STA, 19 September 2019 - Finance delves into Slovenian wages in a commentary on Thursday. It looks for reasons why wages are low compared to the west, before concluding that Slovenians in fact do not really want higher pay and everything it entails.
"For me one of Slovenia's big failures is in how low wages are compared to 'western' Europe. Wages reflect know-how, innovativeness, competitiveness, the value of products and services on the global market," the paper says.
In Slovenia political decisions "have always been geared towards low wages. Geared against profit, getting rich and money. Towards equality at low levels" the commentary argues as it berates past bailouts of old industrial companies and progressive taxes.
The second failure is that Slovenians do not even want higher pay. "They are smug in this comfortable space ... They do not need broader horizons, possibilities, challenges changes."
"This is why money is not an animating force for Slovenians ... This is why I roll my eyes whenever I hear that with higher wages, Slovenians - teachers, doctors, managers - would work better. In Slovenia it is exactly the opposite."
Slovenians are "happy at low revs," which is why money is "something for the weirdos, not a general incentive," the paper says in Why I'm Not Giving You Higher Pay (Zakaj vam ne dam višje plače?).
All our stories on pay in Slovenia can be found here
STA, 10 September 2019 - The employment prospects in Slovenia in the final quarter of the year remain favourable, according to the latest employment forecast by temping agency Manpower. Seasonally-adjusted net employment forecast stands at 17%, which is one of the most optimistic forecasts in the region.
"Compared to the previous quarter, the employment prospect is slightly down - for two percentage points - but compared to the same period last year, the forecast remains level," sales manager at Manpower Gašper Kleč told the STA.
The employment prospect for the final quarter is two percentage points lower in quarterly comparison and remains level year-on-year.
The upbeat hiring prospects are a result of the strongest demand for labour in mining and quarrying, and the public sector and social services since the survey started nine years ago. They stand at +20% and +19%, respectively.
Among all ten industries included in the survey, the most notable hiring is expected in manufacturing (+22%) and construction (+21%).
The lowest chances of employment are expected in agriculture, forestry and fishing and the hospitality sector (at +13% each).
Geographically speaking, the strongest demand for workers is expected in the north-western region (+18%). "This is the second consecutive quarter with the employment forecast there since the survey started in 2011," Kleč said.
The hiring prospects are the strongest in middle-sized companies (+27%), while those for small companies are the highest on record (+21%).
But a gap between the demands of employers and expectations of job seekers remain. "This gap is usually created by the deviation from the desired skills or desired pay but also by the demographic changes," said regional head of Manpower Slovenija Aleksandar Hangimana.
The Manpower survey was conducted among 59,000 employers in 44 countries, 43 of whom report a positive hiring outlook for the fourth quarter.
Slovenia's employment prospects are preceded only by Greece's in this region, while globally, Japan, Taiwan, the US and India have the best net employment outlook. Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina, Costa Rica and Switzerland are at the bottom of the list.
All our stories on employment in Slovenia are here
STA, 24 August 2019 - Having shortened the standard eight-hour workday by two hours, companies Donar and Plastika Skaza have prompted a debate on whether Slovenia should replace the 40-hour working week with a 30-hour one. Trade unions welcome the idea, although they are aware of certain restrictions, whereas employers warn of negative consequences.
In April 2018, Donar, a designer chair manufacturer, became the Slovenian pioneer in shortening the workday without lowering pay or paying lower social security contributions for their employees.
Its director Matej Feguš has told the STA the idea had been in the pipeline for quite some time before it was implemented.
"Having observed the work processes in the company for a while, we realised people worked efficiently for six hours at the most. The goal was to improve productivity, not with more hours but with better-quality work."
He says their employees now have more time for their families and and have fewer problems, so they are consequently more diligent at work. What is more, relations in the company, which now employs 18 workers, have improved.
However, Feguš admits the shorter workday sometimes means that not all the work is done in time, so the company now plans work processes more carefully.
Also, employees get easily used to their new rights, so when the need to work longer actually arises, they have to negotiate with them as if they had to work overtime.
But Feguš believes the greatest benefit of the six-hour workday is that after working for 40 years, people's total workload would be lower by 20%.
"So after 40 years, they could still be active and contribute to society instead of retiring and be lying at home at the expense of the public health fund."
Ferguš is thus rather disappointed that politics has not yet found a way to legislate a six-hour workday.
Donar's example was this year followed by Plastika Skaza, a much larger company with more than 300 employees and around 100 temps.
The Velenje-based producer of plastic kitchenware will phase in a six-hour workday in October, starting with the accounting service department.
The idea is to allow our employees to better balance their work and private life, Aleksandra Logar, human resources head at Plastika Skaza, told the STA in June.
Although the 40-hour week is the standard rule in Slovenia, labour legislation allows for a shorter, 36-hour, working week, if the employer and employees agree on it in a collective bargaining agreement.
But not all Slovenian employers are thrilled at the prospect of a shorter workday.
Lina Fratnik Andrić of the Slovenian Association of Employers (ZDS) writes in the Delodajalec magazine about Sweden's experience at an elderly home and a hospital.
While the nursing staff and surgeons improved the quality of services and felt happier, more staff had to be hired to do the same amount of work, so labour costs rose.
Fratnik Andrić also says that the 35-hour working week introduced in France several years ago has failed to result in a higher employment rate.
"On the contrary, the number of workers taking two jobs has increased, and the actual working week has remained at 39 hours," she explains.
She nevertheless admits that work processes have radically changed since the 40-hour week was introduced, so new forms of work will have to be put forward.
She believes working at home and flexible work arrangements are two options to facilitate a better balance between work and other life roles.
With automation on the one hand and work becoming ever more intense on the other, Slovenian trade unions have made a shorter workday one of their goals a while ago.
Lidija Jerkič, head of the ZSSS confederation, believes a shorter workday has a positive impact on efficiency and safety at work, as well as on social life and health.
Still, she is cautious, noting that a six-hour workday would not increase employment and reduce costs in all branches of industry.
"If you have a one-shift company, productivity would increase if they do the same amount of work as in eight hours without hiring new staff, and they will save on electricity and heating bills.
"But if you have a company working in four shifts, fixed costs will remain the same, while workers for an entire new shift would have to be hired, which would considerably raise labour costs although productivity would perhaps improve," says the trade unionist.
She explains that the unions proposed a 35-hour working week to employers in the metal and electronics industries ten years ago, "but the answer was simply no".
"Unfortunately, the debate is now going in a completely different direction. Despite the legislated full 40- or 36-hour workday, workday is in practice totally out of control. Many workers work more than the weekday, they put in more overtime than allowed under the law, and have no breaks or rest."
Meanwhile, the ministry in charge of labour says there has been no serious debate on the issue among the government, unions and employers.
Introducing a six-hour workday, if it is to increase productivity, depends primarily on the type of business and the manner in which work is organised, the ministry has told the STA.
STA, 12 August 2019 - Less than half of young women in Slovenia are happy with their current standard of living and many are unhappy at work and ready to move abroad in search of better job opportunities, a survey has found.
The survey, conducted among 500 women in the ages between 20 and 35 as part of a project designed to improve the position of women in the labour market, found that only 35% have a job agreeing with the level and type of their education.
Nine out of ten of those questioned believe that there should be more contacts with potential employers during the education process and seven out of ten say they did not receive any career counselling.
More than a half (57%) would prefer to work in the public sector due to greater job security it offers, while 29% would want to work in the corporate sector and 14% would prefer to work for an NGO.
As many as 44% are unhappy with their current job and only 41% are happy about their pay. Among the unhappy ones, one in three expects their pay to improve and one in five do not expect a rise.
Nefiks, an educational institute which conducted the survey, commented that young women are proactive in seeking work, but still they have it hard to get right jobs.
"Many are willing to work outside their field of education or commute more than 20 kilometres to work, taking jobs below their education. Although 44% of them would prefer much more to work at home, they are even willing to move abroad if they don't get an opportunity," said Nefiks.
Similarly, only 47% of the respondents, including students who are generally happier, are happy with their current standard of living.
The survey also suggests that 44% of young women are not planning a family or do not want it, which Nefiks says is a high proportion, given that the respondents are of childbearing age.
Only 7% say that employment is not an important factor in deciding to have a family.
Women above 30 think they have fewer job opportunities because they are too old to qualify for benefits under the Youth Guarantee scheme, something that the survey confirmed.
This group of women has spent longer finding a job and less than a half of them are happy at their job. Moreover, 70% believe they did not get enough work experience during their school education. They also have housing difficulties.
STA, 8 August 2019 - Demand for new workers in the April-to-June period was the strongest in construction, when the sector's job vacancy rate - showing how many vacancies were advertised by employers - reached 6.2%.
Around 3,800 vacancies were advertised in construction, which was followed by manufacturing (over 3,700) and commerce (over 2,500), latest Statistics Office data show.
Meanwhile, the overall job vacancy rate decreased by 0.2 of a percentage point to 2.3% over the previous quarter and by 0.3 points over the second quarter in 2018.
This means that the number of job vacancies dropped by around 1,400 to slightly more than 18,500 from the January-to-March period.
Demand for new labour force decreased the most in manufacturing and trade, by around 300 job vacancies in each of them (-0.4 points).
On the other hand, the number of occupied posts has continued to rise ever since the second quarter of 2014, the figures released on Thursday show.
Around 772,100 posts were occupied in the second quarter, 5,700 more than in the first one. 81.5% of all occupied posts were at companies with 10 or more workers.
The number of occupied posts increased the most in construction (+1,500) and trade (+1,000).
STA, 26 July 2019 - Slovenia's model of temporary posting of workers to other EU countries has been subject to sharp criticism about exportation of cheap labour. The country has seen an exponential growth in such postings over the past ten years and is reportedly third in the EU by the number of posted workers.
The Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS), which issues forms to employers posting workers abroad, issued 17,668 such forms in 2008, 103,370 in 2014 and as many as 159,136 in 2017, but the figure fell to 127,059 last year. A worker may be posted abroad several times a year, which means several forms.
The social contributions paid by Slovenian employers for the workers sent abroad do not correspond to the actual pay they earn but to what they would if they did the same work in Slovenia. Posted workers as a rule also get extras such as allowances for separation and higher living costs, so their earnings are higher than if they performed their job in Slovenia.
The strong growth in the number of postings and deductions on social contributions paid by employers has provoked criticism from European interest associations.
The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) has calculated that Slovenia posts at least 100,000 construction workers to the EU even though it has only 55,000 domestic workers in the industry. Most of them come via Slovenia from the Western Balkans.
This is why the federation submitted a request to the EU Commission at the end of May to investigate the practice and its regulation in Slovenia.
"Slovenia has built a money-spinning business model based on social fraud and worker exploitation. This is totally unacceptable and should be stopped at once," said the EFBWW president Dietmar Schäfers.
The commission has also received complaints from interest groups in Austria, while the country itself has said it will try to engage in dialogue with Slovenia before taking any such step.
Slovenian posting companies have been accused of exporting workforce to the EU at dumping prices as Slovenian labour costs are lower, which makes workers from Slovenia cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Slovenian government has acknowledged that the situation provided food for thought regarding necessary measures.
Slovenia's regulation entails that posting companies need to obtain an A1 document which allows posting temporary workers to other member states and is issued in accordance with the EU legislation by a relevant district unit of the ZZZS.
According to the Labour Ministry, a special task force is examining relevant regulations from 1970, including those governing the social contribution deductions for employers, and drawing up measures to reform them.
Responding to the criticism of the increase in the number of posted workers and worker exploitation, the Labour Ministry told the STA that the transnational provision of services act, which tightened regulations for issuing A1 documents, had been adopted last year.
The law aims to prevent cross-border posting of workers by mailbox companies or employers, particularly in construction and industry, who have already violated regulations, thus tackling worker exploitation, which has been a critical issue.
According to the Labour Inspectorate, there have been 20 violations of the act in 2018.
On the other hand, the ZZZS, which is in charge of revoking issued A1 documents, recorded more than 17,450 irregularities, including over 6,400 tax-related and over 6,300 pertaining to employment contracts.
Foreign authorities have been submitting requests about checking conditions compliance of posting companies or revoking their posting permits to the institute, which has received around 10 such requests by June this year.
According to the ZZZS, the issue is complex and hard to tackle, while Goran Lukič of the Workers' Counselling Office told the STA that the new act somewhat improved the situation even if he is still sceptical about its enforcement.
Meanwhile, Slovenian employers' associations deny the accusations of Slovenia being a kind of gateway for social dumping in Europe.
The Slovenian Employers' Association (ZDS) told the STA that given the amount of labour costs in Slovenia one could not speak about dumping, while the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) said that it was key that foreign workers who got work permits in Slovenia and ended up working in other EU countries were paying their social contributions and income tax in Slovenia.
STA, 12 July 2019 - The opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have joined the initiative of Slovenian workers who commute to Austria for a constitutional review of what they see as discriminatory income tax legislation.
While the union of Slovenian migrant workers asked the top court to review the income tax act in November 2018, Franc Breznik of the SDS told the press on Friday that the two parties urged the court to give the matter absolute priority treatment.
"This is a very burning issue in particularly in the east on the country, an issue that is perhaps not felt so much in Ljubljana," he said.
Slovenians working abroad but residing in Slovenia pay part of the taxes in Austria and additional income tax in Slovenia, which the NSi's Jožef Horvat said leaves them with less disposable income compared to workers with similar income in Slovenia.
"If both make EUR 18,700 gross a year, the worker in Slovenia has EUR 1,750 more disposable income than the one working in Austria," he said.
Horvat, who highlighted a different tax treatment of food and transport allowances as a key source of the discrepancy, said the situation was at odds with a Constitutional Court reasoning from 2013 that put commuting migrant workers on "essentially equal" footing with their compatriots in Slovenia as regards income tax, "which means our legal order should treat them equally".
He added the current arrangement was also at odds with the principle of the welfare sate, since the segment of commuting migrant workers with high income is subjected to a more favourable treatment when it comes to the mentioned allowance costs.
Responding to the original initiative for a constitutional review a while ago, the Finance Ministry said that exempting Slovenian workers commuting abroad from income tax would be systemically unacceptable and violate the constitutional principle of equal tax treatment.
All of our stories on tax in Slovenia are here
STA, 15 July 2019 - The average gross salary in Slovenia was at EUR 1,728.12 gross in May and EUR 1,113.88 net. Compared to May 2018, average gross salary was 3.9% higher in nominal terms and 2.5% higher in real terms. Net salary was 3.4% higher in nominal terms and 2% higher in real terms compared to the May of last year, according to the Statistics Office.
The highest net wages were paid out in the financial and insurance sector, EUR 1,556.92 net. Compared to April, average gross and net pay was 0.1% lower in nominal terms and 1% lower in real terms.
In the public sector, net salaries went up by 0.7% on average in May over April, while in the private sector, the average net pay went down by 0.6% compared to April.
STA, 5 June 2019 - Slovenia ranks ninth among 22 EU member states that have statutory minimum wages in terms of the gross minimum wage rate. This year's increase of the country's figure to EUR 886.63 was among the modest ones, says the annual report on minimum wages in the EU and Norway, published by Eurofound on Monday.
The highest rate was registered in Luxembourg (EUR 2071.10), while Bulgaria has the lowest (EUR 286.33).
The report of the EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions placed Slovenia among the countries with the lowest share of minimum wage earners - 4.1%. The country ranked sixth in this category, with Czechia (2%) ranking the lowest and Poland ranking the highest (13.7%).
The survey registered big differences among all participating countries in this category, noting that in 2016 the average share of minimum wage earners in the EU was 7.2%.
Eurofund also pointed at considerable differences between the gross and net rates, saying that in Slovenia a share of 24.77% of the total minimum wage value is contributed to the social security system, including taxes and contributions. The country's share is among the higher ones in that respect.
The survey said that almost all countries, excluding Latvia, had increased the minimum wage rate since January 2018, with Slovenia raising it by 5.2% in nominal terms. The increase was quite modest, listing the country as third in the group of six countries with mid-level minimum wage rates - Slovenia ranked behind Malta (1.93%) and Portugal (3.45%).
The issue of minimum wage rate has been in the spotlight recently. The National Assembly adopted the Left's proposal for the minimum wage act in December 2018 despite employers' opposition, thus raising the rate.
The act stipulates that all allowances will be excluded from the statutory rates as of 2020 and will thus have to be paid on top. It also regulates the rate's lower and upper limit, setting the bar at at least 20% and top 40% above calculated minimum living expenses.
Employers argue that the adoption was rash and will have a detrimental effect on the whole society, while trade unions are willing to protect the act by any means necessary. Meanwhile, the government keeps insisting that the risks are manageable.
STA, 3 June 2019 - Employers have been struggling with a shortage of staff for a while, so after years of restrictions the door to hiring foreigners are now open wide. Despite several measures aimed at protecting workers from abroad, many of them are being exploited, especially in construction.
During the crisis years, the number of foreigners working in Slovenia plunged, but now that the economy has been expanding, it is rising again.
In 2008, more than 90,500 work permits were issued to third-country workers, while the number dropped to 15,990 together with those who also had a residence permit, data by the Employment Service show.
Last year, a total of 38,938 of single work and residence permits were issued. Most of the foreigners come from the former Yugoslav republics.
Since many of foreign workers were subjected to exploitation in the past, the Labour Ministry has been amending the labour legislation for a decade to prevent abuse. "Today we can say that the legislation in this field guarantees a high level of protection to foreign workers," the ministry told the STA.
A company can only hire a worker from abroad if it is paying out wages and social security contributions, does not have any tax debts to the state, is properly registered, has valid employment contracts, is not in receivership and if a Slovenian candidate cannot be hired for the post.
Those found to be breaking the law can be banned from hiring third-country citizens for up to two years.
But the ministry said it was still hard to prevent cases of deliberate violations, which border on human rights violations.
The Labour Inspectorate, which does not keep a separate record of violations of migrant workers' rights, told the STA that the violations of the act on the employment, self-employment and work of foreigners have been decreasing.
While 229 cases of violations were recorded in 2008, last year there were only 29, mostly in the construction sector.
Since last year, the inspectorate has also been monitoring the implementation of the transnational provision of services act, which was violated in 20 cases.
Last year, the inspectorate also recorded 21 violations of the employment relationships act, which enables fixed-term employment contracts to foreigners. In 73 cases, the rights of workers posted abroad by Slovenian employers were violated, while no violations were found of the article guaranteeing rights to workers temporarily posted to Slovenia.
In 2018, the minimal accommodation standards for foreign workers provided by employers were violated in two cases.
However, the NGO Workers' Counselling Office reports of much more violations. It claims a number of basic rights of migrant workers are being violated. Most concern non-payment of wages, social security contributions, sick leave compensation and overtime work.
Employers are also violating workers' rights when determining their working hours and forcing them into a type of employment contract termination that negatively affects the worker.
The NGO also dealt with cases where workers were checked out of social insurance retroactively and where work-related injuries or physical violence were not reported.
The NGO too receives most grievances from construction workers, but also from lorry drivers and cleaners.
Goran Lukič of the Workers' Counselling Office said the most problematic were the work permits obtained by employers for citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina (and soon also for Serbian citizens) based on a bilateral agreement, under which the worker must work for the company which paid for the permit for one year.
If they want to hold on to their work permit, the workers must stay with the company and are "often caught in forced labour," Lukič told the STA.