Slovakia

   

Social Policies

#35
Key Findings
With several notable weaknesses, Slovakia scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 35) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points 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. Huge regional gaps in outcomes exist, and disadvantaged students show poor achievement levels. While health insurance is mandatory, quality and efficiency are concerns. A number of health care reform plans have stalled, but a hospital reorganization is underway.

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

A pension indexing system has been reversed, with benefit levels increased. The resulting costs may become a budgetary concern. The new prime minister has softened his predecessor’s hard rhetorical stance against refugees, agreeing to accept more migrants and easing foreign access to the Slovak labor market. Public spending on public safety is very high in international comparison.

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. The teaching profession is unattractive, therefore the graduates tend to opt for different, better paid jobs. There are huge regional disparities in teaching outcomes, and students from socially disadvantaged groups tend to achieve only half the points of their peers from socially more favorable environments. Vocational education has been neglected since the fall of communism and universities focus on non-technical education. As a result, the education system is insufficiently geared to increasing Slovakia’s economic potential in that Slovakia faces a shortage of skilled workers needed for its industry-oriented economy. In 2015, Slovakia reintroduced a dual vocational education training system, but the implementation is slow and interest among potential participants remains limited. At the beginning of 2018, there were only 2,500 students and 70 companies involved. Tertiary educational attainment has improved, but remains below EU average and 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.

After the 2016 elections the 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 was delayed by the resignation of Minister of Education Peter Plavčan and his replacement by Martina Lubyová in August 2017. At the beginning of 2018, Lubyová dissolved the Institute of Education Policy (IVP), a major analytical pillar of the ministry, and dismissed its head. After harsh criticism, the minister eventually backtracked and promised to restore the IVP. This episode illustrates the administrative chaos and the lack of political consensus that have haunted education policy in Slovakia.

Citations:
European Commission (2018): Education and Training Monitor 2018: Slovakia. Luxembourg (https://ec.europa.eu/education/resources-and-tools/document-library/education-and-training-monitor-2018-slovakia-report_en).

Social Inclusion

#21

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, however society and public policies remain rather non-inclusive. 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, gender 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. Slovakia continues to segregate Roma children and children with disabilities in education. Although showing slight improvements, 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 elderly people.

In the period under review, neither the Fico nor the Pellegrini government have done much to address these problems. In 2018, however, an old debate about improving integration opportunities for children of marginalized groups by making nursery school obligatory re-emerged. In December, the government eventually reintroduced compulsory nursery school for 5-year-olds as of September 1, 2020.

Citations:
Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights (2018): Slovak Republic: adopt a bolder approach to ensure inclusive education and strengthen the safety of journalists, March13, Strasbourg (https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/slovak-republic-adopt-a-bolder-approach-to-ensure-inclusive-education-and-strengthen-the-safety-of-journalists).

Health

#37

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. 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 average age of medical doctors ranges between 55-57 years.

After the 2016 elections, the Fico government 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 became operational in January 2018. By contrast, other initiatives such as the implementation of a new integrated care model have been stalled. Under the new prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, Minister of Health Tomáš Drucker became Minister of the Interior and was replaced by the former state secretary Andrea Kalavská. In July 2018, Pellegrini himself announced new plans for hospital reforms that focused on introducing a stronger differentiation between general hospitals and those with a specialized or highly specialized focus.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): Country Report Slovakia 2019. SWD(2019) 1024 final, Brussels, 20-22 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/2019-european-semester-country-report-slovakia_en_0.pdf).

Families

#38

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. Slovakia is among the countries with the highest level of discouraging impact as a result of motherhood and care on employment. Childcare facilities have remained limited since the late 1990s’ and have not kept up with the increase in birth rates. Childcare 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 Fico and the Pellegrini governments have paid more attention to the expansion of childcare facilities and have begun to shift the focus of family policy away from cash benefits. Since January 2018, the Social Services Act has expanded access to childcare to unemployed parents, on the condition that their child does not take the place of a child whose parents are employed or in education. In December 2018, the Pellegrini government reintroduced compulsory nursery school for 5-year-old children as of September 2020.

Citations:
European Commission (2018): Education and Training Monitor 2018: Slovakia. Luxembourg (https://ec.europa.eu/education/resources-and-tools/document-library/education-a nd-training-monitor-2018-slovakia-report_en).

Pensions

#20

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. These changes have improved the situation of pensioners, but have reduced the financial sustainability of the first pension pillar. In May 2018, Smer-SD launched a debate about capping the envisaged gradual increase in the retirement age at 65.

Integration

#35

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 due to a shortage of labor. 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 Czechia, Hungary, Poland or Ukraine. Although the Slovakian economy desperately needs foreign labor, successive governments have failed to formulate a clear integration policy. During the 2016 election campaign, Prime Minister Fico instrumentalized the issue of migration and fueled anti-refugee sentiments by implicitly linking refugees to the threat of terrorism. In the context of the EU refugee crisis, his government opposed mandatory quotas for distributing refugees within the European Union. It even filed a lawsuit 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.

Since Fico’s resignation, the government has softened its strong anti-immigration stance. At the EU Summit in June 2018, new Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini agreed to accept 1,200 migrants. Moreover, the government has announced plans to ease foreign access to the Slovak labor market. First measures include the removal of the obligation to provide evidence of education for certain professions, a reduction in the number of documents needed to obtain a work permit, as well as a more frequent updating of the list of vacant jobs. However, the state administration still enjoys a high degree of discretion in granting permission for recruitment of workers from non-EU countries.

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).

Safe Living

#35

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.
Internal Security Policy
7
Although government spending on public order and safety is among the highest in the EU and the actual levels of crimes against rank-and-file citizens is low, internal security has been one of the major political issues in Slovakia for some time. While the homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) stands at 0.8 and is much lower than the OECD average of 3.6, only 60% of people say that they feel safe walking alone at night, which is less than the OECD average of 69%. The subjective feeling of security in private or public space or has decreased due to several factors. First, from the beginning of the EU refugee crisis, almost all politicians, headed by Prime Minister Fico, fueled fears by painting negative consequences of the migration crisis. Second, since the murder of the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, trust in the police and security forces has dramatically dropped. Third, a brutal attack in central Bratislava in May 2018 on Filipino expat Henry Acorda, who later died as a result of his injuries, sparked debates about no-go zones and the safety of people, particularly foreigners, in the capital and became a topic in the campaign for the municipal elections in November 2018.

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

N.N. (2018): What institutions do Slovaks trust the most? in Slovak Spectator, July 23 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20876623/slovaks-trust-the-slovak-academy-of-sciences-the-most.html).

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), with which it shares similar experiences of transformation.

In 2018, Slovakia took part in the 2018 voluntary national review of the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and has started to draw up a medium-term strategy for development cooperation for 2019-2030. While official development assistance has continued to increase, there is still no set plan how to achieve the country’s official target of slating 0.33% of GNI for ODA by 2030.

Citations:
OECD (2019): Development Co-Operation Peer Review Slovakia 2019. Paris.
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