Poland has the eighth largest economy in the European Union and the largest of all former Soviet states. The nation’s nominal GDP stands at $571.320 million in 2017, the 23rd largest in the world and translating to a nominal GDP per capita of an impressive $15,050. The Polish zloty is the official currency used in the country and is made up of 100 subunits known as groszy. To facilitate the growth of the industries, Poland has an inspiring labor force made up of an estimated 17.64 million workers.
Before WWII, Poland (then known as the Second Polish Republic), like many other Baltic nations, had agriculture as its primary economic activity. About 70% of Poland’s population was farmers during this period, many of whom were small-scale subsistence farmers. The Great Depression of the early 20th century worsened the already deplorable economic situation in the country. Polish Jews were particularly poor, and many were not able to even feed their families. The economy recorded significant growth in the 1930s after a period of increased industrialization which also triggered an increase in job opportunities in Poland’s urban regions.
Agriculture is one of Poland’s biggest industries, which while accounting for 3.8% of the country’s GDP, is responsible for 12.7% of Poland’s labor force. The industry is mostly private, as private farms make up 90% of the total farmlands. Majority of these private farmers (57%) own less than 5 hectares of farmland, and only 7% of private farms exceed 15 hectares in size in 1987. In contrast, most of the state-owned farmland was over 1,000 hectares in size. Nonetheless, most of the gross agricultural produce in Poland is attributed to private farms. 60% of the country’s land area (18.727 million hectares) is used for agricultural purposes, where 14.413 million hectares is in crop cultivation and 4.048 million hectares is used for pasture and meadows. Grains are the most important crops in the country, especially wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Poland has the world’s second-largest potato production and is the sixth-largest producer of milk and pigs in the world. Poland’s large population acts as an essential market for the country’s agricultural produce. Of the sugar produced in Poland, 83% is consumed domestically, as well as 90% of the poultry, 74% of the bacon, and 84% of the tinned meat.
Another major industry in Poland is the country’s energy industry. The country is a significant player in the global coal production and is the world’s 9th largest producer of hard coal. Poland produces about 57 megatons of brown coal and 78 megatons of hard coal. Most of the locally sourced coal in Poland is consumed domestically, as the country is Europe’s second-largest consumer of coal, with its coal consumption in Europe being only surpassed by neighboring Germany. Poland’s coal is used in the generation of electricity, with 143 TWh of Poland’s electricity being sourced from coal-based power stations. The Lodz Region in Poland is home to the Belchatow Power Station; Europe’s biggest brown coal power station, which is responsible for the generation of 20% of energy consumed in Poland. Renewable energy is also an essential aspect of the energy industry, with renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power, and hydroelectric power all significant recording growth in recent years.
The manufacturing is also a significant industry in Poland. Automotive production accounts for 11% of Poland’s total industrial output and about 4% of the country’s GDP. The country is the world’s 23rd largest vehicle manufacturer and is Eastern and Central Europe’s largest manufacturer of light vehicles. The automotive sector in Poland has grown in leaps and bounds since the collapse of the Soviet Union but experienced its most significant growth after the country became part of the European Union in 2004. Annual exports from the automotive sector are valued at over 15.7 billion Euros, translating to about 16% of the country’s total exports. The country’s manufacturing industry also features shipbuilding, the manufacture of petrochemicals and fertilizers, and the production of electronics and electrical machinery.
Tourism is another important industry in Poland. The country has always been a tourist magnet since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in the late 1980s but experienced a surge in tourist numbers after gaining membership to the European Union in 2004. Poland was regarded as the world’s 16th most popular tourist destination in 2016 after an estimated 17.5 million tourists visited the country. Poland is known for its natural sceneries and historic sites. Natural tourist attractions in the country include the Tatra Mountains and the Baltic Sea. Cities such as Warsaw, Gdansk, Torun, and Krakow have numerous sites of great historical significance. The numerous cultural events held in the country also attract thousands of tourists.
The country has recorded constant economic growth in the past 26 years since Poland instituted economic liberalization in 1990. Since then, the economic growth has been without interruption; not even the global 2007-2008 recession stopped Poland’s economy from growing, making Poland the only country in the European Union to stay clear of the recession. The EU as a whole recorded an economic growth rate of negative (-) 4.5% during the 2009 recession. In contrast, Poland’s economy grew by 1.6% in the same period. Some of the largest industries in Poland are the agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and tourism industries, which represent a bulk of the country’s GDP. There are numerous factors believed to be behind Poland’s impressive 26-year streak of economic growth. One factor behind the success is Poland’s large population (the sixth largest in the European Union), which provides the country with an internal market for its products. Poland’s economic policies are perhaps most instrumental in the country’s constant economic growth. The country has employed smart policies since breaking away from the Eastern Bloc. Unlike many countries in the EU, Poland has low public debt levels, estimated to be 50% of the country’s GDP. However, not every sphere of Poland’s economy is perfect. The country has a huge unemployment problem, with the unemployment rate reaching 11% in 2013.