Demographic development of cities in Poland - urbanisation as a result of post-war industrialisation

Andrzej D. Raczaszek, University of Economics, Katowice, Poland

During the interwar period Poland was an agricultural-industrial country. Population of very few cities increased due to economic investments (Gdynia, Mielec, Stalowa Wola). The changes were triggered by government's decisions concerning economic reconstruction. Still, over 50% of population lived in rural areas. After the 2nd World War, the post-war recovery and rebuilding were accompanied by accelerated industrialisation. Political changes facilitated social changes and industrialisation triggered inner migrations, which resulted in quick development of the cities. Already in the 60's, population distribution changed. The percentage of citizens living in urban areas exceeded 50% and the government proudly proclaimed that the post-war, socialist Poland had become an industrial-agricultural country. Government's decision to invest in industry boosted demographic development of some cities (Łódź, Cracow, the cities of the Upper Silesia Industrial Region and Rybnik Coal Area, Legnica, Tarnobrzeg). Therefore, it can be concluded that, due to industrialisation, Poland underwent quicker urbanisation, which lasted till the end of the 80's. Such changes in population distribution cannot be observed during the political-economic transformation. Great, national investments in industry ended. Only in very few cases it is still a factor contributing to population growth (Bełchatów, Płock). Labour resources shifted to services sector and the cities are searching for other ways of attracting population. Development of administration, cultural, scientific and metropolitan functions is gaining significance (Warsaw, Cracow, Białystok). These tendencies oppose the middle class trend – to live in suburban areas. These observations are typical of countries with developed market economy, where social factors significantly affect population distribution, Poland too. In most cases the population of the cities decreases, while the population of suburban communes and poviats keeps growing. The urbanisation index first levelled off at around 62% and now it has even started to rise. Thus, industrialisation is no longer the main factor affecting urbanisation level.

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Presented in Poster Session 1

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