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Welfare State, Gender, and Reconciliation of Work and Family in Poland: Policy Developments and Practice in a New EU Member


Address for correspondence: Ania Plomien, Gender Institute and Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE. Email:


In the context of welfare state change and European Union and national debates on activation, this article engages in a systematic analysis of the reconciliation of work and family policies in Poland, and their implications regarding the gendered division of labour. Examination of three areas of reconciliation, that is, childcare services, maternity and parental leaves, and parent-friendly organization of work, reveals strong tensions between the unpaid labour of care and paid market labour. Reconciliation of work and family appears challenging for mothers and fathers alike, but the nature of the problem differs – women face greater obstacles to paid employment and men to involvement in family and care. Assessed against EU prescriptions in this area, Poland's performance is mixed. Based on policy developments and practice, Poland is far from achieving Barcelona targets for the provision of childcare services, it complies with EU regulations on maternity and parental leave arrangements but also compares unfavourably with the member states which provide special arrangements for fathers, and, finally, lags behind employment goals and parent-friendly organization of work. Although participation in the Lisbon Strategy has proved important for raising the visibility of the reconciliation of work and family policies on the national political agenda, recent policy reforms have been either inconsistent or too modest in light of EU policy goals. Therefore, it is too soon to argue that parents’ ability to reconcile work and care has improved or that greater equality in the gendered division of labour has been attained.