December 26, 2023
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Poland in the 21st century – one of the most unequal countries in Europe

Poland has experienced the fastest growth in Europe during its transition from communism to a market economy, with real average national income per capita more than doubling since 1990. But over the same period, Poland has also gone from being one of the most equal countries in Europe to one of the most unequal.

In this paper, Paweł Bukowski, Paweł Chrostek, Filip Novokmet and Marek Skawiński combine micro-level tax data, household surveys and national accounts data to provide consistent series of income distribution in Poland over the 2000-2018 period.

Key findings:

  • Inequalities in Poland are one of the largest in Europe. In 2018, the share of income accrued to the top 10% is 37.4%, to the middle 40% is 41.1%, and to the bottom 50% is 21.5%. The top 1% earns 13.4% of the total income.
  • The increase in income inequality during this period was largely driven by high business incomes in top income shares.
  • The extent of redistribution in Poland is modest. The tax system is regressive at the top of the income distribution due to lower taxation of business income and the low burden of social contributions.
  • Top income groups are dominated by business owners, males, and big city dwellers, and these groups have been the largest beneficiaries of Poland’s strong growth since 2000.
  • Gender inequality has been high and stable in Poland, with a steeply decreasing female share with income rank (e.g. the share of females in top 0.1% group was 18% in 2018).


  •  Paweł Bukowski, University College London; London School of Economics; Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Paweł Chrostek, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Poland; Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Filip Novokmet, University of Bonn; World Inequality Lab
  • Marek Skawiński, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Poland


  •  press[at]