Five new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on recent social policy developments in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Germany and the UK.
- The percentage of children aged 0 to 3 in early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Bulgaria is well below the 33% target set by the Barcelona objectives. The reasons for this are complex and include lack of state services, lack of affordable private nurseries or other alternative forms of care, etc. In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Science initiated, for the first time in Bulgaria, the development of a strategy for ECEC.
- The proposed reform of the Croatian pension system increases the pensionable age and the penalties for early retirement. It also increases the minimum pension. The rights to 2nd pillar pensions will be regulated, with supplements for different categories, pensioners will be able to take 15% of the accumulated funds when they reach pensionable age, and the 2nd pillar management fees will be reduced. Finally, there will be a reduction in the number of jobs and occupations considered arduous or hazardous.
- The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs has proposed to develop a government-regulated private occupational accident insurance scheme in Estonia. The costs would be borne by the employer, not by the Health Insurance Fund and Unemployment Insurance Fund, and should encourage employers to improve working conditions and reduce the number of accidents at work. Occupational accident insurance would cover medical expenses and other return-to-work expenses.
- In Germany, previous efforts to tackle the severe staff shortages in healthcare and long-term care have been enhanced by a new Care Staff Strengthening Act, aimed at increasing the attractiveness of care professions and at improving staffing for care facilities. The new legal provisions are worth supporting, but will not be sufficient to achieve adequate staffing levels.
- Since World War II, the UK social security system has been largely UK-wide. After devolution in 1999, for a time this broadly remained true. But Scotland is now diverging from the Westminster government’s policies in three ways: in the principles on which the social security system and anti-poverty policies are based; in the mitigation of “welfare reforms” and other changes to benefits; and in the governance of the social security system.