Slovakia

   

Social Policies

#32
Key Findings
With several notable weaknesses, Slovakia scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 32) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Education funding is rising, but remains very low in comparative terms. A new dual vocational-training system has drawn only limited interest. A new strategy seeks to reduce education gaps within the Roma community. Health insurance is mandatory, but quality and efficiency are concerns. Emigration by doctors and nurses to other EU countries has resulted in staff shortages.

The poverty risk is low, but regional disparities are strong. The Roma community is badly marginalized. Women bear primary domestic responsibilities, with child-care provision limited. The government has begun to shift focus from cash benefits to child care. However, women’s employment rates remain quite low, especially for parents.

A pension indexing system has been reversed, with benefit levels increased. The resulting costs may become a budgetary concern. The prime minister opposed EU refugee-distribution policy, publicly associating migrants with the threat of terrorism. Public spending on domestic security and public order is now the highest in the European Union as a percentage of GDP.

Education

#36

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
4
The Slovak education system has suffered from a number of weaknesses. While public spending on education has risen, its level is still among the lowest in the European Union. Teachers’ education is inadequate and the teaching profession is unattractive. Because vocational education is underdeveloped and universities focus on non-technical education, Slovakia faces a shortage of skilled workers needed for its industry-oriented economy. In consequence, the education system is insufficiently geared to increasing Slovakia’s economic potential. In 2015, Slovakia introduced a dual vocational education training system, but interest among potential participants remains limited. Tertiary educational attainment has improved, but quality control in higher education does not meet international standards. The implementation of the anti-segregation legislation adopted mid-2015 in order to improve education for Roma children has been hindered by low teacher participation and a lack of teachers able to teach in multicultural settings.

Upon coming to office, the third Fico government, as one of its priorities, announced the drafting of a 10-year National Education and Training Development Program by the end of 2016. However, the finalization and implementation of the reform program developed and presented in March 2013 by an independent expert commission was delayed by the resignation of Minister of Education Peter Plavčan and his replacement by Martina Lubyová in August 2017. The latter dissolved the Institute of Education Policy (IVP) which had been a major analytical pillar of the ministry and had been strongly involved in the drafting the new program. At the beginning of 2017, a new action plan (Strategy of the Slovak Republic for the Integration of the Roma until 2020) was approved for 2016 – 2018 which means that €170 million will go to education in order to reduce the difference between levels of education of the Roma compared to the national average.

Citations:
European Commission (2017): Education and Training Monitor 2017. Luxembourg (https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/monitor2017-sk_en.pdf).

Ministry of Finance (2017): National Reform Programme of the Slovak Republic 2017. Bratislava, 23-28 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2017-european-semester-national-refo rm-programme-slovakia-en.pdf).

Social Inclusion

#22

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
5
The Slovak social-protection system covers standard social risks. Due to the country’s relatively uniform income distribution, recently growing employment and a redistributive social policy, income inequality and the risk of poverty remain relatively low. However, there are substantial differences between regions and ethnic groups. As measured by the regional Gini coefficient, Slovakia stands out as the country with the highest regional disparities in the European Union. Roma and children from disadvantaged families continue to be the groups most at risk of social exclusion. The poverty rate among Roma is more than six times higher than for the general population and also higher than in other societies with sizable Roma populations. Access to the labor market, especially for women and people living in the east and north, has remained a challenge. The main reasons for this phenomenon are the combination of low growth and job creation in the country’s poorer regions, as well as an insufficient infrastructure and incentives for regional labor mobility to job-rich areas. The underdeveloped long-term care system infringes upon the social inclusion of elderly and frail people.

Citations:
IMF (2017): Slovak Republic: Selected Issues. IMF Country Report No. 17/72, Washington, D.C., 2-14 (http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2017/03/23/Slovak-Republic-Selected-Issues-44751).

Health

#35

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
4
Slovakia has a mandatory health-insurance system that provides all residents with primary, secondary and tertiary care, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The state covers the health-insurance costs of children, students, pensioners, the (registered) unemployed and women on maternity leave. From a comparative perspective, the quality and efficiency of health care services are relatively low. A government spending review published in autumn 2016 showed that there is significant scope to increase the cost-effectiveness of various areas of health care. Population aging, bad working conditions in the Slovak health sector and mass migration of doctors and nurses to other EU countries have resulted in a shortage of staff. The Slovak Medical Chamber estimates that Slovakia has a shortfall of about 3,000 doctors. If those who have already reached retirement age but are still practicing are counted, then the deficit reaches 5,000 doctors.

The third Fico government initially announced that it would replace the existing reform strategy for 2014 – 2020 with a new and updated strategy, but failed to do so. The implementation of the existing strategy has proceeded slowly and selectively. In 2017, the gradual introduction of DRGs in hospital financing started. After eight years of preparation, the new e-health system is scheduled to become operational in January 2018. Little has been done to tackle the widespread corruption in the health care system. Some steps have been taken in the period under review (rationalization of hospital care) but other initiatives have stalled, such as the integrated care model.

Citations:
Ministry of Finance (2017): National Reform Programme of the Slovak Republic 2017. Bratislava, 44-47. (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2017-european-semester-national-refo rm-programme-slovakia-en.pdf).

OECD (2017): Economic Survey Slovak Republic. Paris, Chap. 2.

Families

#39

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
4
In Slovakia, traditional notions of the family are still fairly strong. Mothers of children under two years of age rarely work, the employment rate for women (25-49) with children below six years of age reaches a mere 40%, and the gender employment gap for young women (20-29) is among the highest in the European Union. Working women face an enormous double burden of both professional and domestic responsibilities. This situation is reinforced by the low incidence of part-time employment, income tax splitting and the relatively long duration of parental leave. Child care facilities are limited and have not kept up with the increase in birth rates. Child care for children under three years of age in particular continues to be virtually unavailable. Larger towns have insufficient kindergarten slots. Compared to its predecessors, the third Fico government has paid more attention to the expansion of child care facilities and has begun to shift the focus of family policy away from cash benefits. However, = a legal framework for child care services is still missing.

Pensions

#18

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
5
Slovakia introduced a three-pillar pension system along World Bank lines in 2004. From 2012 to 2015, the Fico government adopted a number of measures aimed at strengthening the first (public, pay-as-you-go) system to the detriment of the originally relatively strong second (private, fully funded) pillar. These changes have re-increased the role of the state in providing for the elderly, and have given the pension system a more redistributive nature. In order to limit the pressure on the first pillar associated with a rapidly aging Slovak population, the indexation of pensions was gradually changed between 2013 and 2017. Instead of being indexed to the growth of the average wage and the consumer price index (i.e., inflation), the annual adjustment of pensions became dependent on the development of the cost of living of pensioners. In 2017, however, the government reneged on the change in indexation. An ad hoc increase of pensions by 2% in 2017 was followed by the guarantee of a pension increase of at least 2% of an average pension for the period 2018 – 2021. The Council for Budgetary Responsibility and others have warned of the costs for the first pillar resulting from these increases.

Citations:
Minarechová, R. (2017): Valorisation mechanism changes, in: Slovak Spectator, November 11, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20690030/valorisation-mechanism-changes.html).

Integration

#32

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
3
While the share of foreigners in the Slovak population is still relatively low compared to most other EU countries, the inflow of migrants has increased in recent years. The 105,000 foreigners living in Slovakia in 2017 accounted for 1.92% of the population. More than half were workers; about 40% of came from Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland or Ukraine. From January to June 2017, the Slovak Republic granted asylum to 18 people.

Despite the growing labor shortage, the second and third Fico governments have done little to develop consistent and sustainable policies for migrant integration. The second Fico government passed a new document on integration policy that largely embraced the Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the European Union. Largely implementing EU directives, the third Fico government reduced barriers to the arrival, stay and employment of foreigners from outside the European Union by an amendment to the Act on Residence of Foreigners that went into effect on 1 November 2016. In the context of the EU refugee crisis, Prime Minister Fico has continued to oppose mandatory quotas for distributing refugees within the European Union. He filed a law suit against the European Council for adopting the quota mechanism in December 2015, which was eventually dismissed by the European Court of Justice in September 2017. During the 2016 election campaign, Fico instrumentalized the issue of migration and fueled anti-refugee sentiments by implicitly linking refugees to the threat of terrorism. In May 2016, shortly before Slovakia took over the EU presidency, Fico stated that “Islam has no place in this country.”

Citations:
International Organization for Migration / Office for the Slovak Republic (2018): Migration in Slovakia. Bratislava (http://www.iom.sk/en/about-migration/migration-in-slovakia).

Terenzani, M. (2017): Refugee quota lawsuit is dead, in: Slovak Spectator, September 6, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20642573/slovakias-lawsuit-against-the-eu-dismissed.html).

Safe Living

#24

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
7
Internal security has been a major issue in Slovakia since the onset of the EU refugee crisis. Prime Minister Fico has pursued a double-track strategy on this issue. For one, he has helped fuel fears by issuing a series of negative public statements regarding migrants. For another, the Fico government has sought to demonstrate its commitment to battling crime and terrorism by approving fast-track anti-terrorism legislation that made the prolonged detention of suspected terrorists possible. In addition, the Fico government has established a special police unit of 300 officers in charge of protecting of the Schengen Area’s external borders and increased public spending on domestic security and public order, which, as a percentage of GDP, is now the highest in the European Union. While only 60% of people say that they feel safe walking alone at night, which is less than the OECD average of 69%, the homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is 0.8, much lower than the OECD average of 3.6.

Citations:
OECD, Better Life Index (http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/safety/).

Global Inequalities

#26

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
6
Slovakia ceased to receive World Bank development aid in 2008, and has been a donor of development assistance ever since. In September 2013, the country became the 27th member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee. However, official development assistance (ODA) has remained substantially below the EU target of 0.33% of GNI. Slovakia’s top priorities with regard to ODA, as formulated in an official strategy for 2014 – 2018, include education and health care as well as the strengthening of stability and good governance in regions and countries that are of special interest to Slovakia. In line with this strategy, Slovakia focuses its bilateral development cooperation on three countries (Afghanistan, Kenya and South Sudan) as well as on several countries in the Western Balkans (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia), Eastern Europe (Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and Africa (Tunisia), which it shares similar experiences of transformation. In 2017, the Slovak government approved an extraordinary contribution of €1 million to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa aimed at tackling causes of illegal migration.
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