Poland Population and Economy 1998
After the well-known territorial variations that occurred in the 20th century and the related population shifts, Poland is today a national state with very few ethnic minorities. Less of ‘ 1 % of the population is Ukrainian and Belarusian language, the 0, 5 % of German; the rest speak Polish and the vast majority profess the Catholic religion. In the nineties the rate of population growth (38. 718. 000 residents in 1998) has declined substantially, falling to 2It is annual, not only due to the sharp decrease in the birth rate, but also due to emigration, which, once the government restrictions ended, recorded a notable surge especially in the first half of the decade.
The Polish urban network is polycentric and among the most balanced in Europe; it relies on various regional metropolises of 400,000 ÷ 800. 000 residents each, which are often also important industrial cities, well distributed in the country: Gdansk in the north, Szczecin in the north-west, Poznań and Wroclaw in the west, the conurbation of Katowice and Krakow in the south, Lublin in the east, Bydgoszcz and above all Łódź (the largest) in the center. The capital, Warsaw (1. 632 500 residents In 1997), is one of the traditional European cities and centralizes most of the service functions of existing higher level in the country. Following an administrative reform, which entered into force on 1January 1999, the Poland is now divided into 16 voivodships; previously it was 49.
According to healthinclude, the Polish economy maintains good characteristics of equilibrium, both in the division of activities between the productive sectors and in the territorial distribution of productive potentials. The macroeconomic indicators are fairly stable, which, unlike the other former socialist countries, did not suffer particular traumas during the transition to the market economy. Privatizations, which developed both through widespread share ownership and through the work of foreign investors, have spread without problems. GDP recorded constant growth during the 1990s, mainly driven by domestic demand.
Despite having revealed itself in recent years as the most fragile of the productive sectors, agriculture continues to play an important role in the economy of Poland, especially in its northern regions: more than a fifth of the active population, an exceptional value for a developed country, continues to work in agriculture (always based on private ownership of land). The undulating or flat expanses, which decline from the South to the North of the country, lend themselves to the cultivation of cereals: Poland is a good producer of wheat and barley (in 1998, respectively, 95.4 and 36.1 million q), is second in Europe (excluding the Russian Federation) for oats, and is even the first world producer of rye (56.6 million q). The same goes for weeding plants: for potatoes (259.5 million q in 1998) the country is the third in the world after China and the Russian Federation, and sugar beet production is also very significant. Less important are horticultural products and tree crops (however, the production of apples is noteworthy). Breeding is very widespread, especially of pigs (19.1 million head in 1998), but also of cattle and poultry, and sea fishing is practiced with profit.
The large Polish coalfields continue to be intensively exploited and with 139.9 million tonnes of coal extracted in 1997 make Poland the first European coal country (excluding the Russian Federation). Brown coal is also abundant (62 million tonnes), while oil production is scarce and crude oil is still imported from the Russian Federation and processed in a series of refineries aligned along the Friendship pipeline. Poland has excellent positions in the European rankings of producers of metallic minerals (lead, copper, zinc) and also of precious metals such as silver, of which the country is one of the largest suppliers in the world. The production of electricity continues to be largely based on the combustion of coal, while a setback has occurred in the use of nuclear power (construction of the Żarnowiec power plant on the Baltic has been suspended) (see fig.).
Thanks to its mineral wealth, Poland is endowed, especially in its southern part, with an important steel, metallurgical and mechanical industry; of the latter the sector of construction of means of transport is particularly developed (railway material, motor vehicles, shipyards, the latter in the North: Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin). Another traditional Polish industry which is rapidly modernizing is the textile industry, concentrated in the Łódź area for cotton and in southern Poland for wool. There is of course a robust chemical industry, linked to the production of coal, the importation of oil and also to various salt deposits.
All these economic activities feed a differentiated foreign trade, which sees export, as main items, industrial products, but also raw materials such as coal and metals. Poland’s main trading partner – COMECON is now only a memory – is by far its rich western neighbor, Germany; Italy follows and only in third place is the Russian Federation, followed by Great Britain, France and the United States. Seaside tourism on the Baltic is making its way into the tertiary economy.