Our Promiseland is located in the Zachodniopomorskie Region of Northwest Poland, which is considered to be the poorest region in the country. The people of this region were employed on cooperative farms under the Communist system of government, and they have fallen on tragic times since the farms and their jobs went away beginning in 1989. This region of small villages has unemployment rates as high as 90%, and the future looks very bleak for the children of the Promiseland and children throughout rural Poland in general.
We trust the following information will bring our readers up-to-date on Polish agriculture in this region and others. It will also give our readers insight into why our Foundation’s work in this region is so important. Much of this data was provided by The Polish Voice, a publication of our Foundation member company The Warsaw Voice.
Poland has some 53,000 rural localities, including 42,800 villages and 10,200 smaller settlements. More than 80% of rural localities have under 500 residents, including 15% with fewer than 100 people. Polish agriculture, with some 1.85 million farms, is characterized by a large diversification in terms of farm size, from one hectare to several thousand hectares. The average size of a farm in Poland is 7.4 hectares. More than 30,000 businesses are registered in the agri-food processing industry. The food industry, including production of foodstuffs, beverages and tobacco products, makes up some 20 percent of total sales in the Polish industry. Rural areas constitute more than 90 percent of the country’s area, and their residents,14.8 million, constitute 38.2 percent of the population. As many as 27 percent of labor-age Poles are linked with agriculture, but only 18% live solely off it. More than 95% of agricultural land is used by the private sector, including 87.7 percent by family-run farms. Unfortunately, only 13% of the farms in Poland sell products worth zl. 15,000 or more over a year, and as many as 50 percent produce mainly for their own needs.
As I mentioned above, unemployment is a serious problem of the Polish countryside. Some thirty-eight percent of Poles live in the countryside, yet rural residents make up 45 percent of all the registered jobless. Around 1 million of the unemployed are members of non-farmer families. Another million includes both registered unemployed (some 150,000) in farmer families and so-called “redundancies” in farming, constituting so-called hidden unemployment estimated at over 800,000. Economists estimate that an improvement of the competitiveness of Polish agriculture through limiting individual work costs may increase the number of the unemployed by a further 1-1.2 million. A simple calculation shows that already today there are some 2 million unemployed people in the countryside, and another million will appear due to improved production efficiency.
As we know, unemployment is directly related to poverty. Rural and urban Poland are two completely different worlds. It is also worrying that 54% of rural residents only have a primary education, 28% have a vocational education, and only 15% have completed high school or have a post-secondary education. There is some consolation in the fact that the indicators are much better among young people (under 30) since some 30% of them already have a secondary education.