“The situation on the domestic labour market improved significantly in Q2 of this year: the unemployment rate has decreased and employment has increased. Among the data there is no indication that the Family 500+ child benefit program has negatively affected the professional activity of Polish women,” writes Marcin Lipka, Conotoxia senior analyst.
Eurostat received individual detailed data from EU countries regarding the labour market situation in Q2 of this year. In most countries, employment or professional activity levels have improved significantly and unemployment has decreased. Data from Poland stands out in a positive way, despite the fact that there were concerns about the professional activity of women in our country lowering.
A collection of positive surprises
The least spectacular surprise is the change in unemployment. However, the data remains optimistic as unemployment fell from 5.6% from March-June to 5% (according to EU methodology). In annual terms, in comparison to the end of the first half of 2016, there was decrease by 1.3 percentage points.
However, when the economy starts to absorb most of the job seekers, it is much more important whether employment will continue to grow - thanks to the activation of those who have been professionally inactive before, i.e. those who do not have or want a job. Eurostat data shows that the percentage of employed Poles in relation to people of working age 15-64 (employment factor) has increased by 0.8 percentage points compared to the previous quarter and by less than 2 percentage points compared to a year ago, reaching 66.2%. According to OECD data, this is the highest employment rate in 25 years. The percentage of economically inactive people after the second quarter is the lowest in at least a quarter of a century and amounts to 30.3%.
What is particularly pleasing is that the employment rate among people without a higher education is increasing significantly, according to Eurostat 3 and 4 - this includes secondary education, vocational and post-secondary education. The return of these people to the labour market can be particularly difficult, especially when the changing external conditions (e.g. technological revolution, competition from abroad) increase the risk of consolidating the trends of professional inactivity in these groups. Meanwhile, in Q2 of this year, the employment factor of Poles with an education at a level of 3 or 4 increased to 77.4%, which was the highest rate in 19 years.
The highest number of working women in Poland
For several months, there has been a discussion among economists on the hypothetical negative employment rate from the Family 500+ child benefit program on the participation and employment of women.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that it could make 240k Polish women leave the labour market. The figures published by Eurostat do not support the pessimistic projections.
The employment rate of women aged 15-64 was 60% at the end of Q2 and it is 1.9 percentage points higher than last year. Almost 150k women found a job in that period (out of 250k new jobs created by the economy) and currently the total number of women employed in our country is 7.32 million. This is the highest number for at least 25 years.
Total number of employed women isn’t the only thing growing
The employment of women between the ages of 25-49, i.e. the average period when families are beneficiaries of the 500+ program, increased by 60k over the last year and amounted to over 4.9 million. A positive trend is also observed in the case of women with no higher education diploma (Eurostat levels of 3 and 4). In this case, the number of women employed increased by 20k and amounts to 2.24 million. Additionally, the percentage of women aged 25-59 who have been professionally inactive is 23.4%, i.e. the lowest percentage in 20 years.
The very positive second quarter does not eliminate many structural problems, especially the discrepancy between the competence of employees and employer expectations, or the still relatively low participation among some social groups. Eurostat's data, on the other hand, shows that the labour market is much stronger than could have been expected a few months ago and that the Family 500+ child benefit program did not have a negative impact.