Gov't passes draft law on payment of 500+ benefit for first child

2019-04-16 19:55 update: 2019-04-21, 13:04
Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański
Photo: PAP/Leszek Szymański
The Polish government approved a draft law on Tuesday that will enable payment of its landmark Family 500 Plus child benefit programme also to first-born children. Previously, the PLN 500 (EUR 116.9) monthly payment was only for second and subsequent children.

The move was announced by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday.

The draft law foresees the right to benefits under the programme being extended to all children under 18, including single children and regardless of the parents' income. Under current rules, the first child only qualifies for benefits if certain income criteria are met.

Applications for the financial support will be submittable from July 1 with the new rules to cover 6.8 million children.

"We have undergone a revolution, a positive, pro-family revolution," PM Morawiecki declared at a press conference after the government sitting, "a positive pro-development revolution, an economic revolution. It means that today we have one of the highest economic growths with sustainable macroeconomic factors."

The PM underscored that the new programme is to concentrate on short- medium- and long-term results, pointing out that one of the basic factors of the weakening economic growth is "weakening demography."

"Therefore, on the long-term horizon: 10, 20, 30 years, the 500 Plus programme, which is intended to serve fertility, will cause a correction in the Polish demography, so there will be young people, who will later work both for our pensions and for the economic development of the whole country," Morawiecki explained. "That is why we're creating this programme - for the long-term development of Poland."

The prime minister went on to state that the programme's results will also be visible in the timeframe of several to a dozen or so years. He indicated that families already taking advantage of the 500 Plus benefit will invest more in extra-curricular activities, vacations and sport.

"Short term," the PM said, "directly influencing the coming quarters, one to two years, there will be a postponement of the phase of the situational cycle."

"We are in the phase of a certain slowdown. Then the classic response (...) is a fiscal response. (...) A responsible government does what has an influence, in this case we're conducting a fiscal stimulus, we're making changes to expenditures, which will also translate into a smoothing out of the situational cycle," Mateusz Morawiecki explained. 

In turn, Family, Labour and Social Policy Minister Elżbieta Rafalska underscored that the 500 Plus programme was "a breakthrough in Polish social policy, which has laid excellent foundations under the comprehensive family policy, such as Poland has never known."

Rafalska highlighted that the programme achieves three basic aims. "Firstly, improved fertility, secondly, a reduction of poverty, including the eradication of child poverty, and thirdly investing in human capital," the minister asserted. She went on to explain that, to date, the programme has covered 53 percent of the country's under-18s, while, following the changes, the figure would grow to 6.8 million. 

The greatest growth, she said, would occur among only children, of which so far there have been almost half a million - now that number will rise by 2 million. She also announced that, to date, almost PLN 69 billion (EUR 16.1 billion) has been paid to families under the programme. 

Extending 500 Plus to include first and only children is one of five new policy proposals by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) dubbed the 'New PiS Five.'

The prime minister also stated that it would probably be necessary to amend the budget act in 2019. (PAP)