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Pensions. Minister Maląg and charts on pensions. “Manipulation for Propaganda”

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The Minister of Family and Social Policy Marlena Maląg, wanting to show how her government, unlike the PO-PSL governments, cares for pensioners, conducted a “specific verification on the example of numbers”. Experts explain why the charts shown by her do not represent the truth and are rather “manipulation for propaganda purposes”.

Minister Maląg reacted on Twitter to the words of Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Platform, which were spoken at a meeting with seniors on March 24 in Chorzów. “They (the rulers – ed.) take a lot of money from all of us, including pensioners. Some they steal, some they give back, saying that they give you thirteen and fourteen” – said Tusk to the participants of the meeting. “By the way, they gave us such inflation that if you add thirteen, fourteen and valorization, and then compare it with high prices, pensioners in Poland have become poorer despite the thirteen and fourteen” – he added. Tusk also spoke about it on March 25 at a meeting in Sosnowiec: “Polish pensions, despite the 13 and 14, despite indexation, lose value, not gain.”

On March 24, Marlena Maląg posted two tweets on her profile. In the first one, she wrote: “Donald Tusk attacks the PiS government for taking money from seniors. Decent #valorization, #13Emerytura, #14Emerytura, #EmeryturaBezPodatku – this is the kind of support that seniors currently receive. I wonder how you would describe 2015 when PO was in power? Who took the money? seniors?”. She illustrated the entry with a chart signed: “Additional support for seniors” – the bars show that in 2015 it amounted to PLN 3.62 billion, and in 2023 – PLN 70 billion.

Chart of the Minister of Family and Social Policy showing “extra support for seniors”Twitter

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In the next tweet, Minister Maląg wrote: “Specific verification on the example of numbers. This is what the net pension looks like on the example of 2008, 2015 and 2023. The #13Emerytura, #14Emerytura and #EmeryturaBezPodatku programs translate into the state of the portfolio of Polish seniors.” Here a graph signed “Minimum pension (net)” has been added. At the bars corresponding to the years 2008 and 2015 (PO-PSL governments) there are amounts of PLN 556 and PLN 757, respectively, and the percentage of increase shown: 36 percent. By the bars corresponding to the years of the United Right’s rule, there are the following amounts: 2016 – PLN 759, 2023 – PLN 1,445 and an increase of 90% is marked here, while the bar for 2023 shows the amount of PLN 1,635 and the annotation that the 13th and 14th pensions were included and indexation at the level of 14.8 percent. In addition, it was noted that the increase between 2016 and 2023 is 115 percent. This tweet by Minister Maląg had over 17.6 thousand likes. views.

Minister Marlena Maląg presents data on the increase in minimum pensionsTwitter

“Ma’am, it’s not right to lie”

Both entries by the family minister resulted in almost 600 comments from Internet users – mostly critical, accusing the author of manipulation. Economists also reacted by showing the other side of the coin, i.e. the real value of pensions. Among the commentators was Prof. Sławomir Kalinowski, head of the Department of Rural Economics at the Institute of Rural Development and Agriculture of the Polish Academy of Sciences. “And here on the chart you can see what were the changes in the pension in relation to inflation. Last year, a clear decrease in the real value of the pension can be observed. Dear Madam, it is not proper to lie…” – he wrote, posting a line chart of two data: inflation growth and average growth pension. This chart shows that after 2021, the increase in inflation is higher than the increase in the average pension.

Prof. Sławomir Kalinowski on pensions in relation to inflation Twitter

In turn, Alicja Defratyka, an economist who runs the economic blog Interestingliczby.pl, in response to Minister Maląg, showed other data showing that the situation of pensioners is not as good as the Minister of Family is trying to show. “During the rule of PiS in the years 2015-2022, the number of people who received a pension from ZUS lower than the minimum in a given year (the so-called starvation pension) increased almost 5 times – an increase by 289 thousand people (from 76.3 thousand in 2015 to 365.3 thousand in 2022)” – she wrote, attaching a chart illustrating it.

An increase in the number of pensioners with a pension lower than the minimum Twitter

The expert explains why the comparison of net amounts is imprecise and how the percentage increase is correctly stated

We asked the Pension Institute, a think-tank specializing in pensions, to analyze the charts presented by Minister Maląg. Referring to the minister’s entry on the amount of minimum pensions, the president of the Pension Institute, Dr. Antoni Kolek, wrote: “Comparing the amount of net benefits is very difficult. It is necessary to specify what net benefits are meant.” He explains: “The pension system and the tax system create many solutions that allow the use of reliefs and deductions, so using net amounts as an average for the entire population is questionable.”

Dr. Kolek also carried out a “specific verification on the example of numbers” (as Minister Maląg wrote in a tweet). “If we assume that the lowest pension in 2015 was PLN 880.45 (gross – ed.), which means that it was 50.3 percent of the minimum wage (PLN 1,750 gross), and in 2023 it is PLN 1,588.44 (gross) , i.e. 45.5 percent of the minimum wage PLN 3,490 (gross), it can be said that the situation of people receiving the lowest pension compared to those working on the minimum wage she hasn’t improved at all” – writes the president of the Pension Institute in the analysis for Konkret24. In addition, he draws attention to the data on the percentage increase in pensions on the ministry’s charts: “Giving the increase alone without a reference point is of little value and says little about the circumstances of the increase in the amount of benefits.”

Equalizing the purchasing power of pensions is not ‘extra support’

Presenting “additional” support for seniors, the minister showed that in 2015 it amounted to PLN 3.62 billion, while in 2023 it will amount to PLN 70 billion. At the same time, this chart does not explain what this PLN 70 billion is supposed to consist of.

“It seems that these data are used for a political purpose and are supposed to show the scale of ‘support’, but it is worth remembering that the 14s in 2023 are only announced and so far there are no regulations in the Polish legal order allowing for the payment of 14- tek in 2023” – the head of the Pension Institute comments on this chart. “So, from the amount of PLN 70 billion, PLN 14 billion should be subtracted at the very beginning” – he enumerates. And reminds that in 2015 the indexation of benefits consisted in increasing the amount of the benefit in the amount due on February 28, 2015 with the indexation ratio of 100.68%.

Here it is necessary to explain the mechanism of indexation of pension benefits. It is described in the second chapter the Act on old-age and disability pensions from the Social Insurance Fund. In Art. 88 states that old-age and disability pensions are indexed every year from March 1, and the indexation consists in multiplying the amount of the benefit and the basis for its assessment by the indexation index. The indexation index is calculated on the basis of Art. 89:

The valorization index is the average annual price index of consumer goods and services in the previous calendar year increased by at least 20%. real increase in the average salary in the previous calendar year.

Hence, in economic analyses, the amount of pensions is related to inflation (as Prof. Kalinowski wrote about) and to the average wage (as Dr. Kolek points out).

Thus, the indexation rate in 2015 was 100.68%. was due to the fact that the average annual inflation for 2014 was 0.0 percent. – such data was provided by the Central Statistical Office. Thus, with zero inflation, the increase in benefits resulted from the increase in salaries and in real terms increased the amount of pensions. “It can therefore be said that the support in 2015 was greater, because it increased the purchasing power of benefits” – explains Dr. Kolek. And he adds: “In turn, in 2023, the Minister talks about support, but does not mention that the record indexation is due to record inflation.”

The indexation rate in 2023 was 114.8%. “It’s hard to talk about support here, but only about maintaining the value of the benefit compared to the previous year” – emphasizes the head of the Pension Institute. As he calculates, the government must allocate about PLN 42 billion for this purpose. “While in 2015 we can actually talk about funds exceeding inflation, in 2023 indexation only compensates for the lost purchasing power of benefits. Therefore, the only above-standard benefit in 2023 may be the 13th – it must be admitted that this benefit was not available in 2015” – says Dr. Kolek. “The Minister compared various streams of funds, suggesting that they concern ‘senior support’ – such a comparison is manipulation for propaganda purposes rather than a reliable presentation of data” – sums up the expert.

Main photo source: Tomasz Gzell/PAP

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