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POLAND: 500+ reform in 2019
The PiS government’s flagship 500+ programme will likely see some changes in the first half of 2019. The popular scheme provides monthly benefits to all parents starting from the second child, and to some starting from the first child, depending on an income threshold. Family, Labour, and Social Policy Minister Elżbieta Rafalska argued this morning that this threshold will need to be increased. This comes after a wave of accusations that a recent minimum wage increase was designed to limit 500+ pay-outs. The minimum wage as of 1st January 2019 (PLN 2250) will be PLN 34 too much for a lone parent with one child to receive the benefit. This, however, would only affect 2020-2021 pay-outs, as those for 2019 are already determined. Rafalska noted that 500+ is a governmental rather than a ministerial programme; consultations within the Council of Ministers will be necessary to implement changes. Before the elections in 2019, PiS needs to counter any claims that it is trying to limit its flagship programme. In the eyes of the public, 500+ has been one of PiS’ most successful reforms. If the opposition manages to put a dent in PiS’ social benefits narrative, the ruling party will lose an important platform for the election campaign.