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?