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Slovenia : A dynamic family policy to improve work-life balance

The impact of the economic crisis is becoming evident through statistics on families with children. But despite that fact, Slovenia still has the highest employment rate of mothers of small children and the narrowest gender pay gap in the EU. Nevertheless there are fewer children at risk of poverty than in other European countries. 

The basis for government policy on the family is a document called the ‘The Resolution on the Principles of the Formation of Family Policy in Slovenia', which includes strategic planning for the development of family policy.

Access to adequate resources

Government support has allowed for a relatively high employment rate for women (60.5 % versus 58.5 % for the EU as a whole in 2012), which meets the EU Lisbon target for female employment. Employment rates for women remain high despite the impact of the economic crisis which results in higher unemployment in society as a whole and amongst women as well. But nevertheless it needs to be noted that employment rates for women are still lower than employment rates for men (67.4 % in 2012). 

Part-time work was rare amongst women in 2012 (just above 13.1 %, against an EU average of over 32.5 %). The gender pay gap, measured at 2.5 % in 2012, was the lowest in the EU (the EU average was 16.2 % in 2011).

At 75.5 % in 2012, the employment rate of mothers with children under 6 was the highest in the EU (the EU average was 59.2 %). This shows that mothers in Slovenia do not retreat from the labour market. 

Enhanced support of parents’ reintegration into the labour market is provided through parental leave. The right to 105 working days of maternity leave is close to the European average. Fathers have a right to 90 calendar days of paternity leave, but with only 15 days’ absence paid. These paid days must be taken during the first six months of the child's birth, while the remaining 75 unpaid days can be taken before the child is three years old, in which case they are translated into their equivalent in working days, calculated as 70% of the total.  A further right to unpaid parental leave is usually granted for up to 260 calendar days, although it can be longer, and some days can even be reserved until the child is eight.

Employment is not the only source for providing adequate living standards – a combination of different benefits has an important role as well. 

Investment in social benefits to support family policies, at 2.2 % of GDP in 2011, is similar to the EU average (2.2%). Figures are slightly higher than in previous years, when social benefits to support family policies were at 2.1% of GDP (2009), even though GDP in 2012 was lower (€ 17,200) in comparison to 2011 (€ 17,600).

The monthly ‘child allowance’, available to families whose income per member is below the Slovenian average, varies from € 27.40 to € 243.55, depending on the number and age of children and income of a family.  A one-off ‘childbirth allowance’ payment, amounting to €280.75 is intended to cover some of the costs related to newborns.

The ‘large family allowance’ is an annual benefit paid to families with three (€ 393.46) or more (€ 479.83) children. There are also ‘parental allowances’ available to parents not eligible for the parental benefit linked to parental leave.

Access to affordable quality services

Figures for children of both age groups enrolled full time in formal childcare are much above the EU averages and meet the Barcelona targets for childcare provision for children under three (SI: children under three: 37% and EU average 30%; SI: children between three and minimum compulsory school age: 92% and EU average: 83%). Only 3% of children under three and 11 % of children above three years of age are enrolled in formal settings for less than 30 hours.

New measures have been designed to reduce the costs of childcare, while national programs are being established to oversee the activities and salaries of staff. However, childminders are still outside public funding and control, despite a voluntary registration scheme introduced in 2006. 

Children's right to participate

The results seem positive for the welfare of children, evidenced by a low number of children (0-18) at risk of poverty (16.4% in 2012 compared to the EU-28 average of 28.1% in 2012; at-risk-of poverty rate among children aged 12-17 was 18.4 % in 2012). But it should be noted that the situation is not as positive as it may appear at first. The impact of the crisis has consequences for children, as at-risk-of poverty rates among children increased in 2011 by 2.1 percentage points in comparison to the year before. This is the highest increase since 2005 when child poverty was measured using the same methodology.

Conclusion

Slovenia has a relatively well-developed family policy aimed at enabling the reconciliation of professional and family obligations, providing equal opportunities to both sexes and a horizontal redistribution of income in favour of families with children. 

 

On 31 May 2012, the Public Finance Balance Act came into force, introducing austerity measures. These measures include a decrease in the payment for Parental and Paternity leave from 100 to 90 per cent of the earnings on which parental leave contributions were paid during the 12 months prior to leave being taken, for parents earning more than €762 a month; those earning less will still receive 100 per cent. The ceiling is also lowered from 2.5 times to two times the average wage in Slovenia (i.e., from €3,578.55 to approximately €2,863 per month). This reduction will stay in force until the year following the year in which economic growth exceeds 2.5% of GDP. 

 

About three-quarters of fathers took up to 15 days of paternity leave in 2006-2008, just over 80% in 2009 and 2010, and about 78% in 2011. 

Research suggests that most fathers do not take more than 15 days of paternity leave because their earnings are not (fully) compensated throughout. There are also obstacles on the employers' side. A parent leaving the labour market in order to take care of four or more children is entitled to have social security contributions (based on the minimum wage) paid from the state budget until the youngest child reaches the age of ten years. All mothers take parental leave. About 5.6% of fathers took a part of this leave in 2008, 6.3% in 2009 and 2010 and 6.8% in 2011. Considering the full wage compensation (until the end of May 2012) while taking leave, the reasons for low participation of fathers may be found in the traditional division of tasks within the family, implicit societal perceptions, the absence of a positive image of the father who takes over more family responsibilities, and employers' expectations of their male employees. Paternity leave and fathers having the same entitlement to parental leave as mothers do not significantly influence mothers to return earlier to work after their leave period. Since fathers usually take only part of the leave (if any at all), absence due to parental leave continues to affect women's professional careers. 

 

The biggest challenge for Slovenia in the future will be to face the impacts of the economic crisis regarding work-family reconciliation in as effective a way as possible. 

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2014.

A certificate for family-friendly companies

Gender roles (fathers' take-up of parental and paternity leave, for instance), work/family life balance and equal opportunities on the labour market are of particular research interest. To help strike a better work-life balance, the Slovenian government introduced in 2007 a certification scheme to encourage employers to apply family-friendly principles in the workplace.

The ‘Family Friendly Company’ certificate is awarded to companies that adopt at least three measures from a catalogue of work-family reconciliation measures, such as flexible working times, company childcare services, job sharing, adoption leave, part-time work and the assistance to care for a disabled family member.