Although many values can be found in work, we must not forget the truth: Work is for man, not man for work. These words of Pope Paul VI particularly speak to us on this year’s Labour Day, when the circumstances on both the domestic and foreign labour markets, the challenges of the economy and the issues it is facing due to the epidemic, are still comparable only to the most toughest tests in the history of humankind.
In the past year, I visited many businesses, meeting with managers and employees. Although we always put the protection of health and lives first in the fight against the virus, I can say with conviction that this year the Government did everything it could to keep the effects of the epidemic on the economy and jobs to a minimum. We are aware of the Government’s responsibility in tough situations like this one. In the future, we will continue to do everything in our power to help businesses and employees, even when the worst of the health crisis is behind us.
Despite the exceptionally trying situation, we succeeded in preserving a high level of employment, whereby it dropped by less than 1.5% due to the epidemic. Until today, over 560 million euro to over 300,000 employees has been paid out from the state budget for measures aimed directly at the preservation of jobs. Furthermore, 558 million euro for over 500,000 employees has been paid out for employees’ contributions. For aid in the form of a basic income, we have allocated over 300 million euro. With these measures, we have saved over 200,000 jobs. According to Eurostat methodology, the unemployment rate in the EU has increased by 2 percentage points, while in Slovenia by only 0.5 percentage point, which ranks us at the very top of European countries regarding the preservation of jobs during the epidemic. This is and always will be the best social policy measure a country can implement.
With the eight anti-corona legislation packages and with the measures adopted in other laws, we achieved a great deal in minimising the effects of the epidemic for the citizens, for the economy and for other areas of social life. We allotted 2.9 billion euro in funds to ensuring the smooth operation and recovery of businesses in all industries, to improving the position of the most socially vulnerable, elderly and larger families. We understand the plight of those who lost their jobs as a result of the epidemic. This is why, this April, a solidarity bonus was paid out to those who are unemployed, which will hopefully, at least somewhat, help their situation until they find work again.
The world has changed with the pandemic. Things that we took for granted yesterday can no longer be relied upon. Challenges that we face as a nation and as humanity are greater than ever before. The changed circumstances require us to, first and foremost, change the way we think and consequently also how we operate in all areas.
The most successful countries will be those that see the pandemic as an opportunity. Slovenia is preparing for the challenges of our time very seriously. Step by step we are addressing all obstacles on the path to successful development. We will eliminate illogical administrative procedures and bureaucratic hurdles that stifle good ideas and we will award work. Only in this way will we stop the emigration of young people in particular and instead put their knowledge to good use here, at home. To achieve this, we already appointed a Strategic Council for Debureaucratisation last year, and it has already put forward its first concrete ideas on how to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles, which the Government then adopted and sent the draft Debureaucratisation Act to the National Assembly for approval. And this is only the beginning.
We are under no illusions that all the problems that have accumulated over the decades will be solved quickly and overnight. In addition to the Debureaucratisation Act, the Government has also adopted a package amending five fiscal acts. The package providing reductions of tax burdens creates a stable and predictable tax environment important for investments and economic development in general. This is also our clear response to the warnings of many companies that they simply cannot adequately reward top-level staff due to unstimulative tax legislation.
The Strategic Council for Digitalisation and the Strategic Council for Social Policy have also started their work. Social security issues have become even more challenging for all countries around the globe, including Slovenia: pension systems and their sustainability, healthcare systems and their accessibility, and new forms of employment.
While it is true that countries adopted their legislation related to the social system in the 20th century, we are now facing the challenges of the 21st century, such as globalisation, digitalisation and ageing of the population. Our future depends on the way we address these issues. The success and competitiveness of Slovenia’s economy, the value of work and jobs, and thus the well-being of citizens’ lives depend on it.
The goal of the Government I lead is to create conditions that will provide all people of working age with decent work for decent pay. All workers should earn enough to provide a decent life for themselves and the people they maintain. All work, either in an employment relationship or of a precarious nature, must be under legal protection. Access to the labour market, education and lifelong learning, equal social protection and social services for all employees regardless of their employment contract, fair working conditions, appropriate education that must respond to the labour market situation – all these are rights that must be provided to employees even under the new working conditions.
We are aware that without a thriving economy, all our efforts will remain only good intentions. Therefore, our greatest challenge at the moment is achieving a successful economic, social and general recovery of Slovenia.
The epidemic was and still is a test in which, as a society, we have a responsibility to show solidarity and protect the health of our loved ones, colleagues and friends, and as a country to maintain the competitiveness of our companies and jobs, which are the foundation for further development and social welfare of all citizens. The Government I lead is aware of this. Our oath before the National Assembly is our commitment that we fulfil every day with our responsible work for the common good and the prosperity of Slovenia. We do not run from responsibility. Our decisions and all the measures adopted thus far speak for themselves.
I would like to sincerely congratulate you all, particularly those living off your own current or past work and the management of your own resources, on 1 May, Labour Day and the day celebrating St Joseph the Worker. Stay healthy and brave. Hold on to your hope.
Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia