FEMFACTS
01 Apr 2019

Have more babies -- suggests Polish official to teachers demanding higher wages

Teachers all over Poland are preparing for a strike on April 8 to demand higher wages and more secure jobs. The ruling party appears unwilling to meet their demands so far, but one of its members did have some advice for the protesters. 

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Have more babies -- suggests Polish official to teachers demanding higher wages - NewsMavens
Krzysztof Szczerski, Wikimedia Commons

Officials from the ruling Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) party have repeatedly tried to downplay teachers' demands as they prepare for a strike, foremost among them Krzysztof Szczerski, Chief of the Cabinet of the President of Poland.

WHAT IS THE CLAIM?

Commenting on the teachers’ demands in the radio discussion, Szczerski said:

"Teachers don't have to live in celibacy. Social transfers for families, like 500+, are available to them as well."

"500+" is the flagship social benefit introduced by the ruling party at the end of 2015: it is a monthly payment of 500 PLN (ca. 115 EUR) for every family with two children, and the amount increases with every additional child. There is a plan to extend it to every family as of July 2019.

Krzysztof Szczerski is clearly suggesting that, instead of demanding better wages, protesting teachers should have more children in order to receive the “500+” benefit -- and, implicitly, that the teachers who are also parents already receive enough money and don't need raises.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

Teaching is a highly feminized profession in Poland (as well as in the whole European Union). According to data from 2015, 82.34% of Polish teachers are women. Szczerski’s advice is implicitly sexist: it recommends childcare and parenting to a predominantly female group in the context of a purely professional debate. It further suggests that compensation for having children can somehow replace higher salaries for teachers’ work.

Additionally, the median age of a Polish teacher is 50; it means that any "advice" to have new children is not even applicable to many of them.

Moreover, this “advice” doesn’t hold up to scrutiny on a purely financial basis. The “500+” payment is insufficient to raise a child in Poland and thus cannot replace a paycheck.

According to research on household budgets in 2017 done by the government agency Statistics Poland, the average monthly expenditures per capita are 1,344.10 PLN (ca. 313 EUR) for couples with one child and 1,097.44 PLN (ca. 256 EUR) for couples with two children. According to the survey done by SW Research for MAM platform, the monthly cost of maintenance for a child up to 12 months of age is 1,043 PLN (ca. 243 EUR) and generally increases with age. In light of such data, it would be absurd to treat childbirth as an opportunity to get richer thanks to the “500+”.

Szczerski later issued an apology to “all who felt offended” and said his statement was “deformed and intentionally instrumentalized”. Various representatives of the ruling party in Poland continue to criticize the teachers’ strike and downplay their demands.

CONCLUSION

We rate Szczerski’s statement as manipulation of facts -- a misrepresentation of economic realities in Poland -- which also displays a sexist bias based on biological determinism, apparent in bringing up reproductive choices in a discussion on wages in a feminized profession.

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