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Poland

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) exist mainly in the defense, energy, transport, banking, and insurance sectors. The main Warsaw stock index (WIG) is dominated by state-controlled companies. The government intends to keep majority share ownership and/or state-control of economically and strategically important firms and is expanding the role of the state in the economy, particularly in the banking, energy, foodstuffs, and media sectors. Some U.S. investors have expressed concern that the government favors SOEs by offering loans from the national budget as a capital injection and unfairly favoring SOEs in investment disputes. Since Poland’s EU accession, government activity favoring state-owned firms has received careful scrutiny from Brussels. Since the Law and Justice (PiS) government came to power in 2015, there has been a considerable increase in turnover in managerial positions of state-owned companies (although this has also occurred in previous changes of government, but to a lesser degree) and increased focus on building national champions in strategic industries to be able to compete internationally. There have also been cases of takeovers of foreign private companies by state-controlled companies the viability of which has raised doubts. SOEs are governed by a board of directors and most pay an annual dividend to the government, as well as prepare and disclose annual reports.

A list of companies classified as “important for the economy” is at this link: https://www.gov.pl/web/premier/wykaz-spolek 

Among them are companies of “strategic importance” whose shares cannot be sold, including: Grupa Azoty S.A., Grupa LOTOS S.A., KGHM Polska Miedz S.A., Energa S.A., and the Central Communication Port.

The government sees SOEs as drivers and leaders of its innovation policy agenda. For example, several energy SOEs established a company to develop electro mobility. The performance of SOEs has remained strong overall and broadly similar to that of private companies. International evidence suggests, however, that a dominant role of SOEs can pose fiscal, financial, and macro-stability risks.

As of June, 2021 there were 349 companies in partnership with state authorities. Among them there are companies under bankruptcy proceedings and in liquidation and in which the State Treasury held residual shares. According to the Minister of State Assets, companies controlled by the state create 15 percent of GDP. Here is a link to the list of companies, including under the control of which ministry they fall: http://nadzor.kprm.gov.pl/spolki-z-udzialem-skarbu-panstwa .

The Ministry of State Assets, established after the October 2019 post-election cabinet reshuffle, has control over almost 180 enterprises. Their aggregate value reaches several dozens of billions of Polish zlotys. Among these companies are the largest chemical, energy, and mining groups; firms in the banking and insurance sectors; and transport companies. This list does not include state-controlled public media, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, or the State Securities Printing Company (PWPW) supervised by the Interior Ministry. Supervision over defense industry companies has been shifted from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of State Assets.

The same standards are generally applied to private and public companies with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies. Government officials occasionally exercise discretionary authority to assist SOEs. In general, SOEs are expected to pay their own way, finance their operations, and fund further expansion through profits generated from their own operations.

On February 21, 2019, an amendment to the Act on the Principles of Management of State-Owned Property was adopted, which provides for the establishment of a new public special-purpose fund – the Capital Investment Fund. The fund is a source of financing for the purchase and subscription of shares in companies. The fund is managed by the Prime Minister’s office and financed by dividends from state-controlled companies.

Starting October 12, 2022, the Act amending the Commercial Companies Code and certain other acts will enter into force. It introduces the so-called “holding law” developed by the Commission for Owner Oversight Reform with the Ministry of State Assets. It lays down the principles of how a parent company may instruct its subsidiaries and stipulates the parent company’s liability and the principles of creditor, officer, and minority shareholder protections.

This amendment constitutes an important change for many companies operating in Poland including foreign parent companies. The new regulations, which have encountered some controversy, will apply only to capital companies. The legislation distinguishes between the separate activities of holding companies and of groups of companies. Protections have been extended to minority shareholders and creditors of subsidiaries, identifying threats that may result from binding instructions of the parent company for these groups.

The PiS-led government has increased control over Poland’s banking and energy sectors.

Proposed legislation to “deconcentrate” and “repolonize” Poland’s media landscape, including through the possible forced sale of existing investments, has met with domestic and international protest. Critical observers allege that PiS and its allies are running a pressure campaign against foreign and independent media outlets aimed at destabilizing and undermining their businesses. These efforts include blocking mergers through antimonopoly decisions, changes to licensing requirements, and the proposed new advertising tax. Increasing government control over state regulatory bodies, advertising agencies and infrastructure such as printing presses and newsstands, are other possible avenues. Since 2015, state institutions and state-owned and controlled companies have ceased to subscribe to or place advertising in independent media, cutting off an important source of funding for those media companies. At the same time, public media has received generous support from the state budget.

In December 2020, state-controlled energy firm PKN Orlen, headed by PiS appointees, acquired control of Polska Press in a deal that gives the governing party indirect control over 20 of Poland’s 24 regional newspapers. Because this acquisition was achieved without legislative changes, it has not provoked diplomatic repercussions with other EU member states or a head-on collision with Brussels over the rule of law. Having successfully taken over a foreign-owned media company with this model, there are concerns PKN Orlen will continue to be used for capturing independent media not supportive of the government.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

In Poland, the principle of sustainable development has been given the rank of a fundamental right resulting from the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. Article 5 of the Constitution says: “The Republic of Poland guards the independence and inviolability of its territory, ensures the freedoms and rights of people and citizens as well as the security of citizens, protects the national heritage and protects the environment, guided by the principle of sustainable development.”

Polish law provides for many restrictions imposed on investors in order to ensure that all undertaken investments do not affect the environment with respect to provided indicators. Public authorities have a significant role in granting appropriate permits, and public consultations are carried out beforehand.

The Ordinance of the Minister of Investment and Development (the name has since changed to the Economic Development and Technology Ministry) of May 10, 2018, established working groups responsible for sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. The chief function of the working groups is to create space for dialogue and exchange of experiences between the public administration, social partners, NGOs, and the academic environment in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and responsible business conduct (RBC). Experts cooperate within five working groups: 1) Innovation for CSR and sustainable development; 2) Business and human rights; 3) Development of non-financial reporting; 4) Socially responsible administration; and 5) Socially responsible universities.

Zespół ds. Zrównoważonego Rozwoju i Społecznej Odpowiedzialności Przedsiębiorstw – Ministerstwo Funduszy i Polityki Regionalnej – Portal Gov.pl (www.gov.pl) 

The greater team issues recommendations concerning implementation of the CSR/RBC policy, in particular, the objectives of the Strategy for Responsible Development. More information on recent developments in the CSR area and future events is available under this link: https://www.gov.pl/web/fundusze-regiony/spoleczna-odpowiedzialnosc-przedsiebiorstw-csr2 

On October 8, 2021, the Council of Ministers adopted the National Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights for 2021-2024 (NAP). The implementation of the first edition of the National Action Plan for 2017-2020 was completed and the Final Report was prepared. The report concerns tasks aimed at improving the observance of human rights, the implementation of which was carried out on the basis of schedules developed by individual ministries and other institutions involved in the NAP. Biznes i prawa człowieka – Ministerstwo Funduszy i Polityki Regionalnej – Portal Gov.pl (www.gov.pl) 

The mission is not aware of reports of human or labor rights concerns relating to RBC in Poland.An increasing number of Polish enterprises are implementing the principles of CSR/RBC in their activities. One of these principles is to openly inform the public, employees, and local communities about the company’s activities by publishing non-financial reports. An increasing number of corporate sector entities understand that sharing experience in the field of integration of social and environmental factors in everyday business activities helps build credibility and transparency of the Polish market. Many companies voluntarily compile ESG/CSR activity reports based on international reporting standards. Most reports are published by companies from the fuel, energy, banking, food industries, logistics, and transport sectors. There is also growing interest in voluntary reporting in the healthcare, retail, and construction sectors. Surveys indicate, however, that companies still have a long way to go in ESG reporting.The attitude of Poles to environmental issues is changing, and so are their expectations regarding business. According to a study by ARC Rynek i Opinia for the Warsaw School of Economics, 59 percent of Poles consciously choose domestic products more often and 57 percent avoid products that harm the environment. In Poland, provisions relating to responsible business conduct are contained within the Public Procurement law and are the result of transposition of very similar provisions contained in the EU directives. For example, there is a provision for reserved contracts, where the contracting authority may limit competition for sheltered workshops and other economic operators whose activities include social and professional integration of people belonging to socially marginalized groups.

Independent organizations including NGOs and business and employee associations promote CSR in Poland. The Responsible Business Forum (RBF), founded in 2000, is the oldest and largest NGO in Poland focusing on corporate social responsibility: http://odpowiedzialnybiznes.pl/english/ 

CSR Watch Coalition Poland, part of the OECD Watch international network aims to advance respect for human rights in the context of business activity in Poland in line with the spirit of the UNBHR-GPs and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNEs): https://www.oecdwatch.org/organisations/csr-watch-coalition-poland/ 

Poland’s largest CSR and sustainable development review, published by the Responsible Business Forum, confirms the enormous mobilization and commitment in the fight against the pandemic. Many businesses have launched new CSR activities to deliver assistance and support. The 19th edition of the “Responsible Business in Poland. Good Practices” report has seen a more than 40 percent increase in activities reported. The total number of reported practices hit an all-time high of almost 2,000. Experts from the RBF note a lower number of long-standing practices which shows that the pandemic has led to suspension or discontinuation of certain CSR activities. The pandemic has also fueled the development of CSR partnerships, which is reflected in the activities reported. Businesses collaborated, for instance, in the production of sanitizer gel, provision and delivery of medicines and PPE to hospitals, and social welfare centers.

Research shows that sustainability and CSR are increasingly translating into consumer choices in Poland. According to SW Research for Stena Recycling, nearly 70 percent of Poles would like their favorite products to come from sustainable production and are willing to switch to more sustainably produced products. More than half believe that the circular economy can have a direct, positive impact on the environment.

In December 2016, Poland was the first country in the world to issue a green bond. The bond served to highlight the government’s support for projects with clear environmental benefits, as well as finance Poland’s key environmental goals, i.e., Poland’s National Renewable Energy Plan and the National Program for the Augmentation of Forest Cover. Green bonds are becoming increasingly popular in Poland.

In December 2020, the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) partnered with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to bring clarity to ESG reporting from listed companies in Poland and the region of Central and Southeast Europe. In 2021, the WSE published its first ESG reporting guidelines for listed companies – a handbook developed in collaboration with industry experts. The WSE joined a group of approximately 60 stock exchanges around the world that have written guidance on ESG reporting. Poland’s consumer and business environment is  increasingly concerned  with ESG factors, although a lack of standardized reporting mechanisms is leaving investors confused about the true extent of their portfolio’s ESG performance.  The guidelines provide small and mid-sized companies with a roadmap for measuring their impact on the environment while defining a code of good practice for market leaders.

Poland launched the Chapter Zero Poland Program, which is part of the international Climate Governance Initiative established by the World Economic Forum. The program brings together members of the supervisory boards and presidents of major companies to raise awareness of the consequences of climate change for business and the impact of business on climate.

Poland maintains a National Contact Point (NCP) for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: https://www.gov.pl/web/fundusze-regiony/krajowy-punkt-kontaktowy-oecd  Starting in March 2021, the EU regulation SFDR 2019/2088 on disclosure of information related to sustainable development (environmental, labor, human rights, and anti-corruption) in the financial services sector applies in Poland and other EU countries.The NCP promotes the OECD MNE Guidelines through seminars and workshops. Investors can obtain information about the Guidelines and their implementation through Regional Investor Assistance Centers. Information on the OECD NCP activities is under this link: https://www.gov.pl/web/fundusze-regiony/oecd-national-contact-point 

Poland is not a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. The primary extractive industries in Poland are coal and copper mining.  Onshore, there is also hydrocarbon extraction, primarily conventional natural gas, with limited exploration for shale gas.  The Polish government exercises legal authority and receives revenues from the extraction of natural resources and from infrastructure related to extractive industries such as oil and gas pipelines through a concessions-granting system, and in most cases through shareholder rights in state-owned enterprises.  The Polish government has two revenue streams from natural resources: 1) from concession licenses; and 2) from corporate taxes on the concession holders.  License and tax requirements apply equally to both state-owned and private companies.  Natural resources are brought to market through market-based mechanisms by both state-owned enterprises and private companies. Poland was among the original ratifiers of the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies in 2008. One company from Poland is a member of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers’ Association (ICoCA).

9. Corruption

Poland has laws, regulations, and penalties aimed at combating corruption of public officials and counteracting conflicts of interest.  Anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and to members of political parties who are members of Parliament.  There are also anti-corruption laws regulating the finances of political parties.  According to a local NGO, an increasing number of companies are implementing voluntary internal codes of ethics.  In 2021, the Transparency International (TI) index of perceived public corruption ranked Poland as 42nd least corrupt among 180 countries/territories (three places higher than on the 2020 TI index).

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Poland has a well-educated, skilled labor force.  Productivity, however, remains below OECD averages but is rising rapidly and unit costs are competitive.  In the last quarter of 2021, according to the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS), the average gross wage in Poland was PLN 5,995 per month ($1,500) compared to 5,458 ($1,444) in the last quarter of 2020.  Poland’s economy employed roughly 16.780 million people in the fourth quarter of 2021.  Eurostat measured total Polish unemployment at 2.9 percent, with youth unemployment at 11 percent in December 2021.  The unemployment rate was the same among male and female workers. GUS reports unemployment rates differently and tends to be higher than Eurostat figures.  Unemployment varied substantially among regions: the highest rate was 8.6 percent (according to GUS) in the north-eastern part of Poland (Warmia and Mazury), and the lowest was 3.1 percent (GUS) in the western province of Wielkopolska, at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021.  Unemployment was lowest in major urban areas.  Polish workers are usually eager to work for foreign companies, in Poland and abroad.  Since Poland joined the EU, up to two million Poles have sought work in other EU member states.

According to the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, more than 2 million “simplified procedure” work declarations were registered in 2021, of which 1.7 million were for Ukrainian workers (compared to 1.3 million a year earlier).  Under the revised procedure, local authorities may verify if potential employers have actual job positions for potential foreign workers.  The law also authorizes local authorities to refuse declarations from employers with a history of abuse, as well as to ban employers previously convicted of human trafficking from hiring foreign workers.  The 2018 revision also introduced a new type of work permit for foreign workers, the so-called seasonal work permit, which allow for legal work up to nine months in agriculture, horticulture, tourism, and similar industries.  Ministry of Family and Social Policy statistics show that during 2021, more than 400,000 seasonal work permits of this type were issued, of which more than 387,000 went to Ukrainians.  Ministry of Family and Social Policy statistics also show that in 2021, more than 504,000 foreigners received work permits, including more than 325,000 Ukrainians, compared with 295,272 in 2020.  On March 12, 2022, the new law on assistance to Ukrainian citizens in connection with the armed conflict on the territory of the country entered into force. Under the new law, Ukrainian citizens who fled their country as a result of the war can legally stay and work in Poland for up to 18 months.

Polish companies suffer from a shortage of qualified workers.  According to a 2022 report, “Barometer of Professions,” commissioned by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, several industries suffer shortages, including the construction, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, education, food processing, and financial industries.

The most sought-after workers in the construction industry include concrete workers, steel fixers, carpenters, and bricklayers.  Manufacturing companies seek electricians, electromechanical engineers, tailors, welders, woodworkers, machinery operators, and locksmiths.  Employment has expanded in service industries such as information technology, manufacturing, and administrative and support service activities.  The business process outsourcing industry in Poland has experienced dynamic growth.  The state-owned sector employs about a quarter of the work force, although employment in coal mining and steel are declining.

Since 2017, the minimum retirement age for men has been 65 and 60 for women.  Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and dismissal for cause (firing).  In the case of layoffs (when workers are dismissed for economic reasons in companies which employ more than 20 employees), employers are required to offer severance pay.  In the case of dismissal for cause, the labor law does not require severance pay.

Most workers hired under labor contracts have the legal right to establish and join independent trade unions and to bargain collectively. Individuals who are self-employed or in an employment relationship based on a civil law contract are also permitted to form a union. The law provides for the rights of workers to form and join independent trade unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides legal measures under which workers fired for union activity may demand reinstatement. Trade union influence is declining, though unions remain powerful among miners, shipyard workers, government employees, and teachers.  The Polish labor code outlines employee and employer rights in all sectors, both public and private, and has been gradually revised to adapt to EU standards. However, employers tend to use temporary and contract workers for jobs that are not temporary in nature.  Employers have used short-term contracts because they allow firing with two weeks’ notice and without consulting trade unions.  Employers also tend to use civil instead of labor contracts because of ease of hiring and firing, even in situations where work performed meets all the requirements of a regular labor contract.

Polish law requires equal pay for equal work and equal treatment with respect to signing labor contracts, employment conditions, promotion, and access to training.  The law defines equal treatment as nondiscrimination in any way, directly or indirectly on the grounds of gender, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political opinion, ethnic origin, denomination, sexual orientation, and whether or not the person is employed temporarily or permanently, full time or part time.

The 1991 Law on Conflict Resolution defines the mechanism for labor dispute resolution.  It consists of four stages: first, the employer is obliged to conduct negotiations with employees; the second stage is a mediation process, including an independent mediator; if an agreement is not reached through mediation, the third stage is arbitration, which takes place at the regional court; the fourth stage of conflict resolution is a strike.

The Polish government adheres to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) core conventions and generally complies with international labor standards.  However, there are several gaps in enforcing these standards, including legal restrictions on the rights of workers to form and join independent unions.  Cumbersome procedures make it difficult for workers to meet all of the technical requirements for a legal strike.  The law prohibits collective bargaining for key civil servants, appointed or elected employees of state and municipal bodies, court judges, and prosecutors.  There were some limitations with respect to identification of victims of forced labor.  Despite prohibitions against discrimination with respect to employment or occupation, such discrimination occurs.  Authorities do not consistently enforce minimum wage, hours of work, and occupational health and safety, either in the formal or informal sectors.

The National Labor Inspectorate (NLI) is responsible for identifying possible labor violations; it may issue fines and notify the prosecutor’s office in cases of severe violations.  According to labor unions, however, the NLI does not have adequate tools to hold violators accountable and the small fines imposed as punishment are an ineffective deterrent to most employers.  The United States has no FTA or preference program (such as GSP) with Poland that includes labor standards.

The grey economy’s share in Poland’s GDP is expected to increase to 18.9 percent in 2022, from 18.3 percent in 2021, according to Poland’s Institute of Forecasts and Economic Analyses (IPAG). IPAG estimates that the total value of the shadow economy in Poland will reach EUR 126.4 billion (PLN 590 billion) in 2022. According to IPAG, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine remains a significant factor of uncertainty and may additionally boost the grey economy to 19.4 percent. According to worldeconomics.com, the size of Poland’s informal economy is estimated to be 22.4 percent which represents approximately $354 billion at GDP PPP levels.

In 2021, Poland ranked 18 in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) ranking offering women good conditions for running a business, down 12 places from 2020. According to the Mastercard report, 29 percent of companies in Poland are run by women. At the end of 2021, the share of women on the boards of the companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange was only 17 percent, a decrease by one percent compared to 2020.

According to the analysis of data from the National Court Register carried out by the Dun & Bradstreet business intelligence agency, the number of companies owned by women in Poland at the end of 2021 decreased by three percent compared to 2020 and accounted for 32.5 percent of all companies. The number of women in the position of CEO decreased from 23.5 percent to 19.5 percent and as members of management boards from 30 percent to 25 percent. According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS) data, the share of women in the Polish labor market amounts to over 40 percent.

The pandemic undoubtedly contributed to the decline in women’s business activity. According to the report of the Foundation Success Written with Lipstick, one-third of surveyed business owners and co-owners admitted that they had problems with running a business in 2021, over a quarter recorded a drop in revenues, and eight percent had to suspend activities. Every fifth entrepreneur had to change the business profile of her company due to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to dominate 2021, affecting the business world and forcing employers and employees to adapt to new working conditions. Due to the growing popularity of remote work, the Ministry of Labor has continued works aimed at introducing remote work to the provisions of the Labor Code for good. New regulations will be introduced in the first half of 2022.

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