The Warsaw Network

The thing is in the lowering fertility rate. In Poland and worldwide. During last 15 years, it dropped from 2% to 1%, which transfers to 1% of global GDP fall, according to the World Bank. Frighten by overpopulation theories, seduced by single life and pop-abortion, we’ve missed a moment when all of this advanced philosophy stared to move us back in time. In 1980, the UN predicted that in 2015 there would be 8.8 billion people – there are 7.3 billion. Poland was supposed to pass 40 million, and it is hardly exceeding 38 million, from which over 2 million emigrated. First time in history, global birth rate comes near to a threshold of replacement fertility rate of 2.1.  This figure, for Poland with its fertility rate of 1.32, is an unattainable dream. Slower population growth is well-perceived by all sort of eco-butterflies, and all progressivists convinced about pathological nature of big families. But this is a disaster for economy and our prosperity. Slower population growth means slower market demand for… everything – energy, resources, clothes, machines. “There is no economic growth without population growth” – this is a conclusion of 10 years of World Bank studies. The research show that, after the II World War, we had 56 economic booms  (6% of GDP growth) worldwide. Each of them was related to natural growth higher than 2.7 per mill, which means that for each thousand people 2.7 people more were born than died. During the 90’s boom in Poland, natural growth was around 4 per mill. Today it’s – 0.7.

During last decade, 70% of developed countries have stared programmes of increasing fertility rate. Most of them are based on material incentives, but there are also countries like Denmark where children are taught how to plan family instead of gender issues during sexual education classes. All of this is not enough. Even Polish government, in documents for EU, predicts its “500 plus” program to increase fertility rate only by 0.16. Families need not only money benefits, but also work security, and this requires investment and new possibilities of earning money. Consulting company Deloitte estimates that in 2050 wages of an average Polish will reach a point of 75% of an average German wages if investments in our economy will increase from current 338 billion zloty a year to 403 billion zloty in 2020, and another 70 – 80 billion every 5 years. Something that could bring us closer to life standard of Polish women living in the UK, whose average fertility rate is 2.13. We haven’t got such money, and considering 3%-growth we won’t have it in the future. So how to leave this vicious circle?

A fundamental reform of pension system is needed. Today, pensions use 22% of our GDP – 180 billion zloty, from which 35 billion cover special pension privileges. In relation to GDP we beat  Germany and Sweden. What we gain thanks to “500 plus”, we’ll lose by one of the lowest in Europe professional activity of people over 60. But, just to be clear – we won’t reach Germany, or even Spain, not with retirement age of 67, nor of 65. Instead of amending presidential project of the reform, the Parliament ought to create its own project. It should liquidate the wasteful ZUS (Social Insurance). We need a fair system. Minimal pension from the budget, which would guarantee a very modest life. A pension multiplied by the whole-life savings. Decent pension should contain as much a decency as we earned it ourselves. We can’t even dream about national dignity unless money stays in the families’ pockets and energise indispensable investments instead of going to the ZUS.

Tomasz Wróblewski

The article appeared in “Wprost” weekly