Slovakia

   

Social Policies

#34
Key Findings
With several notable weaknesses, Slovakia scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 34) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

Education funding is rising, but remains very low in comparative terms. A 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 A planned hospital reform was withdrawn due to political opposition.

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 employment rate among women remains quite low, especially among parents.

Pension-system sustainability has declined after a decision to stop automatic life-expectancy-indexed increases in the retirement age. The government has diminished its rhetorical opposition to migrants, and has eased foreign access to the labor market in order to mitigate labor shortages. Public spending on public safety is very high in international comparison.

Education

#35

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.

While the Pellegrini government increased teacher salaries by 10% and updated its education development strategy in 2019, the government has largely failed to address structural problems in the education system. Martina Lubyová, minister of education, science, research and sport since September 2017, remains a controversial figure. In February 2019, the opposition tried, but failed to recall her because of the allocation of state R&D stimuli to companies not entitled to receive funding. Moreover, Lubyová was criticized for trivializing the issue of Andrej Danko, the speaker of parliament and leader of Lubyová’s party, plagiarizing content for his thesis. In March 2019, teachers at more than 1,100 schools symbolically dressed in black to protest against the low quality of education and insufficient recognition of teachers’ status. In October 2019, the European Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Slovakia urging the country to comply with EU rules on the equal treatment of Roma school children. The European Commission conceded that Slovakia has taken measures in recent years, but argued that the measures have not been sufficient to resolve the segregation of Roma children in schools.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): Education and Training Monitor 2019: Slovakia. Luxembourg (https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/document-library-docs/et-monitor-factsheet-2019-slovakia_en.pdf).
European Commission (2019). October infringements package: key decisions, Brussels, October 10 (https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_INF-19-5950_en.htm).

OECD (2020): OECD Skills Strategy Slovak Republic: Assessment and Recommendations. Paris.

Social Inclusion

#24

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. The low availability of rental or social housing negatively affects social policies that target socially disadvantaged or excluded persons, or persons with disabilities.

In the period under review, little has been done to address these problems. In December 2018, the government eventually reintroduced compulsory nursery school for five year olds, beginning in September 2020, with a view to improving the integration of children from marginalized groups. Furthermore, a spending review by the Ministry of Finance paved the way for an overdue reform of the minimum income scheme in April 2019. However, while the reform increased benefit payments, the level of benefits remains inadequate.

Citations:
Gerbery, D. (2019). Slovakia: Improving social inclusion policies through a thorough spending review. European Social Policy Network, Flash Report 2019/22, Brussels.

Gerbery, D. (2019): New reform of the minimum income scheme in Slovakia: slight improvements, but further steps needed. European Social Policy Network, Flash Report 2019/59, Brussels.

OECD (2019): OECD Economic Surveys: Slovak Republic 2019. Paris, Chap. 1.

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 healthcare 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 healthcare. Bad working conditions in the Slovak health sector and mass migration of doctors and nurses to other EU member states 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 and 57 years.

The third Fico government announced in 2016 that it would replace the existing reform strategy with a new and updated strategy, but failed to do so. Even the implementation of the old strategy has proceeded slowly and selectively. In 2017, the gradual introduction of DRGs in hospital financing started. In 2018, the government carried out the first step of a three-step debt settlement plan for hospitals, without tackling the root causes of the accumulation of hospital arrears. Reacting to the threat of looming strikes, Andrea Kalavská, the health minister since March 2018, announced an additional €90 million investment in the healthcare sector. She also prepared a comprehensive hospital reform, which was supported by many experts as well as by the parliamentary opposition. Approved by the cabinet after months of discussion at the end of September 2019, the reform was eventually withdrawn from the parliament’s agenda because of opposition from Smer-SD, orchestrated by former prime minister Robert Fico.

Citations:
European Commission (2020): Country Report Slovakia 2020. SWD(2020) 524 final, Brussels, 25-26 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/file_import/2019-european-semester-country-report-slovakia_en_0.pdf).

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 years old) with children below six years of age reaches a mere 40%, and the gender employment gap for young women (20 – 29 years old) 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. Another financial disincentive that undermines female labor market participation is the loss of the dependent spouse allowance households face when a secondary earner enters the labor market. The number of spaces in childcare facilities have remained limited since the late 1990s and have not kept up with the increase in the birth rate. The proportion of children between four years old and the starting age for compulsory education in early childhood education in Slovakia is the lowest in the European Union, while the proportion of children below the age of three in early childhood education is the second lowest in the European Union. As a result, motherhood has a particularly discouraging effect on female employment in Slovakia compared to other European countries.

Compared to their predecessors, the Fico and 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. In the run-up to the 2020 parliamentary elections, Smer-SD has returned to its previous policy model. The government has increased the parental allowance by €100 per month for children below the age of three, although only for children that are not enrolled in a public childcare facility.

Citations:
European Commission (2019): Education and Training Monitor 2019. Brussels, 45-46 (https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/document-library-docs/volume-1-2019-education-and-training-monitor.pdf).

OECD (2019): OECD Economic Surveys: Slovak Republic 2019. Paris, 53-54.

Pensions

#19

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.

Sustainability has further suffered due to the parliament’s decision in March 2019 to stop automatic increases in the retirement age in line with life expectancy and to set the retirement age at 64 years old. Women can retire earlier if they have raised children: 63.5 years old for mothers of one child, 63 years old for mothers of two children or 62.5 years old for mothers of three or more children. Put on the agenda by Smer-SD leader and former prime minister Robert Fico, the change in the retirement age was supported by the trade unions, which organized a petition that was signed by more than 230,000 people. The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of the Economy as well as opposition parties and several think tanks opposed the proposal, forecasting that the changes would undermine the long-term sustainability of the pensions system and estimating that the proposal would cost €900 million per year.

Integration

#34

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
4
While the share of foreigners in the Slovak population is still relatively low compared to most other EU member states, the inflow of migrants has increased in recent years due to a shortage of labor. Since the resignation of former Prime Minister Robert Fico in March 2018, 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 started to ease foreign access to the Slovak labor market in order to mitigate the shortage of labor in certain regions of the country. 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 member states.

Citations:
International Organization for Migration / Office for the Slovak Republic (2019): Migration in Slovakia. Bratislava (http://www.iom.sk/en/about-migration/migration-in-slovakia).

Mészárosová, S., S. Obonová (2019): Annual Report on Migration and Asylum in the Slovak Republic in 2019. Bratislava.

Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (2019): Strategy for Labour Mobility of Foreigners in the Slovak Republic. Bratislava (https://www.employment.gov.sk/files/slovensky/uvod/informacie-cudzinci/strategy.pdf).

Safe Living

#31

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 European Union 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, the inefficient or reluctant persecution of criminal action or problematic linkages between politics and business. Public confidence in the Slovak police is one of the lowest among OECD members.

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. In 2018, Slovakia took part in the 2018 voluntary national review of the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and started to draw up a medium-term strategy for development cooperation for 2019 – 2030. The six identified national priorities for the implementation of the Agenda 2030 resulted from a broad stakeholder participation process, which involved civil society, private sector, and regional and municipal administration representatives, as well as other relevant players. Moreover, the Government Council for Agenda 2030 was established to bring together key line ministers, as well as representatives of NGOs, academia, the private sector, and associations of cities and regions of the Slovak Republic.

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

Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Slovak Aid (2019): Medium-Term Strategy for Development Cooperation of the Slovak Republic for 2019-2023. Bratislava (https://www.slovakaid.sk/sites/default/files/strednodoba_strategia_rozvojovej_spoluprace_eng_2019-2023_644_stran_final.pdf).
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