Holidays are good for the economy

While the share of people working on weekends is growing in the European Union, in Poland more employees are taking the weekends off. Although, according to Eurostat, they find it more difficult to afford at least one week of holidays during the entire year.

In the case of nearly three-quarters of Europeans, financial matters do not affect the ability to go on a summer holiday away from home. If they end up not going for holiday, it will be for reasons other than finance. These is pretty good news. Still, 28.3 per cent of EU residents cannot afford even a week-long trip for lack of funds. In Poland, the share of such people is higher. One in three (34.6 per cent) Polish residents didn’t go away on holiday last year because they were not able to afford it. These were most often single people aged 65 and above. In this group, as many as 51.1 per cent of people could not afford to go on holiday away from home. This was true for 46 per cent of single women and 39 per cent of single men. The gender-based differences in salaries not only still exist, but also affect people’s ability to go on holiday.

Children are not the reason for the lack of holidays

Last year in Poland almost every other single person with a dependent child could not go on a week-long holiday away from home (45.3 per cent). But when there are two people in the household taking care of the child, then the chances of a holiday getaway are more than twice higher — only 21.8 per cent of such households could not afford to go on holiday. It is also not the case that children constitute a clear financial obstacle, households without children cannot afford to go on holiday more often (37.7 per cent) than those with dependent children (32.1 per cent).

Working two jobs is less common

Some of those who are unable to afford even a one-week holiday may be less willing to take up a second job. Especially, if the combined income does not enable them to go on holiday. Compared with other EU countries, over the years employees in Poland have become increasingly less likely to work two jobs. In the Q1’2005 the share of people in Poland with two jobs was 7.5 per cent (compared to 3.6 per cent in the EU). By the Q1’19 this share dropped by 2.26 percentage points, while increased by 0.34 percentage points in the EU-28.

Over the past 20 years or so in Poland the share of people with two jobs decreased the most among employees with higher education, while the smallest decrease was recorded among those with primary or lower education. In the Q1’19, the share of people working two jobs among university graduates was 57 per cent lower than in 2000. Among those with secondary education the share of people with two jobs fell by 41 per cent, and among people with primary education this share only decreased by 13 per cent. For the workers with the weakest position on the labor market, the notion of an “employee’s market” remains nothing but a myth.

Every fourth European and every tenth Pole work at weekends

Among the EU member states the share of people working at weekends is the highest in Greece (42.5 per cent). Every third employed person also works at weekends in Italy (36.1 per cent), Ireland (34.0 per cent) and the Netherlands (31.7 per cent). The lowest share of employees working at weekends in 2018 was recorded in Hungary (8.8 per cent) and Portugal 10.5 per cent), followed by Poland.

Before Poland’s accession to the EU, every fourth employee was working at weekends (25 per cent), with 28 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women working at weekends. 15 years later this share has increased in the EU (by 7.5 percentage points), while it decreased in Poland (by 12.8 percentage points). Moreover, the share of people working at weekends in Poland (12.4 per cent) is now well below the EU average (26.4 per cent). Men are still more likely to work at weekends (14 per cent) than women (11 per cent). However, the necessity of working on Saturdays and Sundays primarily depends on the profession and not on the sex of the workers.

In 2003, every fifth manager in Poland worked at weekends. The share of people working at weekends among this occupational group has fallen by almost two thirds. Similar changes have occurred among office workers (a decrease of 64 per cent). In the case of these professional groups the change may have been due to the fact that the new generations of workers entering the labor market are increasingly seeking a work-life balance.

The highest share of people working at weekends is found among qualified agricultural workers (55.8 per cent), and over the past 15 years this percentage has fallen only by 10 per cent. In 2018, people employed in services and sales were also frequently working on Saturdays and Sundays (19.5 per cent). Nevertheless, the share of employees from these sectors working at weekends is much lower than before Poland’s entry into the EU. In 2003, 39.7 per cent of employees in this professional group worked at weekends.

According to Eurostat the share of people working on Saturdays or Sundays has been regularly decreasing for the past 15 years. Last year, 51.5 per cent of employees worked on Saturdays and 26.2 per cent worked on Sundays. Compared to 2003, the share of people working on Saturdays fell by 15.3 percentage points in the case of women and by 15.5 percentage points in the case of men. By 2018, the share of employees working on Sundays fell by 10.4 percentage points (a 7.4 percentage points decrease among women and a 12.9 percentage points decrease among men). The rate of changes in the share of working employees was similar for both days of the weekend. However, the ban on Sunday trading introduced in Poland seems to have mainly caused a decline in the share of women working on that day. Meanwhile, a cursory analysis of the restrictions on Sunday shopping would even indicate a slight increase in the share of employees working on that day among men.

Healthy growth and laziness boost GDP

Recent years have shown that even though the Polish people are taking more time to rest (apart from unpaid work), the rate of economic growth reflects the positive effects of this national “laziness”. While it is true that there are many factors influencing the level of GDP growth, it’s not very hard to fall into recession without healthy employees. Physical regeneration is not the only benefit of holidays. Studies indicate that almost half of the employees are not prepared to talk at their workplace about possible psychological problems. Only every twelfth employee would tell their superior about such problems (8.3 per cent), and just 1.4 per cent of the surveyed respondents don’t feel any discomfort about discussing such issues at work. This is not good. Gritting your teeth and putting on a brave face, without being able to go on holidays and get some rest, will eventually lead to losses.

According to the Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), from the Q1’12 to the Q1’19, over 7.2 million sick leaves were issued due to mental health problems. This translates into a total of 126.3 million days of absence. If we multiply this number of days by the average daily GDP per worker for each quarter, the combined economic losses amount to over PLN58bn. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies or psychological and psychiatric clinics are probably raking in record profits. Should we really base our continued economic growth on the treatment of diseases?

A lifeline for the economy or a spectacular disaster

Obviously, not all of the mental illnesses recorded in the databases of the ZUS are due to working too much. The quality of the data is questionable in itself — both on the part of the reporting body, and on the part of the employees who do not report their ailments for various reasons. The estimates of losses reaching approximately PLN60bn over 7 years — however flawed the data — should probably be raised in order to account for the remaining direct and indirect costs.

One thing is certain, though. Without sufficient time off from work for the employees and without adequate funds for holidays, it will be difficult for the Polish economy to continue its robust expansion in the long-term.

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