Seven new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on recent social policy developments in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia and Turkey.
Albania: Recent developments in the social assistance programme
In December 2021, the Government of Albania decided to increase the level of social assistance (minimum income) by 10% for all beneficiaries as of January 2022. For some categories, the increase is higher. Though a positive step, the level of benefits remains well below the poverty risk threshold.
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is extending and increasing pension benefits for war veterans
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the two entities within the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, changed its Law on pensions and disability insurance recently. In addition to some general improvements, the changes have extended and increased war veterans’ benefits. These changes will also allow for an extraordinary increase in ordinary pensions.
Belgium plans an important hospital reform
In January 2022, the Belgian Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health presented a plan to reform the hospital sector through new hospital networks, new governance arrangements and new financing methods. The reform is expected to improve and consolidate cooperation between hospitals and also with the first line of care (primary care) as well as improve equity of access to hospital care.
Lithuania moves closer towards a universal first-tier pension scheme
To reduce the at-risk-of-poverty rate among the elderly, Lithuania is changing the calculation method of the statutory pension benefit: the basic pension component will rely less on the contributory record, and the earnings-related component will be subject to a supplementary indexation. However, the effect of these measures on the poverty risk among the elderly is expected to be negligible unless pension funding is further increased.
Latvia: The energy crisis shines a spotlight on gaps in housing benefit
In July 2021, Latvia changed significantly the eligibility criteria and the calculation method of the housing benefit. Gaps in the new housing benefit system became apparent at the turn of the year 2021-2022 when the energy crisis escalated, and this led to the adoption of new ad hoc legislation changing the eligibility criteria and increasing the benefit amount again.
Turkey: Inflation putting pressure on people in poverty
Rising inflation in Turkey in late 2021 and early 2022 has started to put pressure on people whose income has not been fully adjusted to the inflation rate - especially those employed in the informal sector. If questions as to the possible downplaying of official inflation figures are to be taken seriously, the deterioration of the living conditions of the people affected could be even worse.
Turkey: Progress in pre-primary school enrolment
Turkey aims to reach a 100% enrolment rate in pre-primary education for 4- and 5-year-olds by 2023. To that end, the capacity will be doubled by the end of 2022. Interested NGOs have raised concerns as to whether the infrastructure for this impressive target can be built in such a short time and whether satisfactory quality can be reached in these services. Some also expressed criticism of the government’s plan to incorporate religious education into pre-primary education, which is against the secular constitution of the country.