Young Poles – awakening

– What’s cool in Warsaw? A plane flying to London. This popular saying among the young residents of the Polish capital perhaps in the best way expresses their current feelings. And while it is hardly surprising that in the presidential election of 2015 they voted for the new president, what really surprises is that they have been quiet for so long.

Maybe it’s because the most go-ahead and desperate simply have already packed their bags and gone to England or the Netherlands. And those who remained perhaps were waiting for their leader, who during the spring of 2015 has appeared in the form of a rebellious rock singer Paul Kukiz. Kukiz promised them to destroy the SYSTEM, and though perhaps this will never happen, since the elections on May 2015 Poland is certainly not the same country anymore.

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There are quite a few reasons for frustration and annoyance among young Poles. One of the highlights is the situation on the labor market: a high level of unemployment (in January 2015  it was 21% among those under 25 years of age) and the impossibility of getting regular jobs. This generation of young Poles, born after 1990, actually does not know what a full-time job that provides a pension and basic kind of insurance means. This happens because of the high costs of regular employment – the employer has to pay a big contribution for the obligatory insurance (ZUS). Therefore, the most popular forms of youth employment are civil law contracts, called in Poland “junk agreements”. They are contract jobs, “order works”, and temporary contracts, which usually don’t force the customer to pay any insurance contribution.

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This situation forces young people – those who have not left Poland yet – to take some casual work, often below their ambitions. Or work hard just to accumulate some savings in case of unemploymenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAt. They can forget about regular accumulation of money for their pension. On the other hand many young people accept freedom and the lack of being tied to specific jobs, not thinking of distant future, when they will begin to calculate their pensions. If they will get any. They can of course start their own company, but in this case they will face the problem of bureaucratic barriers and the need to pay 414 zł (100 euro) per month to the state insurance company ZUS, which for many is a burden effectively closing the way to the own firm.

Lack of financial stability makes it impossible to take a credit for buying or renting an apartment, which has a negative influence on their personal life. That’s why almost half of young Poles aged 25-34 still live with their parents, and many couples don’t want to have more than one child.

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When it comes to children the situation is far from being perfect – the number of nurseries and kindergartens is dramatically low.

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According to European Commission (data of the year 2013) nurseries can provide places for only 3% of children instead of 33%, and kindergartens can provide places for only 54% of kids instead of 90%, which puts Poland in the worst position in the whole of EU (the EU standard is 86%). There are villages and cities where such facilities are not available at all. This forces women who cannot rely on their mothers’ and grandmothers’ help to give up their jobs, which not only worsens the financial situation of the family, but also makes it difficult for young mothers to return to their work (even a declared wish to have a baby destroys the chances of a woman in applying for a job). In the situation like this it is difficult to realize professional ambitions and aspirations of Polish women.

Another reason for resentment is the lack of correlation between education and the quality of work. Newspapers and magazines present many bitter and saOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAd stories of well educated (often graduates of foreign universities) young people whose way to promotion is blocked, so the lack of proper jobs forces them to accept not very demanding contracts, like the work in shops or call centers. The present twenty and thirty years old Poles are not as fortunate as their predecessors in the 90-s, who after the fall of the Polish People’s Republic in 1989 started building capitalism and made quick careers in the western companies, they were recruited by them when being still students.

However, the young generation has not rebelled for a surprisingly long time – their recent significant activities (before 2015) happened in 2007, the year of elections to the Parliament (Sejm), when young people lined up to vote against Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS – Law and Justice) party. They succeeded and for eight years Poland had been ruled by liberal (although in many ways conservative) Platforma Obywatelska (PO – Civic Platform), whose leader, Prime Minister Donald Tusk promised the nation a second Ireland – the Ireland which experienced an economic boom at that time.

Unfortunately, the Irish miracle could not be realized in the country on the Vistula River (the world crisis of 2008 was to blame here too). The failure of economic promises and disregard for the young people’s problems (the list of sins is very long) resulted not only in increasing disillusionment of PO rule, but also in a growing hatred for this party and related power elites. These elites are often perceived as THEY – well lined up, more and more isolated from society, occupying important jobs and functions for years, irremovable from party lists. During each election discussions are held mainly on abortion, in vitro, gender and history instead of considering important social issues. This is how the concept of SYSTEM was born – a political creation which has to be overthrown. It seems that overthrown for any price.

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TOWARDS THE CHANGES?

The symptoms of a growing need for changes appeared already a long time ago. An important warning was a surprisingly strong support of 10% votes in the elections to the Parliament in 2011 for the newly established Ruch Palikota (Palikot Movement – Palikot is the name of the leader andJanusz_Palikot_2012_(2) founder of the party Janusz Palikot). Ruch Palikota attracted almost 1/3 of students who liked its opposition to the political establishment, anti-clericalism, promises of greater economic freedom and such ideas as legalization of abortion, financing by the state of in vitro procedures, legalization of marijuana and free access to contraception. Thanks to this party the openly gay Robert Biedroń and Anna Grodzka became the deputies who changed their gender from male to female. A real revolution in the still conservative Poland! (What is interesting, in the presidential election of 2015 those moral issues were no more of such important for young voters.)

When the political potential of RP had been wasted by its leader (who for his bad luck supported the extension of retirement age till 67 years – and it is a nail in the coffin for every party) – young Poles  moved their support to the Kongres Nowej Prawicy (Congress of the New Rightwing) of Janusz Korwin-Mikke (the hallmark of this infamous politician is a bow tie). His program is extremely radical, both in the economic sphere (releasing economy from state control, free market should be only private, elimination Korwin-Mikkeof a number of taxes, including income tax), as well as political (total change of the political system) and moral issues (prohibition of abortion, lack of state funding of in vitro procedures and contraception, opposition to the registration of partnerships etc.). He also declared an anti-European Union. These radical ideas appealed to young Poles so much that in the last EU elections this extremely anti-EU party took the 4th place in the list, and Korwin-Mikke became the euro deputy (and, incidentally, since the beginning disgusted parliamentarians for calling unemployed young people in EU “Negros of Europe.” It is, moreover, not the only controversial statement of that politician). In 2015, during the presidential elections, there was another change in the preferences of young Poles. This time their votes were captured by the rock singer Paweł Kukiz, whose election hiPaweł_Kukizt turned out to be a one-seat constituency, so-called JOW (in Polish: Jednomandatowy Okręg Wyborczy). One-seat constituencies are supposed to be the main way for the healing of the Polish political and economic systems – through the smashing of the SYSTEM and restoring the rule of citizens. In the first round of 2015 elections Kukiz received shockingly up to 20.1% of the votes, of which 41% belonged to the students. Quite a few votes came from well educated people, not only disappointed by their situation, but also tired of the lasting for years – and not essential for them – conflict between the two major parties: PO and PiS.

For clarification:

  • PO is a party where liberal elements mingle with the Christian-democratic, conser-vative and social, is pro-EU.
  • PiS is a right-wing, Christian Democrat, conservative and social care, preferring a strong state over personal freedom, in which the social order should be based on family traditions, religion and patriotism. Its representatives speak out against abortion and are homophobes.

This should also be seen as a reason for the defeat of President Bronislaw Komorowski, who represents the Andrzej_Duda_environment of PO, a party hated much by many young (and not only young) people. However, as it is shown in the following picture, supported by half of Poland. Komorowski has been replaced by Andrzej Duda from PiS (on the picture). He is a politician who, like Kukiz, emerged only at the time of the presidential election. Relatively young, good-looking (for many) and not directly involved in governance, he owes his victory mainly to the promise of withdrawal of the retirement age reform and the promise of rebuilding the country devastated by PO rule (a constant theme and lie of PiS dark propaganda).

And here is the statement of young Robert (22 years old), one of the voters for Kukiz (previously  pro- Korwin-Mikke), which explains the reason of neglecting PO rule and voting for Duda in the second round of elections.

–The government, having a total power, has not carried out any of the key points of its program. On the contrary – PO has promised tax cuts but has only increased them. It has not taxed supermarkets while typical shop owners have to pay taxes. By raising the retirement age it has cheated people. Women working up to the age of 67 will not be able to nurse their grandchildren, which scares me, as a young man wishing to have kids. The current government is arrogant and does not listen to people. It ignored the demand to hold a referendum concerning sending 6 years old kids to school [there is a big resistance in Poland against it]. The only alternative is president Duda. (Asked about in vitro, Robert says that this issue is not important for him.)

The results of presidential elections and the new situation on the political arena have surprised many sociologists and observers. Opinions and comments on this topic are numerous. According to the subjective opinion of the author of this text there are both positives and negative sides of the new political landscape.

The positives

  • Awakening of the young generation, so far not voting, and its activation, as well as the protest against the excesses of socio-political life. This gives some hope that politicians will finally notice the urgent need to resolve the pressing problems of the young generation and stop their emigration.
  • The possibility of new parties emergence (this is already happening), which can break down the current political stagnation (PO and PiS as the main opponents) and bring into the political life a new content, better suited to new challenges and open to the future.

The negatives

  • Making choices on the basis of simple rejection of the existing system without any regard for the potential consequences. The newly elected president represents a very conservative worldview – for example: as a staunch defender of the unborn is opposed to in vitro, which may destroy the dreams of many young Poles wishing to have a child. Duda’s (and his political environment PiS) moral conservatism has little to do with the values for which the younger generation usually fights – moral freedom and tolerance.
  • Political naivety that leads to uncritical belief in all promises.
  • Ignoring values such as respect for others and tolerance for different views and sexual orientations. This was manifested by support for Korwin-Mikke, despite his outrageous statements about women (which he considers stupid) and others, as well as support for the environment of Andrzej Duda, who expresses contempt for homosexuals or people changing sex.
  • Indifference to the pro-religious course of the new president, which can have a negative impact on the shape of new laws.

Since May 2015 Poland has been facing the great unknown, but it is now a different country, a country in which the young generation has awakened of passivity and wants to fight for participating in the country’s government.

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Let’s hope that this big potential will be developed wisely and will not turn against the real interests of young voters.

Renata Głuszek

May 2015

Photo:: Renata Głuszek (Tarnowskie Góry), Wikipedia (Andrzej Duda, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, Paweł Kukiz, Janusz Palikot)

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