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

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 and access to affordable quality services are two of its basic pillars. In particular, access to adequate resources worsened for families with children in last few years due to the impact of the economic crisis – statistics and studies revealed that their income has dropped and that new vulnerable groups of families are being created. However, Slovenia still has one of the highest employment rates of mothers of small children and the narrowest gender pay gap in the EU and nevertheless there are fewer children at risk of poverty than in other European countries. 

Access to adequate resources

Government support has allowed for a relatively high employment rate for women (60.0 % versus 59.6 % for the EU as a whole in 2014), which meets the EU Lisbon target for female employment. Employment rates for women remain high despite the impact of the economic crisis which has resulted in higher unemployment in society as a whole and amongst women. But nevertheless it needs to be noted that total employment rates for women are still lower than employment rates for men (67.5 % in 2014). 

Part-time work has significantly increased amongst women in 2014, but with 14.9 % still remains under an EU average of 32.8 %. The gender pay gap, measured at 3.2 % in 2013, was the lowest in the EU (the EU average was 16.3 % in 2013).

At 72.5% in 2014, the employment rate of mothers with children under 6 was amongst the highest in the EU (the EU average was 60.7 %). This shows that mothers in Slovenia do not retreat from the labour market. The New Parental and Family Benefit Act that came into force in 2014 extended the right to work part-time when having two children from 6 years of age until the end of first grade of primary school.

The aforementioned Act has brought some changes that affect parental leave as well, which is an important measure supporting parents’ reintegration into the labour market. The right to 105 working days of maternity leave is close to the European average and it stays the same as last year. Each parent has the right to take 130 days of parental leave. The mother can transfer 100 days of this to the father, whilst the father may transfer the whole 130 days of parental leave to the mother). Before the updated legislation, fathers had a right to 90 calendar days of paternal leave, but with only 15 days’ absence paid. According to data, the majority of fathers took up to 15 days, but not the whole 90 days; research suggests that this is due to the fact that their earning were not (fully) compensated throughout. Based on these findings, new legislation now allows 15 days of parental leave after a birth, together with the mother, and adds a further  5 days (paid) after the expiry of parental leave (after one year). In addition to this, fathers have a right to take 50 days of unpaid parental leave.

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 2.0% of GDP in 2013, is similar to the EU average (2.4% in 2012). Figures are comparable to previous years

The monthly ‘child allowance’, available to families whose income per member is below the Slovenian average, the ‘large family allowance’ and the ‘parental allowance’ are family benefits that are amongst the most important for families with children.

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: 39% and EU average 27%; SI: children between three and minimum compulsory school age: 91% and EU average: 82%). Only 3% of children under three and 10 % of children above three years of age who attend formal childcare settings are enrolled for less than 30 hours (2013 figures).

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 share of children (0-18) at risk of poverty or social exclusion (17.7 % compared to the EU-28 average of 27.7 % in 2014). 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 has increased in recent years (for example it was 15.1 % in 2009); and this is also true for long-term poverty for children, which is particularly worrying.

Conclusion

The results seem positive for the welfare of children, evidenced by a low share of children (0-18) at risk of poverty or social exclusion (17.7 % compared to the EU-28 average of 27.7 % in 2014). 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 has increased in recent years (for example it was 15.1 % in 2009); and this is also true for long-term poverty for children, which is particularly worrying.

The information in the country profile was last updated in February 2016.

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.