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In Poland there is neither an internet portal nor an institution for employers responsible for monitoring the legislation process of regulations that determine the rules for business activity. At present employers  learn about changes in the law mainly from mass media or simply through the grapevine, usually with delay.

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Is Poland friendly for working women?

24-04-2015

 

Poland is one of the best places to live for working women. At least that is what The Glass Ceiling Index, published by “The Economist”, appears to suggest. Of 28 researched OECD countries, Poland is in fourth place in terms of equal treatment of women at work. The first three positions are occupied by Finland, Norway and Sweden respectively and our country has distanced a.o. Denmark, Germany and the United States. The notion of the glass ceiling, refers to a situation when women with the same or higher qualifications than the men they work with cannot advance beyond a certain level. In preparing the ranking, “The Economist” used 9 criteria – Poland’s results are summarized in the table below.

 

Tab. 1: The Glass Ceiling Index 2015 – summary for Poland

 

Criterion

Year

Weight

Result

Points

 (0–100)

 Place

Gap in higher education

2013

14%

8.5%

82.7

8

Wage gap

2013

14%

10.6%

83.9

8

Women’s employment in relations to men’s employment

2013

14%

-13.8%

71.8

20

% of women in supervisory boards

2014

14%

14.7%

34.2

19

% of women in directorial positions

2011

14%

38.4%

86.9

5

Childcare costs (% of wage)

2012

8%

6.9%

85

6

Length of maternal leave

2013

8%

22 weeks

100

1

Number of women taking the GMAT exam

2013—2014

8%

42.5%

67.2

4

Percent of women among parliament members

2015

6%

24.1%

43

17

Total

73.1

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Own elaboration based on the website of „The Economist”.

 

According to the index, Poland offers the best maternal leave conditions of all ranked countries and places high with regards to the number of female managers, women taking the GMAT and childcare costs. We also fare quite well in terms of the higher education gap and wage gap, placing 8th in both. All that contributes to our countries high final position, which appears to be a slight overestimation – particularly as countries traditionally considered far more friendly for working women fared far worse (Germany and Denmark placed 7th and 16th respectively). For this reason, The Glass Ceiling Index requires closer scrutiny when it comes to particular criteria, as well as the data and statistics used.

 

Each of the criteria was assigned one of three weights: 6%, 8% and 14%. The only category with the lowest weight is the percentage of women in the parliament – its usefulness in assessing women’s situation on the labour seems rather limited indeed. Though the percentage of female MEPs in Poland is in fact quite low compared to other countries, it is hard to grasp what the impact of that on women’s labour activity would be. The adoption of other low-weighted criteria is also questionable. GMAT is a computer exam in English, evaluating analytical, mathematical and language skills, required at MBA studies at Western European universities. It is not popular in Poland, as most leading Polish universities do not require it and the only examination centre is in Warsaw. Meanwhile, childcare costs are usually shared by both parents, so the impact on women’s labour situation should not be too significant. When it comes to long maternal leaves, contrary to the perspective adopted by “The Economist” they might actually be problematic for women, as returning to the labour market after such a long absence might be difficult.

 

Other criteria which were assigned the highest weight also appear to be controversial. Take the higher education gap: according to GUS figures from 2014, there were more women with higher education than men (24.7 % to 19.5%), which means that the gap was smaller than in the ranking (6% to 8.5%). However, this is not particularly significant, as the ranking does not take the needs of the labour market and the faculties chosen by women into account.

 

General level of employment of women is the category in which Poland result is lowest. According to the index there are 13.8% less women than man active on the labour market. Eurostat figures for 2014 measure this difference at 14.5%, which gives our country the 6th worst result in the EU. GUS calculations are even less optimistic, as according to the report on economic activity in the third quarter of 2014, men’s employment level was 16.2% higher. Man’s job activity was higher at every education level as well.

 

Tab. 2: Job activity among Poles above 15 years of age, sorted by gender and education level

 

Education

Women

Men

Higher

77.7%

84%

Post-secondary

63.1%

78%

Secondary vocational

54.5%

74.9%

Gneral secodary

42%

63.2%

Basic vocational

48.3%

68.5%

Lower secondary, primary, incomplete primary

11.6%

27.6%

Source: Own elaboration based on GUS figures for the third quarter of 2014.

 

Tab. 3: Job activity among Poles above 15 years of age in 2010-2014, sorted by gender

 

Year

Women

Men

2014

48.5%

64.7%

2013

48.5%

63.4%

2012

48.3%

64.4%

2011

48.0%

64.2%

2010

47.5%

63.9%

Source: Own elaboration based on GUS figures

 

When it comes to the number of women in managerial positions, the situation is somewhat different as according to “The Economist” Poland ranks near the top. The data used is from 2011, but new statistics confirm this. According to GUS, 37.1% of managerial positions in Poland are taken by women. International Business Report 2015 by Grant Thornton shows almost an identical result - 37%, higher both than the global average (22%) and the average for countries of Central and Eastern Europe (35%).

 

Fig. 1: Percentage of women in managerial positions in select countries in 2015

 

 

Source: Own elaboration based on the International Business Report, Grant Thornton

 

On the other hand, there are not that many women in the highest positions. According to European Commission figures, which were also used in the index, there were only 15% women in the supervisory boards of the 19 biggest stock exchange companies (as of January 20th 2014), which is a low result compared to other EU countries.

 

Fig. 2: Percentage of women in supervisory boards in EU countries (as of October 2014)

 

 

Source: Own elaboration based on the website of the European Commission.

 

According to the Glass ceiling, the wage gap in Poland is 10.6%. Our country fared even better in Eurostat research, where we placed third behind Slovenia and Malta, with a wage gap of 6.4%. Sadly, both results reflect the so-called uncorrected value, which does not take into account characteristics such as age, qualifications, differences in experience – which could explain the gap to some degree. Domestic statistics, based on a different methodology, present women’s wage situation in a much more negative light. According to the Social Diagnosis 2013 report, the gap is 23%, while National Wage Research  indicates 20%. Moreover, wage differences are present at every level of careers, even the lowest one.

 

Fig. 3: Average age of women and men in 2013, by position

 

 

Source: Own elaboration based on National Wage Research .

 

To sum up, Poland’s position in The Glass Ceiling Index is too high. The questionable choice of criteria and the discrepancy between EU and domestic data collection methods caused the picture of women’s situation on the labour market to be particularly optimistic. It has of course improved significantly in recent years, but we do in fact find ourselves among global leaders in some respects, but it is still not sufficient to talk of equality. There are many ways to achieve further improvement. Introducing mandatory quotas of women in supervisory boards could certainly help. Men should also be encouraged to use paternity leaves so that men’s higher wages are not used as an argument against women who want to return to the labour market relatively early. Such changes are easiest to implement in public administration, where there are more opportunities to control and regulate remuneration, while audit or continuous wage monitoring could be good solutions for the private sector. However, the most important change is the cultural one.