Crisis and Gender in Poland
The financial crisis, that has spread across all global markets, does not remain without an impact on Poland. Article by Mariusz Czepczynski, PhD. Gdansk Univeristy.
Global financial turbulences were introduced into Polish economy initially as drastic devaluation of Polish currency towards Euro and USD and radical sales and decrease of values at the Warsaw stock exchange, especially in the end of 2008 and beginning 2009. Presently, the impact of the global financial and early economic crisis on gender issues seems to be rather limited in Poland, mostly likely because the initial stage of the ongoing transformations. The real impact of the crises will be possible to elaborate post factum, whilenow all the analysis will be probabilistic and based mainly on assuming possible threats. Early 2009 the economic crises in Poland was mainly associated with financial markets, stock exchange, companies involved in currency options estimations and, probably most visible, media and politics. Crises have become hot news and medial artefact, used by political opponents to accuse, indict and speculate. Many various and often contrary political declarations ignoring or / and reacting on crises were eventually, early 2009, followed by the governmental activities, aimed to limit the expenditures. The expected decrease of budget income is the consequence of devaluating zloty, decline of in kind investments, export and much smaller demand for state obligations.
Almost all economic and social sectors have face severe budgetary cuts, together with NGOs, including gender organizations. Many Polish organizations have already experienced the implications of the world economic crisis as the generosity of private companies and individuals has significantly decreased. Government funding for NGOs is going to decrease significantly as well. Since the GDP is going to be lower this year than in the previous years, the government has had to cut on many budget programs. One of the programs that will suffer the most will be the Civic Initiatives Fund, a government-run program that supports non-profit organizations. The budget of this Fund is going to by decreased by half. It is very likely that also local authorities funding for local NGOs will be lower as well. The general situation became very insecure. Even the situation has been worsen already, not all of the negative financial impacts of the crisis are visible. The inertia of project application procedure might postpone some of the most negative aspects of the crises for the next months. The shrinking resources might also increase the competition within the sector and make the cooperation between the gender organizations in Poland even more complicated and difficult.
One of the likely consequences of the economic crises might be increase of income taxes, which, despite all the intentions, affects mostly less privileged groups, including women, especially single mothers. Decrease of family incomes might cause pauperization of the whole social groups, particularly lover middle classes. It is very possible that the change of life style and lower consumption will affect more women then men, since traditionally women are usually more responsible for family wellbeing, especially on lower income levels, then men. According to some analysts, crises additionally amplifies the grey zone in Polish economy. Many, especially small entrepreneurs try to minimalise the labour costs and avoid taxation and other social expenditures. It seems very likely that the grey economy will affect more women, working more often at the low paid jobs,especially in private service sector, like shops.
Economic and labour market crises might furthermore indirectly influence the fertility ratio and number of births. Many women, especially better situated, had been postponing the decision of having child for years. According to the Confederation of Polish Employers, recently more and more women ‘escape’ from reduction to the maternity leave. The same time, impoverished women might more often decide for, illegal in Poland, abortion, as a consequence of growing costs of rising a family.
Economic shortages facilitate also growth of prostitution and women trafficking . For a growing number of economically deprived members of society, selling a body (own or somebody else) seems to be an appealing project. Recently, the situation has been worsen in southern and eastern
provinces, while we might expect that Poland will become significant transit region for women between the former USSR and Western Europe.
Long lasting and worsening economic situation might also cause social and political conflicts during next few years. Possible economic polarisation, increase of unemployment, collapse of financial markets and public budget might be followed by the rise of radical, conservative, right-wing attitudes and parties. The possible rise of neo-conservatism might promote traditional, patriarchal values, while limiting the role of women to the old school ‘kitchen, children and maybe church’. The criticism of economic liberalism, considered by many as the main source of the crises, might be easily transferred to many other aspects of liberal societies, including gender rights. The same time, considered as much more important economic issues might dominate the public discourse and cause marginalisation of, seen as tertiary, social and gender issues.
Macro-economic situation in the region might also make an impact of gender position in Poland. Many economists believe, that the general situation in Poland, despite growth decline, will be among the best in Central and Eastern Europe. The growing economic and political chaos in our eastern neighbours, like Ukraine, Latvia, Romania or Russia might destabilize the border regions and raise illegal migrations, likely mostly of more enterprising women. The rising competition on the lower end of labour market might mainly impact Polish women, especially in Eastern provinces of the country.