During communism there was no unemployment in Poland as well as in all other countries of the Eastern Block at least formally. But in reality the organization of work was poor. People earned little money. Sometimes many people were doing a work that could be done effectively by a one person. There was too much of administration and managers (and still there is). Many people were overqualified for what they were doing. They were employed in the position below their education level. This phenomenon was called hidden unemployment.
The working system was never very good after the WW II because it was promoting rather the ideology than good working habits. It also did not protect a private enterprising on the larger scale. People were able to own only small businesses. But the real disfunctional working system could be observed since late 70-es and 80-es. In this time the Polish zloty (Polish currency) lost a value so much that people were earning often not more than 20-30 USA dollars per month. People spend many hours in stores waiting in lines to be able to buy food in the fixed law price. Sometimes they did it on the expense of their work, it caused additional demoralization.
The demand was much higher than the supply. People could buy almost everything on the free market but it was terribly expensive, especially imported products. In many factories people just could not work efficiently because some parts needed for instance for a montage of a machine were unavailable so that the final product done. Why? Either the company did not have enough funds to import the needed part from abroad (since the currency's value was so low) or it was just another chain reaction., somebody else could not deliver the product waiting for somebody else.
People were travelling abroad on the massive scale either to trade goods, selling some cheap Polish products (thus even deepening the crisis) or to work illegally, especially in Germany and earn a descend money. Unfortunately it did not improve the image of Poles abroad. In late 80-es the prices for majority of products became free and ruled only by free market. It led to hyperinflation (over 1000 % per year) followed by a gradual stabilization. In that time nobody really believed in the political system and everybody was longing for a change.
How is it now? There is a big change not necessary for the better. Our economy is a free market economy, there are less state owned companies and they are usually poorer than the private companies. But… the situation is not an easy one. The unemployment is over 16% now (2002) and the social benefits are not as like they were before. This at least forced people to work as good as possible, unfortunately their work is not secure and they have less benefits. It has some negative impact into the family in general the birth rate is very low and the population is decreasing. This trend is observed among many East European countries.
There is also quite a high corruption even among our politicians - independently whether they are ex-communists or the new capitalists. The ex-communistic nomenklatura (communistic leaders' class) with time transformed itself into a new capitalist bourgeoisie The ex-communists were able to buy cheaply some of the previously state owned property (so called "Propertisation of the Nomenklatura", in Polish "uwlaszczenie nomenklatury").
What would be the best new political and economical system in Poland? Nobody knows for sure… Something different than American form of capitalism but also we do not want to come back to the Soviet communistic system.