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The change of Poland’s political system in 1989 and introduction of the market economy created a new situation on the labour market. In the first period of transformation, there was a rapid fall in the number of working people. As a result of a growth in unemployment and fall in incomes, the poverty range extended on an unprecedented scale. At the beginning, the government undertook only ad hoc measures. An important element of the state’s policy was to create an unemployment benefit system. Poland’s accession to the European Union had an impact on a decrease in unemployment rate, which was determined by not only emigration, but also high economic growth, an increase in expenditure for labour market programmes activating the unemployed and drawing on EU funds. The paper discusses the causes of the rapid economic growth in the transformation period and fall in unemployment in Poland after EU accession as well as its structure. It also raises the issue of the state’s policy towards unemployment and exclusion after 1989.