,000 people increased from approximately four in 2015 to nearly six in 2020. Most completed dwellings were intended for sale or rent (in 2020, over 60%), and a large part of them (30%) was built by individual investors. Only less than 2% of completed dwellings were addressed to the least affluent people, who are clients of municipal housing or public building society.
In the period of 2015-2020, dwelling stocks (both inhabited and uninhabited) grew: in 2020, there were 392 dwellings per 1,000 people, which was 25 more dwellings per 1,000 persons than in 2015. The largest number of dwellings per 1,000 inhabitants (approximately 440) was in Mazowieckie voivodship, and the smallest (about 320) in Podkarpackie voivodship. At the same time, the average useful floor area per person grew in Poland in 2020 compared to 2015 by 2m2, to slightly over 29m2. The number of persons living inovercrowded dwellings7 decreased from 43% in 2015 to 38% in 2019, but nevertheless Poland remained one of the countries with the most overcrowded dwellings in the EU (where the 2019 average stood at 17%). Despite some improvement, people under the age of 18 were in the most difficult situation in this context. In 2019, almost half of them lived in overcrowded dwellings(56% in 2015). This problem concerned the oldest population (people over the age of 65) to the smallest extent. Only approximately a quarter of them lived in overcrowded dwellings in 2019, similarly to 2015.
The standard of dwellings in terms of being equipped with basic sanitary and technical systems did not change considerably throughout 2015-2020. In 2020, still about 3% of dwellings were not connected to the water supply system; approximately 6% were not equipped with a flushable toilet, in slightly over 8% there was no bathroom, and in 17% there was no central heating. Despite a slight improvement of the situation in rural areas, considerable disproportions in terms of dwelling equipment between urban and rural areas persisted. In 2020, the number of urban dwellings without the access to basic systems was small, while in rural areas, 13% of dwellings were not equipped with a flushable toilet, 17% did not have a bathroom, and in over 27% there was no central heating. The situation was most difficult in Podlaskie and Lubelskie voivodships, where in 2019 approximately 25% of rural dwellings did not have a flushable toilet, and 33% did not have a bathroom.