Country Listing

Poland Table of Contents


Population Growth and Structure

In the immediate postwar period, Poland's birth rate surged upward and many Poles were repatriated from military duty or imprisonment abroad. This population increase was tempered, however, by continued emigration of ethnic groups such as the Jews and non-Polish Slavs after the war ended. The annual growth rate peaked in 1953 at more than 1.9 percent; between 1955 and 1960, it averaged 1.7 percent before dropping to 0.9 percent in 1965. The growth rate then remained fairly steady through 1980. In the early 1980s, however, Poland's growth rate of 1.0 percent placed it behind only Albania, Ireland, and Iceland among European countries. The population increase in the early 1980s was attributed to childbearing by women born in the postwar upswing as well as to lower death rates.

Later in the 1980s, as many women passed their peak childbearing years, projected growth rates again dropped. From 1985 through 1991, the actual population increase was smaller every year. The actual increase in 1991 was 122,000. Nevertheless, in 1988 one in five persons added to the population of Europe outside the Soviet Union was a Pole. Experts forecast that in the year 2000 Poland would be contributing virtually all the natural growth in Europe's employed population. In 1990 the shape of Poland's population pyramid was expected to remain relatively constant; it was composed of a relatively small base of young people, with a wider component of citizens over age sixty and a bulge in the cohort born during the postwar upswing. In 1990 this group ranged in age from thirty-five to forty-four. At the end of 1991, the total population was estimated at 38.3 million; projected population in the year 2000 was 39.5 million.

In 1988 about 51 percent of Poland's population was female, a statistic reflecting the fact that average life expectancy was about nine years greater for women (66.5 years for men, 75.5 for women). The ratio of men to women was significantly higher (as much as five to two) in rural areas, from which many women migrated to escape poor conditions on private farms (see The Working Classes; The Role of Women , this ch.). Over a period of years, a lower rural birth rate led to a smaller agricultural work force. Already in 1981, only 55 percent of the rural population was of working age, compared with 63 percent of the urban population. (Working age was defined as eighteen to fiftynine for women, eighteen to sixty-four for men.) In 1991 some 29.4 percent of the overall population was below working age, and 13 percent was past working age. The former figure had fallen since the mid-1980s, while the latter rose in the same period. The 547,000 live births in Poland in 1991 equaled 14.3 births per 1,000 people (see Health Issues , this ch.). However, the 74 deaths versus 100 births recorded that year was a higher ratio than in any recent year. (In the early 1980s, the ratio was less than 50 to 100.)

In the late 1980s, emigration from Poland was stimulated mainly by poor economic conditions. The 1989 total of 26,000 émigrés dropped to 18,500 in 1990, but the slow progress of economic reform caused the rate to increase again in 1991. In this period, the group most likely to emigrate was healthy men between the ages of twenty-six and thirty who had completed high school or trade school. The majority in this group came from regions of high unemployment and had experience working abroad. In 1991 polls showed that as much as one-third of the Polish population viewed emigration as at least a theoretical option to improve their standard of living.

Data as of October 1992