STA, 29 February 2020 - The likely new government plans to tackle housing issues among the young and problems stemming from population ageing, according to the social affairs chapter of the coalition agreement. It does not intend to change pension rights though.
The incoming centre-right government vows to set up a housing scheme for young families and build rental flats, the top pledge of the 19-point Youth, Family, Pensions and Social Affairs chapter of the agreement.
It plans to re-introduce a scheme under which families with two or more children enrolled in public kindergarten simultaneously would only pay for the first child, a policy that had been put in place by the first Janez Janša government in 2008 and was later abandoned due to austerity measures.
Family-friendly policies, designed to boost the country's birth rate, include plans to introduce a universal child allowance and incentives promoting "greater enrolment of all children in kindergartens at least a year before starting school".
The document does not mention implementing a Constitutional Court decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, however Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), the party expected to lead the coalition, has said that it goes without saying the parties would also implement any Constitutional Court ruling regardless of whether it is specifically mentioned in the agreement.
Tackling population ageing, the emerging four-party coalition intends to establish a public pension support fund as well as a government demographic office, both headquartered in Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city - initiatives that may be considered as steps towards decentralisation.
The coalition also plans to reform social transfers to prevent abuse of the system and integrate recipients of social benefits who are able to work into the community work placement scheme.
The minimum amount of a full pension is to be gradually brought nearer the poverty threshold, "depending on economic growth and budget capacities". To preserve the existing pension ratios, other pensions would be raised as well.
Addressing the shortage of nursing homes, the coalition pledges to complete the construction of a couple of such facilities as well as build at least five new nursing homes.
It also intends to carry out additional pension increases on top of regular annual pension indexation, assuming GDP growth reaches certain thresholds.
The coalition also promises to provide the chance of spa or climatic treatment for war victims and veterans.
This is the second in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here
STA, 19 December 2019 - The budget of the ZPIZ pension fund will stand at EUR 5.8 billion in 2020, but the state will have to chip in almost EUR 680 million to balance revenue and expenditure.
Under ZPIZ's financial plan for next year, adopted by the fund's council on Thursday, 84.2% of all revenue or EUR 4.9 billion will go for pensions.
Another EUR 145 million is planned to be spent on the annual holiday allowance for all pensions, up EUR 4.6 million from this year.
Almost 82% of the ZPIZ's revenue will come from contributions for social security and other taxes, with EUR 50 million expected from the state-owned KAD fund.
Pensions are planned to rise twice - by 3.5% in February, and by EUR 6.5 at the end of 2020 as part of an extraordinary rise if economic growth exceeds 2.5%.
Deputy ZPIZ director general David Klarič said as he outlined the plan the EUR 6.5 rise could still change as the upper chamber of parliament had filed a bill to rise pensions not in an absolute sum but as of percentage. In this case, the rise would amount to 1%.
The financial plan will now be sent to the government for approval. The government's representative on the council, Simona Poljanšek, said it was well prepared.
Klarič, however, said the budget would probably have to be overhauled in mid-2020 to adjust it to the latest pension changes which are expected to cost EUR 33 million.
The only council member voting against the financial plan was Frančiška Ćetković, who represents pensioners.
The plan does not envisage pensioners getting back what was taken from them due to the 2012 austerity legislation, which she assessed at 7.2%.
"We won't accept this share not being paid out," she said.
In response, Katja Rihar Bajuk from the Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Ministry announced the ministry would analyse retirement conditions as those retiring during the crisis were more affected than others.
Council president Dušan Bavec, who represents employers, said more pension revenue could be collected with more effective measures against grey economy.
STA, 5 November 2019 - Slovenia has joined the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, thus becoming one of the EU reference sites that promote ageing solutions through bringing together civil societies, governmental organisations, industry and science.
The partnership includes 77 reference sites or ecosystems that aim to improve the health and life of the elderly as well as the entire communities, coming up with and promoting innovative strategies.
"Slovenia's contribution to this partnership will be an improved collaboration of various activities," said Alenka Rožaj Brvar, the head of the Slovenian Innovation Hub, at a press conference on Tuesday.
She pointed at increasing population ageing and related challenges, such as chronic diseases, adding that a more systematic plan for tackling these issues should be implemented.
Marjan Sedmak, the head of the Ljubljana Pensioners' Union and the former head of AGE Platform Europe, a European network of organisations focusing on the needs of the elderly, pointed out that another issue posed by ageing was loneliness, which is being partly tackled by senior activity centres, but there was still room for improvement.
Rožaj Brvar also highlighted the business opportunities of the silver or longevity economy targeting older consumers, including in real estate, health care and prevention, tourism, health food, home care equipment products and assistive devices.
One of Slovenia's possible strategies for tapping this potential is a project called the Academic Village which strives for setting up a community of retired professors and researchers near a new university campus at Brdo pri Kranju in northern Slovenia.
According to the former chancellor of the Ljubljana University and an advocate of the Slovenian Innovation Hub Stane Pejovnik, the community would promote maintaining ties between the young and the elderly as well as the knowledge exchange between them.
Pejovnik also listed the hub's other project ideas, including building two new faculties, a proton therapy centre for tumour treatment and the so-called medicine valley which would come with a price tag of a few hundred million euros, adding that securing funds for such projects is one of the main challenges of Slovenia's innovative initiatives in this field.
Meanwhile, the director of the Provita company Gorazd Hladnik presented an example of good practices in health management - the Health Master app, a Slovenian platform which promotes keeping a personal health record and introduces new ways of patient-doctor exchanges using information and communication technologies.
STA, 29 October 2019 - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed on Tuesday legislative changes making public transportation free of charge for pensioners and persons with disabilities, among others, as of 1 July 2020.
In addition to pensioners and persons possessing the EU disability card, the motion also applies to all registered athletes attending secondary schools and universities and university students with motor disabilities.
Presenting the changes to the road transport act last week, Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek noted that the state had been subsidising tickets for secondary school and university students to provide them with cheaper and safer transport.
"We have now decided to also provide pensioners with such a benefit," she said, adding that the state had already been subsidising inter-city public transport regardless of whether buses and trains were half-empty or totally empty.
"Filling up these seats with pensioners, who will not be buying tickets, would not mean higher costs," the minister explained.
Franc Jurša of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said that it was "one of the better days in the National Assembly", while Igor Zorčič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) was reserved about all pensioners enjoying the benefit.
Zorčič said at the time that some pensioners had "very good pensions", adding that the eligibility to free public transportation should be expanded to independence war veterans.
It was thus proposed today by the SMC and three other parties in an amendment that unemployed independence war veterans are also eligible for the benefit. The amendment was confirmed.
During last week's debate, Maša Kociper of the coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) welcomed the fact that the state will enable young athletes to travel to and from practices free of charge.
Anja Bah Žibert of the opposition Democrats (SDS) meanwhile stressed that pensioners had been complaining about the shortage of public transportation lines, in particular in the countryside and in the afternoon hours.
Bratušek said that there were currently around 1,800 public transportation lines, with the ministry being in the process of obtaining data on their occupancy.
New lines could be opened if there is interest. "Our interest is to make [public transportation] as accessible and occupied as possible, so that there is less traffic on the roads," the minister added.
STA, 3 October 2019 - The government adopted on Thursday a set of changes to the pension insurance act equalising the base for pensions for men and women to 63.5% of the salary and regulating the status of pensioners who continue to work.
Under the changes, the pension will no longer depend on whether the pensioner is a man or a woman but only on the pensionable years.
This means that men who have worked for a full 40 years will have their pension set at 63.5% of their wages as of 2025, up from the current 57.25%.
In this way male pensioners will be equal with female retirees, for whom the 63.5% is already in place.
Another change is that a pensioner will get by 1.36% higher pension for every child they have, yet this benefit could not be claimed for more than three children.
"We anticipate higher pensions and thus a higher degree of social security for future pensioners," Labour Ministry State Secretary Tilen Božič said after the government session.
He indicated that the long transition period until 2025 was a means of encouraging workers, especially those aged 59 to 64, to work longer.
Božič explained Slovenia fared worse than other countries in this age group, as many retire rather early, which he said was a major issue of Slovenia's pension system.
"We're focussing on prolonging working, so those who decide to work longer will be better rewarded," the state secretary said.
As for the pensioners who continue to work, they will initially get, alongside the salary, 40% of the pension they are entitled to.
After the first three years of being a working pensioner, their pension will drop to only 20%, as is the case now.
Božič said the government also expected a positive effect from this additional benefit for pensioners who opted for the dual, worker-pensioner status.
Before today's government session, the changes were endorsed by coalition parties, which however indicated some changes could still be made in parliament.
The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said the transition period to equalize men and women pensioners in 2025 was too long and should be shortened.
"We've agreed the ministry will make another round of calculations to see the actual financial impacts," deputy group leader Franc Jurša said after the coalition meeting.
He could not say for sure whether DeSUS would file any amendments, noting they would see if some corrections were needed once the legislation was in parliament.
The Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities outlined the changes in March, whereupon they were subject to intense talks with employers and trade unions.
The Economic and Social Council, the country's industrial relations forum, gave them its seal of approval last week, at the same time calling for more extensive changes.
All our stories on pensions in Slovenia are here
STA, 2 October 2019 - The Constitutional Court has ruled in a close vote that the retirement and disability pension act is not unconstitutional in the part that prevents sole proprietors from receiving full pension if they decide to continue working after reaching retirement age.
The top court, which received the review request from the Ljubljana Labour and Social Court, said on Wednesday that intergenerational fairness, equality and financial sustainability took precedence over the interests of sole proprietors.
It ruled that the constitutional right to pension does not ensure that individuals receive old-age pension when they do not give up working. The Constitution guarantees the right to a pension to individuals who have paid their contributions if they also meet all other reasonable conditions.
It is reasonable to make full pension conditional on giving up work, considering the benefits pursued, said the court, which decided in a 4 to 5 vote that the act was not in violation of the constitutional right to social security. Two judges also submitted dissenting opinions.
Meanwhile, the court was unanimous in its decision that the act was not in contradiction of the constitutional principle of equality, comparing other groups who may also continue working after reaching retirement age.
It also said that the act followed the principle of protection of legitimate expectations and was not in conflict with the right to free economic incentive.
The court also said that there are a number of reasons why sole proprietors decide to either continue work or retire, adding that it was not the legislature's intention to encourage sole proprietors to stop working and also could not have foreseen such decisions being made.
Sole proprietors, who continue working have to give up up to 80% of their pension. Meanwhile, legislative changes are in the pipelines that would decrease this figure to 50%.
The Chamber of Crafts and Small Business (OZS) responded by stressing the decision had been made in a close vote and that dissenting opinions showed that the existing rules were neither appropriate nor just.
The OZS has been striving for Slovenia to introduce double status of pensioners who want to continue working, a solution that would enable them to receive full pension.
The chamber agrees with judge Etelka Korpič Horvat, who said in her dissenting opinion that double status would be beneficial for everybody. Retired proprietors would be able to continue working and would also contribute to the pension and health insurance purses.
"It is also far from insignificant that double status eliminates the poverty of those with low pensions. Double status strengthens the value of labour without preventing the young generations from working," the OZS quotes Korpič-Horvat's opinion.
The chamber also expressed the belief that the decision and the dissenting opinions would convey to the National Assembly that it could introduce a double system that would be much fairer and more reasonable than the existing provisions.
STA, 30 September 2019 - As a world day dedicated to the elderly is to be marked around the world, Slovenian organisations are pointing to the problems brought by the population ageing, including the need for better regulation of long-term care, calling for higher pensions to take pensioners above the at-risk-of-poverty threshold.
Marked on 1 October, this year's International Day of Older Persons runs under the motto The Journey to Age Equality, aiming to ensure equal opportunities and reduce inequalities of outcome regardless of personal circumstances.
The first issue to be pointed out by the Association of Pensioners (ZDUS) ahead of the event is that by 2025, the minimum pension for 40 years of pensionable service, which currently stands at EUR 531, should be above the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which last year stood at EUR 662.
The association has also called for a law on long-term care to adopted as soon as possible, which is something that the Union of Social Institutes has also been pointing to, saying that the government has "forgotten about the elderly" in the budget for the next two years.
"It has been postponing to a distant future the eagerly-awaited systemic regulation of long-term care," the union said, adding that retirement homes were facing critical shortage of beds while the availability of home care was being reduced.
According to Jaka Bizjak of the union, there are no plans to establish a new public retirement home, while the availability of home care services is becoming the key developmental problem of Slovenian society, which is ageing at a fast pace.
He pointed to studies which say that only one out of four persons older than 75 will not be needing such services, and that the costs of related services and assistance for one out of ten such persons will be "sky high".
Policy-makers in the field of long-term care announce solutions leaning towards boosting care within the family and local community, but such forms of assistance are effective only in societies with a low full-time employment rate for women.
"One cannot avoid the impression that the state bets on care within the family only because it is cheaper for the budget, and is less interested in whether this is an appropriate solution given the actual needs and capacities."
The Ministry of Health, which is drafting the relevant law, expects that it will be ready for public debate by the end of the year, while final confirmation in parliament is expected by the end of the first half of 2020.
The UN as the sponsor of the international day has pointed to the steep growth in the number of older persons, with the highest rates expected in developing countries. The number of persons older than 60 is expected to stand at 1.4 billion by 2030.
This is why the organisation believes that more attention should be paid to the needs and problems faced by older persons. It believes that their potential contribution to society is important and that respect of their human rights should be at the core of these efforts.
Slovenia is no exception in the ageing trend, with the Statistics Office (SURS) noting ahead of International Day of Older Persons that life expectancy at birth is increasing, with almost one in five Slovenians being older than 65.
There were 413,054 persons aged 65 or older in Slovenia at the beginning of this year, which means this age group representing almost 20% of total population. Women represent a majority in this age group, and 161 out of the 189 centenarians are women.
SURS also notes that the number of older people is increasingly higher than the number of children. Currently, there are more than 131 older persons per 100 children, and the ratio is projected to stand at two to one by 2033.
The highest at-risk-of-poverty rate in Slovenia is recorded in persons aged 65 or older, 18.3%, while out of some 98,000 older persons who live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, 60,000 are retired women.
The employment rate in the group aged between 55 and 64 in Slovenia is among the lowest in the EU due to early retirement, but it is increasing in recent years. Almost 5,000 persons aged 65 or older were active in 2018, 73.3% of whom men.
The opening of this year's Festival for the Third Age, an annual event dedicated to raising issues related to ageing, coincides with International Day of Older Persons.
Running from Tuesday to Thursday, it will again look to connect young and old people, bringing a number of round table debates on topical issues, and being accompanied by a diverse educational and cultural programmes.
All our stories on demographics in Slovenia can be found here
STA, 28 August 2019 - Health Minister Aleš Šabeder has announced that long-awaited legislation on long-term care would be unveiled soon. As for the second major legislative effort, the act governing health insurance, the government plans to proceed cautiously, the minister told the STA.
Aleš Šabeder. Source: YouTube
Faced with a rapidly ageing population, Slovenia has for years been debating the need to adopt legislation on long-term care. The bill should be ready by the end of this year or early next year, but there are still some open issues, according to Šabeder.
A new contribution will probably be necessary to finance long-term care, but Šabeder would not venture to say how high it might be or whether it will be mandatory or voluntary. "I hope the contribution is small, but it will probably be necessary," he said.
The healthcare and health insurance act, which governs much of financing in the healthcare sector, is expected in mid-2020. As Šabeder suggested, it has not yet been decided what will replace the current system of voluntary top-up insurance, which is the main demand of the Left.
"We have to find a solution for a long-term and stable source of financing if supplementary health insurance is abolished. We're talking about half a billion euro, they will have to be secured one way or the other."
In conjunction with the Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry is conducting multiple simulations, ranging from higher contribution rates to a new levy, according to Šabeder.
The Left, for which abolishing top-up insurance is one of the key priorities and one on which its support for the majority government hinges, plans to shortly unveil its own bill, but Šabeder sees no need to hurry.
"I have presented the priorities for this year and next to all deputy groups, including the Left and other opposition parties, and there were no complaints about the timeline," he said.
Šabeder has been kept busy in the first months of his term by general practitioners, who started quitting en masse due to excessive workload and low pay.
As a stop-gap solution, additional funds were earmarked for GPs and their nurses, with new measures now planned, focused on cutting red tape.
GPs have so far been coy about whether these measures will be enough to stop the drain of staff. "Considering the measures that we have already drawn up and the measures coming up, I hope they realize we are truly extending a hand this time," he said.
The situation has been getting worse for years and cannot be resolved overnight. "We do not have a magic wand at the ministry to provide all the missing doctors," according to Šabeder.
Waiting times have also been near the top of Šabeder's agenda. Several stop-gap solutions have been adopted and additional measures are in the pipeline.
An action plan to reduce waiting times for orthopaedic surgery is expected within a month and that will serve as the starting point for action in other segments. "If necessary, private providers will be included as well," said Šabeder.
Previous plans to give additional money to private health institutions in order to reduce waiting times have been met with stiff opposition and accusations that this would be used as an underhand way to chip away at public healthcare in favour of privatisation, but Šabeder denies this.
"This has never been my intention. My sole intention is to work for the benefit of patients," he said.
The management of hospitals is another issue Šabeder plans to tackle. The process was started by Šabeder's predecessor Samo Fakin and the blueprint is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.
The minister said key governance principles would be imported from the business sector, for example management liability and remuneration of employees, but "public institutions must never be like companies with regard to the fundamental objective ... They are designed to provide health services."
STA, 16 July 2019 - Orpea, a French multinational that specialises in assisted living services, has entered the Slovenian market via its Austrian subsidiary Senecura by purchasing a retirement home in Radenci, eastern Slovenia, called Dosor.
Senecura purchased the facility earlier this year from Radenci municipality and the Austrian bad bank Heta and plans to use it as a springboard for Slovenia, having previously acquired the licence to build several small retirement homes around the country with a total of 310 beds.
The company, the biggest private operator of retirement homes in Austria, acquired Dosor because of the quality of care it provides, favourable location and its reputation in Slovenia, Senecura board member Anton Kellner told the press on Tuesday.
Radenci municipality sold its 50% stake for EUR 1.5 million, while the rest was acquired with the purchase of Heta's EUR 7.6 million in claims to Dosor.
Dosor has 178 beds and 100 employees. It was built as a public-private project in 2008.
Together with the planned network of small retirement homes, the acquisition puts Senecura on track to compete with the biggest Slovenian private provider of elderly care, Deos, which has eight facilities in Slovenia.
There are currently over 100 elderly care facilities in Slovenia offering just over 20,000 places, most of which are publicly owned and operated by municipalities.
All our stories on the elderly in Slovenia are here
STA, 9 July 2019 - Slovenian experts are calling for adjusting government policies to allow people to age decently and to enable companies to get enough labour force, as the world is preparing to observe World Population Day on 11 July.
The main problem in Slovenia is a low birth rate and subsequent population ageing, which could be contained with a higher birth rate or young immigrants, Janez Malačič from the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics has told the STA.
Slovenia's total fertility rate - the average number of live newborns per woman in reproductive age - stood at 1.62 in 2017, just above the EU's average of 1.59.
An ageing population comes with many challenges, such as a shortage of labour as young people are leaving the country, while mostly low-skilled migrant workers are coming to Slovenia.
Some problems also stem from differences among regions, as "people are leaving less developed areas, where towns are getting depopulated, some of them already completely depopulated".
This is particularly a problem in border areas but also in some large towns, Janez Nared from the Anton Melik Geographical Institute at the ZRC SAZU has told the STA.
He sees a solution in making these areas stronger economically and in turning them into an attractive living environment for young people with quality services.
Nared believes this is where new housing estates should be developed, but warns the issue should be approached in a comprehensive manner based on an in-depth analysis.
In 2008-2017, the number of residents dropped in more than 70% of Slovenia's 212 municipalities, with the trend bound to continue, says Nared.
Projections show that more than 90 municipalities will see their populations drop by more than 10% in the coming 20 years.
By 2038, some municipalities will have one young person aged under 15 to five or six elderly aged 65 or more, which will seriously affect the labour market, education, social security and the pension system, consequently presenting a major pressure for the national budget, he says.
The UN declared World Population Day in 1989, two years after the global population reached five billion.
UN data shows there are now 7.5 billion people in the world, but the figure is projected to rise to over eleven billion by the end of the century.
World Population Day will this year focus globally on reproductive health, with calls to decision makers to enable women access to services key to reproductive health.
All our stories on demographics in Slovenia are here