LAB meeting, Poland

In March, first LAB meeting took place in Cracow. In the group of invited experts there were representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Ministry of National Education, the Voivodship Labour Office in Cracow, Entrepreneur’s association, the self-employed’s association and researchers from the Cracow University of Economics.

To introduce the discussion at the beginning of the meeting the main objectives of the project, were outlined. It was followed by a more thorough presentation of WP3 and WP7.

The main areas of the discussion covered the effectiveness and innovations in policies to combat youth unemployment, coordination of actions aimed at unemployed youth that are run in Poland, definition and image of self-employment in Poland and the level of readiness of youth to act as entrepreneurs.

The main conclusion concerning self-employment was that there is a need to prepare unanimous the definition of self-employment. It would help to increase effectiveness of programmes for people choosing this type of occupational activity, and allow to analyse adequate data.

The Polish Government perceives increasing the youth’s entrepreneurial attitudes as a chance to help them. Some actions have already been taken but the government intends to develop children‘s initiativeness starting in kindergarten education, which is listed as one of the key competences in the PISA study.

Main issues of debate

Definition of Self-employment

The distinction between self-employment and employment should be clearly defined. Unfortunately in Poland there is no clear distinction between these terms. What is more some regulations concerning voluntary and forced self-employment should be taken into account as well as full and part-time self-employment. There is a large group of people that have both their own firm and employment in another company. While analysing employment we should take into consideration an international approach, according to which there are four main groups – employed people, entrepreneurs, the self-employed and helping family members. But in Poland such a distinction is insufficient to clarify the situations on labour market.

It is possible to define self-employment in two different ways. The first one is to point out main characteristics of who a self-employed person is. Then we can enumerate specified conditions in which one can be treated as a self-employed person. The second is to define who is not a self-employed person and by opposition characterise those group of occupationally active people. However, such approaches are hard to implement in statistical analyses.

Sources of data concerning self-employment

The basic source of information about the share of self-employed people are databases of Central Statistical Office of Poland, however the information they provide are incomplete and do not allow in-depth analyses. It is possible to use databases of Tax Offices which can give, for example, information about the number of employed workers. The main problem concerning this source of information is limited availability of such data and unwillingness to provide it. As in Poland many self-employed people operate in agriculture it could be necessary to search for additional data in both the Social Insurance Fund and the Agricultural Social Insurance Fund. Nevertheless, getting appropriate data requires using different sources of information and conducting cross analyses.

Data adequacy

The lack of unanimous definition of self-employment, different methods of analysing it, and mixed sources of information cause that it is very difficult to create a clear picture of self-employment in Poland. What is more, the share of employment in agriculture creates considerable distortions in analysing labour market. For example, according to the latest data there is a decreasing share of the self-employed in Poland (in total). Indepth analyses show that this situation is caused mostly by a decreasing number of farmers, while the number of enterprises run by the self-employed is increasing.

Image of self-employment

In general there is an agreement that those who present entrepreneurial attitudes are positively perceived in the Polish society. However, it was stated that the first important debate concerning self-employment in Poland was carried out in 2000-2002 when a lot of entrepreneurs offered to their employers new cooperation models based on B2B agreements rather than job contracts. Research conducted by “Lewiatan” association (an organisation that unifies entrepreneurs) in the group of its members shows that as many as 18% of the self-employed were made to start their own businesses.

Readiness of youth to start new ventures

According to international data Polish teenagers are highly ranked in Europe for their competences. Unfortunately the young population can be divided into two groups concerning those living in rural and urban areas. Competences of those that live in the cities are one of the highest in Europe but the competencies of those from villages are very low. The youth living in small towns or villages are not prepared to enter the labour market and what is more important the level of their entrepreneurial attitudes is much below the expected level. The main goal for the Polish Educational System for next decades is to enhance initiativeness of youth. To reach this goal the subject “entrepreneurship” was introduced to secondary schools but the Ministry of Education thinks it is necessary to introduce some

new methods of teaching kids in kindergartens in order to enhance their initiativeness.

What was stressed during the discussion was that youth are able to take risk which makes their willingness to start their own businesses higher than that of adults. Unfortunately quite often this results in low success rate of companies run by youth.

Main actors in the youth unemployment policies

The dominance of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs as force creating labour market programmes addressed to the youth is noticed .It is so as these are public programmes and information on them is transparent and accessible.

The Ministry focuses on prevention of the youth unemployment and when it occurs on its “fixing”.   However, both self-employment and support of the youth is also a domain of the policy making within other Ministries like education, science, economy and finance.

Initiatives re. the youth unemployment

Some success of the Polish initiatives stems from the programmes created and implemented in the early years of the 21 century when the youth unemployment was even higher than it is now i.e. 1st work, 1st company. There is a number of programmes, initiatives, also with historical experience, we are not sure whether they are started when needed and what is the configuration of these programmes.

Apart from central and regional programmes there is a number of additional actions. The regional authorities, especially those in charge of the labour market, see the need to introduce partnership in all related activities. As a result the Małopolska region within the Youth Guarantee created the Youth Partnership, which aim at creating a forum of exchange of information, experience, expectations to formulate the labour market policy in the region more effectively. There is a problem of participation, major employers’ organisations are willing to participate, but individual companies do not want to wish to participate. However such for a are only a methods not a goal of policy implementation.

Instruments to deal with the youth unemployment in Poland

There are three types of instruments:

  • creating a demand of the qualifications in a formal system or in the supplementary system including lifelong learning;
  • subsidising of employment;
  • regulatory changes that will make testing potential employee readiness and preparation easier. 

Coordination of actions

There are some initiatives – platforms that assure communication between actors. Yet it is worth to note that these are consulting ad advisory bodies, hence their capacities are very limited, not much power when it comes to implementation on all levels almost.

The employers show examples that when they suggested areas of learning needed by employers they were not taken into account and implemented (in a form of educational programmes) – especially in the local labour markets. The teachers’ lobby their interests more effectively. But one should remember that the perspective of employers does not match the educational cycles, it is difficult to coordinate the two. Hence various initiatives like placements, traineeships, apprenticeship etc.

Even regional authorities find the element re. to education and training (discussion on future areas of education and training), a difficult area of cooperation and coordination as it overlaps activities and competencies of various authorities and ministries.

Microentrepreneurs feel neglected. The programmes do not take into account their specifics. Also they find it difficult to participate in various fora and share their opinions while they struggle to survive in the market.



Cracow University of Economics
Date: 5.03.2015



Cracow University of Economics
Professor Aleksander Surdej, ProfessorAleksy Pocztowski, Professor Renata Oczkowska, dr. Beata Buchelt, dr. Maciej Frączek, dr. Łukasz Jabłoński, dr. Jacek Kopeć, dr. Urban Pauli, dr. Ewa Ślęzak, dr. Sylwia Wiśniewska and dr. Piotr Zając.

Ministry of Science and Higher Education
Dr. Andrzej Kurkiewicz

Ministry of Labour and Social Policy
Barbara Kuta

Wojewódzki Urząd Pracy w Krakowie, Voivodship Labour Office in Cracow
Justyna Zapała – Więch

Stwowarzyszenie “Nasza inicjatywa” (Association „our initiative”)
Dagmara Staniszewska

Lewiatan (Association of entrepreneurs)
Kamila Banasik – Brudny

Stowarzyszenie „Samozatrudnieni (Association „selfemployed”)
Kamila Banasik – Brudny