Recent social policy developments in Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden

Five new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on recent social policy developments in Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia and Sweden.

  • A reform of the Estonian generous, but rigid parental leave and benefit scheme is underway to support the reconciliation of work and family life. Reform plans include the introduction of a “daddy month”, an extended period during which parental benefit can be claimed and a higher employment-related income threshold during parental leave. Changes are expected to be implemented gradually during 2018-2020.
  • In Germany, the Federal Parliament passed legislation introducing several changes to the occupational pension schemes. As part of the collective bargaining process, it will now for example be possible to agree defined contribution occupational pension schemes without any warranty liability concerning minimum benefits or interest rates being imposed on companies. Changes will come into force on 1 January 2018.
  • For several years, the EU, the World Bank and the OECD have been urging Latvia to reduce taxation on low-income earners and improve tax compliance. The recently approved tax policy reform goes in this direction. However, the government has also raised the compulsory state social insurance contribution rate to have more funding for healthcare, thereby increasing the tax burden on labour.
  • The information collected during Slovakia’s first thorough census of homeless people (held in Bratislava in autumn 2016) fed into the strategic and evidence-based approach at local level developed by the municipality of Bratislava and relevant stakeholders. This, in turn, has encouraged the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family to prepare a national strategy for preventing and tackling homelessness involving all main stakeholders.
  • A governmental school commission has proposed reforms of the Swedish basic school system to counter the long-term trends of declining averages and increasing inequalities in learning outcomes. The proposal to change the selection rules for students in both public and private schools caused heated political debate, but the suggestion to make the allocation of resources partly dependent on the socio-economic background of pupils within a school has already led to government action.

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