Slovenia: Latest working life developments Q3 2018

The priorities of the new government, social partners’ concerns over the new coalition agreement, and the high levels of stress among young people are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovenia in the third quarter of 2018.

New government to prioritise wage policy

The new government that was established in September has revealed that one of its first priorities will be to restart negotiations with public sector trade unions regarding future wage policy. This continuation of negotiations comes at a very late stage, as some austerity measures resulting from the 2008 economic crisis will no longer be in force from January 2019 and an agreement is unlikely to be made until at least November.

The government and public sector trade unions originally began wage negotiations in the spring and some progress was made with regards to converging negotiating positions. However, the resignation of Prime Minister Miro Cerar in mid-March meant these negotiations were postponed until a new government could be formed. If no agreement is reached between the government and the public sector unions, restrictions on the payment of funds for work performance and increased workload will be lifted from January next year, and promotions will be given in April instead of December. A decision also needs to be made regarding the anomalies in wage levels for those above the 26th salary bracket.

At the end of August, the political parties forming the new Slovenian government signed a coalition agreement, which touches on the issue of minimum wage. The agreement states that the minimum wage in Slovenia will rise by 4.5% in 2019 and by the same percentage in 2020. The new government also plans to introduce an exact formula for calculating the minimum wage and to exclude other forms of remuneration from the defined minimum wage.

Social partners have high expectations for the new coalition agreement

The leading representatives of all five employer organisations in Slovenia (the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (GZS), the Association of Employers of Slovenia (ZDS), the Chamber of Craft and Small Businesses of Slovenia (OZS), the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Employers in Craft and Small Business of Slovenia) have expressed their concerns over the content of the coalition agreement signed by the new government. They believe that the proposed solutions could have a damaging impact on the economy.

The coalition agreement promises to invest almost €2 billion in the health, social, public and infrastructure sectors, and this increased public spending is expected to be covered by increased taxation of capital gains. Boštjan Gorjup, chairman of the GZS, commented that the contract is ‘very principled when it comes to the proposals on how to improve the business environment, and very concrete when it comes to the proposals of a higher social standard that will require additional tax burdens’. In September, all employer organisations called on the government to look into creating a social pact immediately.

At a joint press conference in September, President Lidija Jerkič of the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (ZSSS) and President Jakob Počivavšek of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Slovenia (Pergam) presented their expectations to the new government regarding the future labour market, the pension system, social security and more. There is a deep dissatisfaction with wages, while the public and private sector trade unions have already agreed on operational cooperation if social partners do not reach a mutual agreement soon.

High stress levels leading to mental health problems among young people

A recent study on youth [1] shows that the share of young people in Slovenia who experience stress most days of the week has increased by around 250% in the last eight years: from 4.8% in 2010 to 17.1% in 2018. This is supported by the latest findings from a study on the mental health of children and adolescents, [2] published by the National Institute of Public Health in January 2018. The results show that, by 2015, the use of medication by adolescents aged between 15 and 19 years to treat mental illnesses had increased by 73% in comparison to 2008. According to the president of the Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of Slovenia (ZOMP), serious illness is starting at an earlier age, with an increase in depression and self-harm reported among primary school children, along with psychosis and personality disorders.

The reasons for poor mental health and subsequent low standards of living among young people in Slovenia include a sense of fear and insecurity, social isolation, alienation, discrimination and difficult family relationships. The analysis shows a correlation between stress levels and a sense of emptiness and loss of meaning in life, low levels of confidence in institutions and people in general, discrimination due to economic situations, precarious employment, family conflict and excessive control and criticism from parents. The research is part of a 2018 international study on youth carried out by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and partners from 10 countries in southeastern Europe (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia). The study covers more than 10,000 young people aged between 15 and 29 years. In Slovenia, over 1,000 young people participated in the survey.

Outlook

With the new coalition agreement finally signed, social partners have high expectations of the new government since there are many challenges to be addressed at all levels. The priority areas include the regulation of the labour market and labour relations, the pension system, social security, the public service system and the wage system, the tax system and economic policy. Social partners are expecting the new government to commence social dialogue as soon as possible.


[1] Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (2018), Youth in Southeast Europe

[2] Nacionalni inštitut za javno zdravje (2018), Duševno zdravje otrok in mladostnikov v Sloveniji

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