An International Comparison
Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Heather Hofmeister
Chapter 10: Women and the Labor Market in Poland: From Socialism to Capitalism
Ania Plomien INTRODUCTION Two major external changes affected Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries during the last two decades: the fall of communism (1989) and the protracted membership negotiations that led Poland to accede to the European Union (EU) in 2004. Globalization may not have ‘caused’ communism to fall or encouraged Poland to join the EU, but the external phenomenon is undoubtedly linked to these internal events. Poland, in addition to implementing deep changes domestically, reoriented its political and economic outlook away from the East and toward the democratic states in the West. Poland’s post-transformation role in the international economy, including its closer relationship to competitive international markets, greater vulnerability to market shocks and exposure to technological change, are evidence of the impact of globalization within Polish borders. This chapter focuses on changing gender relations in Poland and women’s position in the labor market, as influenced by these endogenous shifts. From the available literature and an overview of legislative changes, I establish how women (and men) have fared. Poland poses a particular challenge for the EU, not just because it accounts for over half the working-age population of the new member states. It is also because its employment rate is among the lowest (50.6 percent in 2003) and its unemployment rate the highest (19.3 percent in July, 2004) of the 25 nations that now comprise the EU. Women’s access to sustainable employment in Poland, although an acute problem, generally has been a low priority on the agenda of domestic actors,...
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