How Poland Became a Middle-Class Society
Polish elites built a growing economy around small business. A lack of large functional high-tech firms as well as energy and demographic challenges frustrate the quest to make Poland a middle power.
With nearly 40 million people, Poland is the most populous Eastern European country and one of the most populous countries in the European Union. From 1990 to 2021, Poland’s GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power tripled, growing more than any other major country in Europe, at a comparable rate to other rapidly growing economies like South Korea or Turkey.1 It is now comparable to Japan’s and surpasses EU member states like Croatia, Greece, and Portugal.2 Given expected growth rates, Poland is projected to become more affluent than the United Kingdom by 2030, in what would be a watershed moment for global development trends.3 For the approximately 170 million people who live in the former communist bloc in Eastern Europe, excluding Russia, Poland is the ideal test case for economic growth, affluence, and relevance as a middle power.