Population Politics in Poland

in East Central Europe
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Abstract

This article attempts briefly to review the main areas in which population trends in post-war Poland have raised or impinged on political issues. It is divided into the following seven subsections: (1) demographic background; (2) evolution of policies on population questions; (3) economic effects; (4) ethnic relations; (5) foreign relations; (6) ideology; and (7) population policy debates and dilemmas. This particular scheme has been adopted in order to facilitate a comparative approach to these problems for the socialist countries of Europe (including the USSR).1 Consequently the neatness of fit tends to vary slightly from item to item and country to country. Thus sections (4) and (5) are included here, though their inherent importance from a narrowly Polish perspective might not strike one as overwhelming. Within the broad and diffuse field of overlap between politics and demography, particular emphasis is concentrated on numerical demographic trends rather than qualitative ones; and the implicit criterion of relevance universally applied is political sensitivity. Thus, for example, fluctuations in manpower supply and discussions of pro-natalism in population policy are given special consideration as being both more "numerical" and politically more sensitive, whereas problems like the stagnation of small towns and the plight of elderly and socially isolated farmers tend to be neglected as being both more qualitative than quantitative (or, perhaps, as more sociological than demographic), and more directly social than political. Insofar as social issues of this type enter into debates on population policy as such, they are reviewed in section (7).

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