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POLAND: Two Years of 500+

Two years have passed since Beata Szydło’s government introduced the 500+ family support scheme. The policy is aimed at supporting and promoting families with multiple children. According to government statistics, since April 2016, 3,6 million families have benefited and 53% of children are covered by the programme.

Initially, the programme saw significant criticism from experts and opposition parties. Many believed it too expensive to sustain, possibly leading to severe countrywide economic problems. This, however, has been countered by a series of laws sealing the tax system. Other criticisms, such as misuse of funds or detriments to the labour market, have been incidental. Politically, 500+ was the first instance in which PiS showed that it followed through on grand campaign promises. Through the implementation of the programme, PiS has cemented the support of a big portion of the electorate. 500+ remains very popular and even opposition politicians are admitting that they would maintain the programme.

If the ruling party manages to replicate the success of 500+ to other social policies, it could easily boost its support further in the upcoming election season. Still, no social policy or aid scheme is likely to be of the same scale. Other programmes which are in the works, such as the housing plan Mieszkanie+ or the elderly care programme Senior+, are troubled by funding problems or do not address society-wide issues like 500+ does.