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Don’t complain about your 26 days off – Social Benefits in Poland vs. the U.S.

Coming from America, a country which believes rather in individual and not social welfare, there are so many social benefits in Poland that are mind blowing for me. You still hear people complaining that it’s not enough, which is absurd when you compare it to American conditions. The reason social benefits are relatively low in America is because many Americans believe in low taxes and less government help – that way people have to take care of themselves. Of course that’s fine if you have a good job, not so much if you don’t. Nevertheless, that’s the American way – everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Paid vacation. Poles have 26 free days by law in Poland. That’s over a month of working days. In America, there’s no such thing as paid vacation – by law. If an employer provides it, right on, but it’s not required. The average is 10 days per year. This is one of the reasons Americans don’t vacation as much as Europeans – they can’t. However, they earn more money so surely many people could take unpaid vacation and get by without a problem.

Holidays and long weekends. Ok so there are about 11 public holidays in America and about 14 in Poland so the difference is not huge. BUT the best part about Poland is that if one of those holidays lands on a Saturday, your employer has to give you the day off another day!

Maternity leave. This is an incredible thing. Women in Poland with normal work contracts can take up to one year off to raise their children and get 80% of their salary. If you take 6 months you get 100% and the next 6 months is 60% of your salary. So it’s a very comfortable situation for women. Unfortunately, America doesn’t have much in the way of maternity care – by law of course. The law is 14 days unpaid leave. 14 days UNPAID. It is, however, gaining popularity in America nowadays as companies like Facebook are providing this benefit to their female workers. The largest corporations like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google now offer paid maternity leave anywhere from 8-20 weeks. Cool, but still, it’s not 52, and those are only the biggest companies who want to be trendy and who are known for providing their employees with great benefits.

Health care. This is a big one. Of course health care is private in America and public in Poland. The cost is about 300 zl per month (for business owners). In America they could cost any amount of money depending on what you’re covered for. Generally, the idea here is that you’ll get the care you need, but the problem is when and at what level. Social health care is great for things like not dying from lack of care. This often occurs when Americans can’t afford their medical bills or they become too expensive for the insurance company and get cut off. Some people have to start GoFundMe pages just to pay their bills. These are things you don’t have to worry about in Poland, which is cool, however you often can’t wait 6 months (or 6 weeks or 6 days) for an appointment you need, so you have to go private anyway. The good thing is when you do have to go private, it’s relatively cheap (at least in my opinion but maybe that’s just because I’m comparing). For instance, the average price of a hip replacement in America is $35,000 and in Poland it’s about 12,000 zł. Kinda insane.

Sick leave. Again another thing which Poles have better. You get 80% of your salary when you’re on sick leave and as far as I know, there aren’t any limits as long as you have a legit illness. They do of course check up on you when you’re on sick leave so you have to be home most of the time but I mean if you’re actually sick it’s an amazing thing. This includes pregnant women who can basically go on sick leave from the time they find out they’re pregnant.

500+. If someone would like to get into this conversation, I’d be happy to indulge you in the comments but I won’t really get into this here too much. Basically, this is a controversial program attempting to boost population size. If you have at least two children in Poland, for now you can get 500 zł per month (for each child if you have more than 2 but not including the first. Get it? What’s the record?) to ease your financial burden. If you earn a small amount it’s possible to get more and basically no matter how much you earn, you’re not exempt. I don’t really want to consider this a social benefit as I don’t think it will last long but for now it’s there and you can take part if you’re eligible.

The question is: how do you pay all this? It seems expensive. Higher taxes of course. So it’s interesting because in America people earn more money but they have to pay for everything out-of-pocket. Which is better? Well it depends on whether you think private companies do things better than the government. Probably private companies but it’s much more expensive than when you pay for the social service. It also depends on how much money you have. If you can afford to pay for everything yourself then it’s fine but if not? Well, you have a problem.

I’m sure there’s a lot of other things like welfare, food stamps, and government housing as well but these are just the benefits that I have experience with and know about.  Perhaps there’s something important I missed?

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3 Comments

  • Reply Piotr 21 November 2016 at 18:49

    I have just read your latest article and… great comparison between Poland and America-as usual. I have to say that every country in the world has pros and cons-nowhere everything is perfect. However, some points in your post seem to be more interesting than other ones. So, I would like to write about them to show how it looks from Polish perspective.

    -Healthcare-I agree that health insurance in Poland is rather cheap and you get help if needed. But bureaucracy can be a real bitch. If you want to register for appointment at chosen doctor, you need to get suitable document from you GP. Looking for one paper sheet is a complete waste of time to me. Luckily, the majority of physicians are really well educated, sympathetic and kind to their patients.

    -Sick leaves-getting 80% of your salary is a great idea. Why not to get money when ill? However some people use this for cheating. How do some Poles do this? They bring fake information about illness to their bosses and later… they go to the trip to warm and hot states instead of getting cured and laying in the bed. Or they renovate old and neglected rooms. This is a dark side of our famous smartness unfortunately.

    -500+ Sorry, but this is a bunch of rubbish! Pure discrimination-what if a child is brought up by single mother earning about 800 zł monthly? Furthermore, no earnings cut off as you said. What is an effect? Some people leave their jobs-hard, boring working is not needed when you get some money almost for free. It is ridiculous! I have even heard about young women getting pregnant again and again only to get 500 zł for another kid. Not mentioning about parents addicted to alcohol and drug spending cash for next bottle of vodka, a few pills and so on. This program was not invented to help poor families-it has been done to get some votes from undecided voters. Sad but true. I think that a value of this social benefit is to high comparing this to a average Polish salary. This causes that people may get pretentious and start crying for the moon. Some of us might reckon that our government seems to be unbelievably wealthy and all these money belong to it. This is a lie-most of money comes from our taxes.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 21 November 2016 at 19:04

      Hey Piotr! Thanks as always for your excellent discussion. Firstly, what you said about getting a stupid skierowanie (referral). Ugh I know it’s insane. Recently my doctor told me I needed to see another specialist due to some blood test results but she told me I had to go to my GP first and get a referral! I think it’s insane that one specialist can’t give you a referral to another specialist?? Why not? She as a specialist in her area assuredly know much more about my situation than my GP who only listened as I explained the situation and then gave me what I needed. It’s kind of idiotic, don’t you think? What’s the middle man even for? I haven’t figured that out yet.

      About 500+, yes I agree with you that it’s rubbish and just a good excuse for people to cheat or quit their jobs or whatever. Generally it’s obviously just way too expensive for everyone and it doesn’t help everyone who may need it as you said. Ugh szkoda gadać…

  • Reply another piotr 22 November 2016 at 02:27

    – „This includes pregnant women who can basically go on sick leave from the time they find out they’re pregnant.” — hard to say it’s not an abuse of the system as the sickies are issued by the doctors only just in case something happens they are clean
    – 500+ is for the 1st child only if the income per family member does not exceed a certain level and for every another child no matter how rich is the family. All in all, it’s very controversial,
    Personally I think the worst thing about this programme is as it divides the nation and spreads hate

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