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Polish MPs back plan for more child benefits

Polish lawmakers in the early hours of Friday backed a plan by the country’s governing conservatives to offer benefits to all families with children.

The measure passed in a 379-20 vote with eight abstentions in the lower house of parliament, public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, the upper house of Poland’s parliament, for further debate.

The Polish government last week approved a plan to expand its flagship child benefit programme to include all families with children under 18 regardless of income.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters at the time that the “Family 500+” programme, which was launched on April 1, 2016, opened up new prospects for Polish families and encouraged them to have more children.

In an earlier statement, Morawiecki said that the programme introduced by his governing conservatives three years ago was an investment in the nation’s future.

Social policy minister Elżbieta Rafalska told reporters last month that the “Family 500+” initiative was benefiting more than 3.6 million children nationwide.

Rafalska said last week that the Polish government’s generous family support system will cover 6.8 million children nationwide after it is expanded in July.

Poland’s socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government, which came to power in late 2015, aims to ease the burdens of child rearing by giving families with two or more children a handout of PLN 500 (EUR 116, USD 130) a month per child.

Poorer families receive the allowance even if they have just one child.

Under new rules approved by Polish lawmakers on Friday, the “Family 500+” programme is set to be expanded to include all single-child families regardless of income.

If backed by both houses of parliament and signed into law by the president, the new rules are expected to come into effect on July 1.

Poland spends 2.7 percent of its GDP on state benefits for families and children—one of the highest figures in the 28-nation European Union, according to a newspaper.

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