A shop assistant in Poland
Zyta Borowska is 62, a retired Polish teacher of geography and Russian. To supplement her pension she works in a small grocery store in Poznań, in western Poland. Many people prefer to shop there rather than in the supermarkets, many of which are run by corporations based abroad. She lives with her husband and their grown-up son in a small house outside town.
Income, basic costs, retirement provisions
As a shop assistant, Borowska earns the Polish minimum wage of 2,100 zlotys (€480 or £430) before tax. That is more than the €400 a month pension she gets after having worked in the state school system for 20 years. If she and her younger colleague take more than €23,000 in a month, the shop owner pays them a bonus of €230, split between them. She pays 18% of her wages as income tax, minus an annual tax reduction of €128. Their house has been paid off, but electricity, heating, waste disposal and public transport to and from work eat up more than half of what she earns. Borowska cannot afford to take out additional private health insurance – which means she often has to wait a year or longer for treatment, because the public health services are not efficient.
What does work mean to you?
I am happy if I can give my customers the feeling that they matter to me. Of course, we now have large supermarkets virtually everywhere in Poland, but after the initial euphoria about the huge range of products following the end of communism, people soon got fed up with the anonymity there. It is not just about getting their shopping done; they also want to share their joys and woes with me. My colleague and I serve between 200 and 300 customers every day. We know most of them by name. Personal interactions are very important to us.
What would you like to change in your life?
I am old. Not much is going to change any more in my life. I would like to earn more for the work I am doing at the moment. I hope that when my son and all the other young people are pensioners they won’t need to supplement their incomes in order to get by.
What are your biggest problems and how do you deal with them?
Live is difficult in Poland when you have less than €700 a month at your disposal. The cost of living is very high. Just take a look at how much I earn and what good products cost.
What do you do when you want to give yourself a treat?
I go out dancing with my husband, or we go to a restaurant. That doesn’t happen very often, though. But now I’m going to sell you a piece of our cheese from Korycin, in eastern Poland. You really must try some!
Population: 38 million
Currency: zloty (PLN)
(1 zloty = €0.23 = £0.21)
GDP per capita (2018): €13,395 (£11,895)
Human Development Index (2016): 36th place, Germany 4th, UK 16th (out of 188 countries)
Current average costs
1 litre of petrol: €1.10
1 tram ticket: €0.70 to €1.05
9 organic eggs from supermarket: €2.30
200 grams of cheese: €1.80
1 litre milk: €0.60
1 tube of branded toothpaste: €1.70