• 2020-11-05

How Do We Plan Measures in the Areas of Employment and Social Protection?

The Planning Measures in the Area of Employment and Social Protection webinar held 5 November 2020 for the members of the Working Group of the National Convention on the EU for Chapter 19 - Social Policy and Employment, and for other civil society organisations, social partners, expert associations and institutions dealing with the preparation of public policy documents or those monitoring the application of measures and programmes in this area.

We organised this webinar with the intent of improving the knowledge and skills of civil society organisations which are necessary in the process of public policy document preparation and monitoring the preparation of programmes and measures. The participation of organisations and social partners in this process is all the more necessary, and basing their proposed policies on precise indicators, primarily at the level of planning the scope of measures and necessary financial resources, gives them both relevance and credibility. Particular attention is paid to the methods used by the state in allocating limited public budget funds, the criteria applied by decision makers, cost analysis, and the poverty reduction policy as an intersectoral policy.

Adapting to new ways of working, we held webinar training sessions from home, the seat of the Center for Democracy Foundation, in two sessions of two hours each. The first session was led by Associate Prof. Marina Savković, PhD, University of Sigidunum. The topics she covered in her presentation were: social policy as a public good, the state budget as a limited common resource, government policy and public finances, i.e. how taxes affect our lives. She pointed out that every citizen has the right to social protection and access to the labour market. The right of one individual must not diminish this right of another. This is social policy as a public good. A feature of public goods is that they are invaluable to the quality of life of the people. Marina Savković explained in what way and for what purposes the state allocates public budget funds and how cost-benefit analysis is performed. This analysis includes an assessment of the investment needed to solve or mitigate a particular issue and an assessment of fiscal savings and additional fiscal revenues if a measure is implemented and by comparison we arrive at the "net value" of a particular policy. On the example of active labour market measures aimed at the Roma population, Marina Savković pointed out the process of adopting measures, their application and effects. She emphasised her particularly vulnerable segment, which are women who have suffered more serious consequences from the COVID-19 crisis, compared to the general population. Active measures have less coverage in relation to the general population, and Roma as service users dominate in measures that have a below-average success rate.

In the second session, Ljiljana Lučić, former State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, spoke about the objectives of the social protection strategy and the financing of their implementation. She paid special attention to the decentralisation of social services and the continuation of the deinstitutionalisation process. She reminded the participants that the main motive for decentralisation in social protection is contained in the fact that the central level of government cannot adequately respond to the needs of the population, especially in regard to social services. Whether services which cover the elderly and children and/or adults with disabilities will be developed as a priority in one local community is difficult to assess from the central level of planning and decision-making. Also, availability and quality of services are much harder to achieve when they are set at the central level. In terms of poverty reduction, Ljiljana Lučić pointed out that Serbia still has genuine, absolute poverty where there are significant numbers of people who cannot meet even their basic needs. She concluded that the basic goals of social protection - poverty reduction and development of social services have been present in all phases of development and reform of the system since 2000, but also that it is obvious that there is room to improve these policies. Where further development of services in the community are in question, the biggest challenge remains to be this: how to make them available to users at varying levels of development? Improving the quality of services is possible through sustainable financing, for which, in addition to earmarked transfers, it is necessary for local communities to budget funds for these purposes and thus participate in their functioning. Finally, due to bad experiences in the use of earmarked transfers, it is necessary to build control mechanisms that will contribute to a more transparent and fairer use of these funds.

Nataša Vučković also addressed the webinar participants on behalf of the Center for Democracy Foundation, introducing them to the contents and activities of the Labour Rights Are Our Rights project which we are implementing with the support of the Olof Palme International Center.

Center for Democracy Foundation