Government policy aims at sustaining economic growth as the way to solve the problem of unemployment. In 1999 an estimated 12 percent of Poland's work-force of 17.2 million were unemployed. Poland is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and participates in all major world and European treaties protecting personal freedoms, rights of expression, and free association. The tradition of independent trade union organization started with Solidarity, which was a major force behind the transition to democracy and a market-oriented economy.
Workers continue to be organized in 2 major trade union organizations: Solidarity, which continues the traditions of the organization born in the summer of 1980; and the trade union organizations formed from the former government-sponsored and controlled unions that predated Solidarity. There is also a very aggressive teachers' union, which was opposed to the government-sponsored school reforms and the associated performance-based evaluation. Part of the reform included the change of the retirement age from 55 years of age to 60 years. However, none of the changes violated any domestic or international legal standard.
Disputes resulting from employment contracts are handled by special courts. These courts deal only with conflicts between employers and employees. Children under 16 years of age are not allowed to work. On farms, however, some children may help parents with regular chores or at harvest. However, no widespread use of underage children is required because many farms are small and they are relatively well equipped with machinery. Pregnant women receive special treatment. After delivery, a woman can take up to 12 months of unpaid leave, while her job is protected.
Increasingly, education influences the type of job and pay a person receives. The link between education and pay explains the increasing demand for education and the rapidly growing number of college and university students.