A Ban on Polish Sunday Trade: Still Not Enough People in Church?

By Fiona Haze and Zofia Ciołek

As the new year began, so did the new plan for 2020 Sunday trade bans in Poland. As of this year, there will only be 7 Shopping days when stores and shopping malls will be open. These include January 26th, April 5, April 26th, June 28th, August 30th, December 13th and December 20th. 

A church in Konstancin Jeziorna.

How did all of this happen? Starting 2018, for the first time since 1990 and the fall of Communism, Sunday trade bans were re-introduced in Poland by the current government, Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (PiS). In 2018, two Sundays a month were closed, rising to three Sundays a month in 2019. This year, only seven Sundays will be open. 

According to Rafał Chabasiński of Bezprawnik, many speculate that potentially the most important reason for why PiS had decided to ban more Sundays during the year is because of their cooperation with the church, which has been losing church-goers for years, with numbers dropping from 53% in 1995 to 36,5% in 2018. However, the majority of them tend to be older adults, as statistics taken from 18 – 25 year olds had shown that although roughly eight out of ten surveyed considered themselves Catholic, only sixteen percent actively went to mass every Sunday. Looking at it from the perspective of young people, one can infer that some would prefer to spend their days in the city rather than in church. 2019 statistics are soon to be released.

Not everything in Warsaw is going to be closed on Sundays: there will still be some places in the city for people to go to. Cinemas, restaurants, cafes, small local stores where the owner can work, gas stations, flower shops, and pharmacies are still open to the public. Shopping malls can also be open; however, most stores inside of them will be closed. 

Some of the immediate effects of the trade ban can be seen when looking at supermarkets. Mr. Dachpian, a DP Economics teacher, states that large enterprises such as Tesco have already scaled down on their store count in Poland. “We can see the effect of the Sunday trade ban at the Kabaty Tesco. In May, Tesco said that it would close 13 stores in Poland resulting in 2,200 jobs at risk,” he concludes. “Tesco has stated that it has considered selling off it’s Polish division due to rising competition and the Sunday trade ban with an operating loss of 11 mill GBP. Large retail stores like Lidl and Biedronka–they have managed to combat the negative effects of the Sunday trade ban though advertisement, marketing, and discount strategies.”

How have the trading bans restricted the students of ASW and what does the community know about them? Julia Y. (11) states that she knows that the trading bans were introduced a couple of years ago and that they [PiS] have been cutting down the number of Sundays which are open for shopping as the years go by. She also says that she honestly doesn’t know why these laws were enforced in the first place.

Julia Y. also lets Warrior News know that she personally believes that it is wrong that the government is able to control people’s life choices, like which days they choose to go shopping. She believes that PiS are trying to get more people to go to church on Sundays. Overall, she believes that the trade bans are a step backwards for Poland, instead of something developing a more modern country. 

She also states that the fact that PiS is “protecting their ‘traditional’ values and families (like having shops closed on Sundays), creating LGBTQ- free zones and overall becoming a less democractic country is setting them back, which gives Poland a poor image on the international scale.” 

Mr. Dachpian also touches on the fact that the Sunday trade ban can harm smaller businesses. “As the trade ban grows more strict from 2 Sundays a month to 3 and eventually 4, we will see a loss for small businesses, the very sector of business the trade ban was supposed to help,” states Mr. Dachpian. “Eventually we will see an increase in bankruptcy of small businesses causing unemployment numbers to increase…but for how long? Will the large retailers make up for the loss eventually? It is difficult to say. It might be obvious to state that taking away a day for consumers to spend money would result in a decrease of consumer spending, which then leads to a decrease in production, which leads to an increase in unemployment, which will ultimately lead to a decrease in Poland’s gross domestic product.” 

All of that said, Mr. Dachpian acknowledged the argument made by the Sunday trade ban’s supporters, that one can purchase products on other days. According to that line of thinking, it is still too soon to determine any concrete effects the Sunday trade ban has on the Polish economy. 

When it comes to the possible effects of the trade ban, Julia Y. states that she believes that Sunday trade bans do hinder people from completing basic errands and that it is even harder now since Saturdays in shopping malls are packed with people. This creates a hectic and stressful environment. Personally, she believes that it feels like it’s a waste of a day: she is unable to walk around, even if she isn’t looking for anything specific to buy. 

Looking at the long term economic effects, Mr. Dachpian agrees that from his point of view as a foreigner with two small children working a traditional Monday through Friday job, the Sunday trade ban in the long term would be a bad idea. “The answer to this question depends on the purpose of the Sunday trade ban. Was the benefit outweighed by the cost of the Sunday trade ban? Small business owners would say yes, this was a bad idea. PiS party members who saw this as an opportunity to increase their voter base might see the increase in PiS party voters as greater than the economic costs.”

The Sunday trade ban has been a hot topic within both the Polish and international community residing in the country. Is it a way to get more people to come to mass? A mere inconvenience? Another restriction created by the Polish government? Or is it simply a cry for shortening working hours and more quality family time for people who would usually work Sundays? Will this be a hit to Poland’s economy, or will the topic soon be forgotten? Only time can tell. 

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