Key findings of this year’s report:
- NGOs, which deal with people in vulnerable situations daily, are noticing combined poverty as a consequence of several factors, which are not being properly addressed by the state.
- Even though the state came to the assistance by one–time pay–outs for the alleviation of the effects of the (energy) crisis, the greater systemic shortcomings, through which these patterns of combined poverty are leaking out, are increasingly more chronic.
- With the transfer of income support from the social security scheme to the social assistance system, the state has drastically decreased the number of recipients of income support. Even today the potential beneficiaries are afraid to apply for income support, believing that they may lose their house or land. Besides, the calculation of the minimum living expenses (the last was just published in 2022 (based on the costs in 2022 and the structure of expenses in 2018) is subjected to the pressures of the political debate about the »traps of poverty«, which results in the difference between the calculation and the amount approved by policy (on which a whole range of social transfers depends).
- In addition, the wages are not keeping up with the increasing monthly living expenses, which is primarily reflected in the increasing prices of market rents, which are outside of all public regulations. The increase in living expenses along with an epidemic of low wages is producing higher numbers of users of NGO services, who are patching up their family budgets with undeclared work.
- At the same time, a too strong emphasis on the supervisory and administrative function of social protection on the one side and uncontrollable markets on the other (labour market, housing market) cause a great amount of distress to individuals, who are almost automatically stigmatised in vulnerable situations. Besides, it also brutally reveals all the shortcomings of the public system of assistance to victims of domestic violence. NGOs are reporting that the number of these victims is rising. Thus, they not only find themselves in the circle of violence but also in the circle of poverty.
- Big NGOs, which were included in the conversation, are also emphasising that in the past year humanitarian organisations received fewer material and financial donations, while the needs remain the same and are expected to increase in the following winter.
- The associations and institutes that are working directly with the vulnerable groups and that we talked to are reporting that there are more and more poor persons in employment, who receive a regular income from work, but it is too low. In many instances these individuals attempt to resolve the situation by additional undeclared work; there are many debts on the account of paying the basic monthly living expenses. There are still too many disconnections of electricity supply; a very difficult situation for those who are receiving (very low) disability allowance; an increase in divorce caused mainly by domestic violence. These are mostly women seeking to remove themselves from violence and more than 90% are mothers with children. A victim of intimate partner violence often has no adequate conditions: she has nowhere to go and she is unable to find a suitable housing solution immediately, all the while the rents are visibly rising; there are more and more single–parent families living in bad economic circumstances. The poverty of these families is not always a result of violence. It has been established that in many poor families illness is present, both with parents and children; open discrimination in access to (rental) housing; increasing numbers of homeless women; they are anticipating an increase in mental health issues. Telephone TOM® – the only anonymous telephone for children and youth in Slovenia – has recorded a significant deterioration of the mental health of children and youth at the time; there are also more and more older users from (female) single households with a very weak social network; there are still many individuals who are under–informed regarding the possibilities of assistance. Individuals often don’t know that they are eligible for some type of aid even when they are employed. They also often don’t know about the humanitarian organisations that can aid them also in financial terms; when individuals find themselves in vulnerable situations many aspects depend on their social network, which many of these individuals lack.
Poverty Watch Main Findings
Slovenia is one of the seven countries in the European Union where the at-risk-of-poverty rate increased in 2020 compared to 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic deepened the already existing difficult situations of the most vulnerable groups of the population, and above all it showed the already existing systemic shortcomings.
The Covid-19 pandemic and preventive measures affected elderly due to limited access to services, deepening social exclusion of the elderly and the absence of regulated long-term care system.
The elderly are most vulnerable group exposed to poverty, especially women, working poor whose wages are below the subsistence level, the unemployed, young people and children from families, which live in poverty, single-member households and single-parent households with at least one dependent child(out of which 81.3% are maternal single-parent households).
The minimum income, set as a threshold (EUR 402.18) for the allocation of cash benefits, is significantly lower than the minimum wage (EUR 736 net) in order to encourage people to seek employment. A minimum wage that is close to the at-risk-of-poverty threshold (EUR 730) cannot enable a decent life, but rather creates working poor.
- The key problem is long-term dependence on social benefits and limited opportunities to exit poverty and difficult access to the labour market.
Social assistance is also received by employees, especially those with a minimum wage, who are in precarious forms of work and take care of children.
Humanitarian organisations in Slovenia point to a significant increase of aid recipients, especially those who have lost their jobs, precarious workers, workers with low-income, people who needed help during the economic crisis ten years ago and are now returning for help, while the distress and poverty among existing users deepened.
In the discussion groups participants talked about the absolute poverty – that is, the lack of basic goods, food and shelter to ensure basic subsistence. At the same time, they drew attention to the relative aspect of poverty, as it affects their entire life, thinking, well-being.
Non-governmental organisations respond to the needs of marginalized groups of individuals, significantly complement the social protection system, especially through the implementation of social protection programs and humanitarian activities, which includes psychosocial support – support to people, providing material assistance in the form of food, used clothes and objects, financial humanitarian aid and paid few days of holidays for children and/or families.
Tina Divjak & Mojca Frelih
1000 Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Tel: +386 1 234 77 20
E-mail: tina.divjak ( @ ) cnvos.si / Mojca.Frelih ( @ ) mirovni-institut.si