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Are the Elderly in Slovenia Poor?
by Blaž Mesec

Analyses of the demographic, economic and social position of elderly people in Slovenia show that pensioners are evenly distributed between the income groups, and that their population is stratified in a manner similar to that of the rest of the population, not concentrated in the lower income brackets. The position of single pensioner households, which are in fact more commonly found in the lower income groups, is different; this is especially true in the case of single retired women. These individuals are on the verge of poverty. Social welfare contributions that compensate for the loss of regular income, are an insignificant source of income for pensioners. If the poverty line is equal to one-half of the average income in the country, we find that 13.1 percent of the women aged 60 years or more live under the poverty line; this accounts for the highest percentage of people living under the poverty line for any of the population subcategories of people aged 60 years or more, or among pensioner households. The 60+ category includes pensioners as well as others. It is only those individuals from this category who do not receive pensions, i.e. those who are financially supported by others and those who simply have no income, that are threatened by poverty. In general, poverty of elderly people is not a major problem in Slovenia, even if occasionally the cases of poverty are exploited for political aims. But some subcategories of elderly population are under poverty line and at risk of social exclusion; particular attention has to be paid to the elderly individuals living in single households and receiving no pension. Also, in the future the situation may change drastically, since the pensions which now amount to approximately two-thirds of the average salary (1998; the average pension amounts to 67.4 percent of the average salary, whereas the average old-age pension amounts to 74.5 percent of the average salary) will diminish. According to some authors any person whose only source of income is a pension will fall below the poverty line.

Slovenia: Some Socio-Economic Data
The Republic of Slovenia (population 1,987.755 in 1999, area 20.000 square km) with it's relatively high GDP per capita (14.800 USD), low inflation rate, low level of public debt, almost balanced general government budget, is regarded as a successful transitional state and a prospective candidate for EU. It’s rank of 28 in Human Development Index is among the highest in the world. The components of the index are: life expectancy - 75 years, gross enrolment ratio of 82, education index of 0.93 and above mentioned real GDP per capita (Hanžek, Gregorcic, 2000). During the transition years the number of unemployed persons (7.6 % in 1999) and pensioners increased. The number of pensioners increased from 15.5% in 1983 to 19.7% in 1993 for men and from 16.1% to 22% for women, largely because of early retirement schemes (Stanovnik, Stropnik, 2000). The consequence of the desire to retain the existing level of social benefits has been a large increase in the overall costs of social insurance.

Elderly in Slovenia: Demographic Issues
At the end of 1999 there were 275,400 people aged 65 years or more living in Slovenia, accounting for 13.99 percent of the total population of the country. The cohort comprising elderly people aged 65 years or more has been constantly growing over the last decades. The ratio between men and women is very asymmetrical: there are far more women (63,5 %) than men (36,5%) within the population of 65+. Projections of population statistics for elderly people up to 2020 indicate an increase of one percent every five years, and the percentage is expected to rise to 14.5 by 2005, 15.9 by 2010, and 18.9 percent of the total population by 2020 (Statistical Yearbook 2000).

Data for people aged 65 years or more indicate that Slovenia is, population-wise, an old society. A society is considered »old« when more than 7 percent (or 10, or 12 percent - different authors use different figures) of the population are aged 65 years or more. The figures for Slovenia for 1999 (13.99 percent of the population aged 65 years or more) undoubtedly places Slovenia among older societies. The population ageing index, i.e. the ratio between people aged 65 years or more and children up to the age of 14 years (inclusive), is 87 at the end of the year 1999. A normal ageing index, one which indicates a favourable reproduction rate for the population, is between 32 and 40. An index of 72 is considered the »demographic threshold«, i.e. the turning point beyond which the population no longer reproduces its numbers. Slovenia passed this threshold in 1996. The life expectancy of men has increased from 65.56 years in 1958/59 to 71.34, whilst that of women has increased from 70.68 to 78.75 during the same period. The year 2000 is the first year when the natural increase value became positive again after a long run of negative values signifying a decline of the population's capability of self-renewal.

Thus, elderly population is growing in numbers and is becoming more and more important factor, influencing the possibility of the society for growth and development. The struggle of the state to cut the expenditures for old age pension insurance and social benefits threatens to worsen the living conditions of the elderly. So the question, whether the elderly on the average or in a substantial numbers are to be regarded as poor, seems to be justified. It is justified also as there is tempting for different political options to manipulate with the poverty of societal groups, i.e. to “hazard with old age”, as Novak (1998) has put it. The answer to this question up to now has been: No, they are not poor. Or better: Not yet. Or still better: Depends on how the poverty is defined. But let us see some data.

Concept of Poverty and Poverty in the General Population
The concept of poverty, as simple as it seems to be on the first sight, is a multi-level and elusive concept, since poverty is not an objective and absolute, but socially constructed and relative characteristic (Novak, 1994). To illustrate this elusiveness and complexity it is enough to show, that the very means aimed at reducing poverty, e.g. social assistance benefits, are used to define it, and that the criteria for assessing poverty are relative. If a society as a whole is poor, then the poverty thresholds will also be lower, and the official number of poor people will not be bigger as in a rich country. For the aims of this paper we will distinguish three types or levels of poverty: poverty in stricter sense, i.e. material poverty, poverty in broader sense, which includes social exclusion and deprivations, and – applied especially to the elderly population - cultural or spiritual poverty, i.e. the experience of meaningless life.

Material poverty or poverty in stricter sense
Material poverty can be subdivided into objectively measured and subjectively measured one. Objective criteria, based on income, can be subdivided into absolute and relative ones. Absolute poverty is defined by the income below the officially defined minimal income. The minimal income in this respect is defined through the procedure of determining the eligibility for social support. For this condition two kinds of support are foreseen: financial assistance and means-tested financial allowance. Financial assistance as the only source of livelihood (according to Social Welfare Act) is a permanent source of income substitution. Persons, eligible for social assistance, are those younger that 60 and incapable of working, and persons older than 60 years, with no income, no property and no carer (family members or others) and are living at home. Social assistance is calculated as 60% of the guaranteed wage (223 DEM in 2000 as 60% of 372 DEM). Additionally to this the eligible person is entitled to the assistance in natural or functional form once a year. If care by another person is needed, the amount of assistance can be 30% higher.

Means-tested financial allowance (financial assistance as temporary source according to Social Welfare Act) is a temporary source of support. Eligible are individuals or families who temporarily cannot provide funds for living (temporarily incapable of working), i.e. if their income, without other benefits, does not reach certain criteria, expressed as a percentage of guaranteed income (29%, 34%, 42%, 52% - depending on age of the child or adult). The amount of financial allowance is determined as the difference between real income per household member and the specific percentage of the guaranteed wage. It amounted to 194 DEM (in 2000). Thus, both criteria are set as a percentage of guaranteed wage. Besides temporary financial assistance single financial assistance is possible for overcoming a momentary lack of funds.

The total number of persons of all ages receiving either one or the other kind of support was 33.196, i.e. 1,7% of the whole population (together with children of the recipients they comprise 3 % of the whole population). Of these 33 thousands, 3,7% are mostly elderly over 59, receiving financial assistance as a permanent support. They would comprise less than 1% of the elderly population of 60+. Other 96,3% of the population of the receivers of either kind of assistance, are young people: 67% are singles, 15% are parents of one-parent families, the rest are parents of two parent families. The number of people receiving permanent welfare assistance has been lowering during the last years, but the number of young supported has been increasing – the phenomenon of »the infantilisation of poverty«. (There is a number of other benefits to the young and elderly which are not of interest here, as they are not contained in the definition of poverty.)

Relative poverty is defined by the income level below »poverty line«, which is set at 40%, 50% or 60% of the medium (median) equivalent income. In EU-states there are 17% of persons below the poverty line of 60% of median equivalent income. In Slovenia there were 11,2% of persons below this line, the figure being so low partly due to different methodology (in 1998, Hanžek, Gregorcic, 2000). The number of persons below the so defined poverty threshold diminished from 13,6% in 1993. But among the households with no person active (among them many elderly), there were 21% below the poverty line in 1998. The relativity of poverty can be illustrated through (indirect) comparison with the data on households. Let us suppose that the same percentage valid for individual persons below the poverty line, holds for households too, i.e. 11,2%. 98 percents of all Slovenian households own a refrigerator; let's suppose that the remaining 2 percents of households, who do not own a refrigerator, are all households below the poverty line. It follows that the remaining 4/5 of households below poverty line own a refrigerator. By the same logic we arrive at conclusion that at least ¾ of households below poverty line own a washing machine, half of those households own a colour TV.

Subjective poverty is poverty measured by asking people whether they consider themselves poor. Approximately 1% of the general Slovenian population considers themselves poor or lacking basic consumer goods. But additional 3,5% say that they have severely to limit themselves in purchasing food. 33.3% say that they have to spend money very carefully or limit purchases of equipment, clothes etc. (Slovenian Public Opinion - SJM 99). In general the proportion of people, who say they lack nothing, increased over the years, so did the proportion of those who say, they have to economize on less important things. The proportion of those who have severely to limit themselves purchasing consumer goods decreased.

Social exclusion and deprivation
Restricting the concept of poverty to the measures, based on income, would mean to overlook other dimensions of poverty and their possible combinations, which can nullify the power of even a modest income. Such factors include lack of property, bad housing conditions, lack of education, of equipment, permanent unemployment, lack of social support, discrimination and other factors. According to a research on the population of 17+ (Trbanc, 1996) some 4% of the general population seem to be deprived regarding housing conditions, 34% have only elementary education or less, 20% have difficulties covering the expenses for food and housing, are unemployed (7%) etc. The majority (52%) are deprived in 1-2 areas, 31% in 3 or more areas.

Poverty of the Elderly (Pensioners and 60+)

Absolute poverty
Not all the recipients of the financial assistance as the only source of income are elderly, but lacking the exact data we will take them all as elderly, since the majority are elderly indeed: 1230. The recipients of the financial assistance as the temporary source of income are 31.966 persons (in 1999) in the whole population. Of all the recipients of financial assistance as the temporary source of income, 5.7% are 60+, in absolute number 1822 persons. Together, the elderly recipients of both kinds of assistance are at most 4874, i.e. 0,25% of the whole population or 1,3% of the elderly population 60+. These are to be regarded as absolutely poor as they are receiving either one or the other kind of financial assistance because of the absolute lack of financial resources. The number of social assistance recipients has been decreasing relative to the total number of pensioners (or elderly) since 1991.

Relative poverty
Since more recent comparative research is lacking, we will recourse to a research of the economic well-being of the elderly people in Slovenia which compares data for 1983-1993 (Stanovnik, Stropnik, Prinz, 2000; Stanovnik, 1997), thus covering the period of transition. If the poverty line is set to one-half of the average income in the country, we find that in 1993 7,1% of all persons (of all ages) are below the poverty line compared to 12,6% of all persons in the category of 60+. 13,1 percent of the women aged 60 years or more live under the poverty line (11,9% of the men); this accounts for the highest percentage of people living under the poverty line for any of the population subcategories of people aged 60 years or more, or among pensioner households. The 60+ category includes pensioners as well as others. It is only those individuals from this category who do not receive pensions, i.e. those who are financially supported by others, and those who simply have no income, that are threatened by poverty. Poverty incidence in pensioners decreased considerably from 1983 to 1993; for persons aged 60 + (which include non-pensioners too) the decrease is less pronounced.

Other indication of relative poverty would be a negatively skewed distribution of income or accumulation of persons in lower income deciles. But the research quoted above shows, that pensioners are evenly distributed among the income groups, and that their population is stratified in a manner similar to that of the rest of the population, not concentrated in the lower income brackets. Also social welfare contributions that compensate for the loss of regular income are an insignificant source of income for pensioners. It means that pensioners in general do not need such compensations. Income inequality of the total population of Slovenia increased in the period from 1983-1993; for pensioners and people 60+ no marked changes in income inequality can be observed. The distribution of pensions has remained fairly stable. »Pensioners and the elderly in general have improved their relative income position during the transition period in Slovenia … They were doubtlessly on the winning side», conclude their report Stanovnik and Stropnik (2000, p. 177) and ask: »Who are the losers of transition in Slovenia? The losers are the unemployed and the low-wage earners who have been left out of the share in productivity growth.«

The position of single pensioner households, which are in fact more commonly found in the lower income groups, is different; this is especially true in the case of single retired women. These individuals live a very modest life and are on the verge of poverty (Stanovnik, 1997).

On average, pensions amount to approximately two-thirds of the average salary and despite a slight increase in the amount, the relationship between the two has remained more-or-less stable since 1978 (cf. also Stanovnik, 1997). According to data for 2000, the average pension amounts to 68,1 percent of the average salary, whereas the average old-age pension amounts to 75.3 percent of the average salary (SPIZ - Institute of Pension and Disability Insurance, 2000). However, we cannot expect to maintain such pensions in the future without additional saving. According to Stanovnik, any person whose only source of income is a pension will fall below the poverty line.

The general findings about poverty of the elderly can best be summarised through the conclusions of Novak’s survey research on quality of life of pensioners (1998): “1. household income depends on education, not on gender and age; 2. pensioners can have lower standard of living, but it is highly probable, that this correlation does not depend on pensioner status; 3. the satisfaction with living conditions is not dependent on the conditions themselves.” Old age and the pensioner status are not a significant factor of poverty, concludes Novak.

Social exclusion and deprivation: Housing
In Slovenia 87.2% of all households owned an apartment or a house. Among pensioners the percentage of apartment- or house-owners increased in the years of transition, mainly as a consequence of very favorable prices of purchase of apartments for tenants living in them, during the privatisation of public tenant-housing funds. A research covering a geographically limited region of Slovenia indicates that the vast majority of elderly people, or their family members, own their own apartments or houses (84% in three Gorenjska municipalities; Klinar, 1997). A comparison of survey data on Quality of Life in Slovenia, between employed persons and pensioners, shows a bigger percentage of owners of apartments among pensioners (80%) than among employed persons. On the other hand pensioners, especially those older and with lower education more often live in substandardly equipped apartments (Novak, 1998). Research into the housing problems of vulnerable groups (Mandic, 1999) mentions »older people« as being part of the vulnerable group (which is not treated in greater detail), but also concludes that younger generations would have nowhere to live if they were not living with their parents. However, the housing standard of elderly people, especially the older ones, who live in old apartments, is often poor. Here, again, the average is satisfactory, but there are sub-categories in which the situation is poor.

Other factors
Since the majority of elderly are retired people, the exclusion from employment doesn't seem on the first sight as a meaningful category to apply as an indicator of their social exclusion. Namely, the lost monetary gain of employment is compensated (up to two thirds or three quarters) by the old age pension after retiring. But there are social aspects of employment, like maintaining of active attitude toward life, of social contacts and networks, social status and similar, which after retirement could be endangered, thus leading to the process of marginalization and social exclusion.

Contrary to the expectations and contrary to the self-image of Slovenians as heirs of a long history of literacy, and despite flourishing cultural development of the nation in general and of the educational system in particular, recent data, concerning the educational level of the population, show some unwelcome trends: nearly half of the general population has only elementary education or less, and functional illiteracy (despite high level of formal literacy) is widespread (Hanžek, Gregorcic, 2000). In a comparative research on functional literacy Slovenia is on the 19th place among 22 western countries (Kodelja, 2000, quoted after Hanžek, Gregorcic, 2000). What is true for the general population is even more true for the elderly since the average level of education of the elderly is lower. The survey of Adult literacy in Slovenia (quoted obove) shows that pensioners as a category are among the groups with lowest functional literacy (better than farm workers and housekeepers, but worse than unemployed, employed and students).

For many elderly people it is difficult to cope with the modern way of living with it's heavy use of all kinds of constantly changing sophisticated technical equipment (from cars and computers, to mobiles, audiovisual equippment and all kinds of automata in public places). Ownership of cars and of audiovisual equipment (besides color TV) is among the dimensions which discriminate best between employed persons and pensioners (Novak, 1998). As a consequence, in their everyday life, they recourse to simpler ways, thus excluding themselves from the mainstream of society.

In addition to this, negative attitudes toward elderly and discrimination of them (»ageism«) are an element of social exclusion and contribute to it. There are no data about the attitude of different segments of Slovenian population toward the elderly as a cohort; but the impresion is that there is no general or widespread negative attitude toward them. Some kind of the traditional respect for the elderly has still been preserved. But there is a feeling of resentment or envy in the younger generation toward the older generation: the older generation has well provided for itself through the establishment of an expensive pension system (during socialism) causing now a defficit in pension insurance funds, which persists despite the reformed law on pension insurance, thus impeding the possibilities of younger generation.

Beyond Material Poverty: Problems of the Elderly

At the moment the problems of the elderly in Slovenia are not to be found in material conditions of their lives predominantly, but in the need for help and care in the case of illness and inability, in immediate social relationships within their families, and in the attitude of the elderly toward themselves and their life.

The need for home-help and nursing care
As the life-span increases, so do age-related illnesses. With the general increase of the number of elderly also the number and the percentage of very old and ill increases. The well known Berlin study of elderly people (Baltes, Mayer 1999) concludes that practically all people aged over seventy years take some form of medication. This finding counters the overly optimistic prediction of affliction-free old age. As a consequence the number of elderly in institutions has been increasing in Slovenia too (index 1999/1990 is 106 - but the increase is limited by the number of existing homes). So does the number of elderly applicants for the institutions and elderly who need home-help and care. On every 100 residents of the homes for elderly there are 58 applications (the actual number of applicants is lower since an unknown number of applications are multiplied and sent to a number of homes).

Many families with an elderly member eventually face a situation in which she or he requires not only occasional attention but permanent caring. It is also true for Slovenia that elder members of the family are usually cared for by a female family member, usually a daughter or daughter-in-law. In research conducted in a Ljubljana community (Jakic, 1997), only 37 percent of the family members caring for an elder relative declared that it was a responsibility they were »still capable of handling«, whilst the remainder considered it a burden; 37 percent said that it was a »significant physical and mental burden«. Caring for the elderly at home is a heavy burden for those responsible, as well as for the entire family. It can exhaust the family, result in family conflict, and impair the health of those caring for the elderly relative (Pentek, 1994).

Other problems
Although very little is spoken about neglect and abuse of the elderly, and violence toward them, the problem does exist, both in families and retirement homes (Majhenic, 1999). Suicide among the elderly contributes to the sombre statistics on suicide in Slovenia. The suicide coefficient is highest among people aged about eighty years. The feelings of loneliness and despair are partly the result of the unavoidable losses that accompany old age and the breakdown of relationships and partly originate in life led by superficial consumerist values and are accompanied by feelings of emptiness and unfulfilled life. Social processes, such as the migration of young families from rural to urban areas, the decay of farms and farmsteads, as well as other cultural and historical factors, contribute to these. Lonesome dying in institutions is a problem to which attention was called recently with the raise of hospice movement (Klevišar 1999).

Measures Against Poverty: Future Prospects

In the future well-being of the elderly will – besides of the basic economic conditions in the country and it's GDP – depend mainly on the realisation of the reform of the pension system on one side and on the realisation of the measures of the governmental anti-poverty programme which includes changes in the welfare provisions and welfare system on the other.

Reform of pension, disability and health insurance
At the end of the year 2000 in Slovenia there were 485.079 retired people, of these 287.568 recipients of old-age pensions (ZPIZ 2001). The total number of recipients of pensions exceeds the total number of 65+ olds largely; even the number of recipients of old-age pensions exceeds the number of persons 65+. Nevertheless not all people 65+ are pensioners (in 1996 87,5% of persons 65+ were pensioners). Pensioners make up 24% of the whole population (in 2000). Together pension and health insurance amount to 14.89 % of GDP (in 1997). All these are indicators of a broad-minded system of pension insurance, inherited from socialism, which in the period of transition stimulated early retirement. As a consequence, the ratio of insured to retired persons dropped from 1 : 3 in 1984 to 1 : 1,65 in 2000 (SPIZ 2001). It is not necessary to say, that such a system presented a large burden to the state budget, and was leading to an impasse in the future.

After years of preparation and discussion among political parties, social partners and civil society, a new Pension and Disability Insurance Act was passed in 1999, being in force since the beginning of 2000. Even if it enacts new relationships, as a compromise it does not go far enough to fully implement the changes anticipated by the »white paper« launched at the beginning of the campaign for the reform of this field. In the comparison to the original proposal, the provisions that have been passed are far more moderate and gradual, and the sluggish harmonisation of pensions is taking place within a very long transitory period.

The »white paper« anticipated a new method for determining the contributions rate for self employed persons, separate disability insurance, »flexible« superannuation, equal rights for both genders, and foremost, a system of funding that will be based on the three pillars of pension insurance. Only two of the anticipated changes have been fully implemented. A new minimum contributions base for self employed persons has been determined; changes to disability insurance include separate contributions for disability insurance and for injury at work or professional disease (valid only for employers). The difference between the retirement period for men and women was not nullified, but it was reduced; another novelty is that parenthood has replaced motherhood as a factor in determining the retirement period. »Flexible« superannuation has been introduced, but with more modest incentives for increasing the length of service than had been hoped for.

The reform proposal also anticipated three types of pension and disability insurance, the so-called »three pillars system«: compulsory insurance based on intergeneration solidarity, insurance on the basis of pension savings accounts, and compulsory and voluntary additional insurance. Voluntary additional insurance has now been introduced alongside compulsory insurance: this paves the way for the establishment of privately-owned insurance organisations (pension mutual funds and public limited companies) to which insurance premiums shall be paid either by the insured persons or their employers, for which tax relief shall be granted.

By the new law the eligibility for the old-age pension depends, as by the old one, on age and contribution period. For the full pension by the old law the required contribution period was 40 years for men and 35 for women; by the new law the contribution period for women has been raised to 38 years. Retirement age by the old law was 58 years men, 53 years women; by the new law it is raised for women to 58 years.

Partial pension is possible for men with 63 years of age (58 for women with gradual increase to 61) and contribution for at least 20 years; or for men with 65 years of age and women with 60, for the contribution period of at least 15 years (women gradually increase to 63 years). There are minimum and maximum pensions established. The minimum pension base is 64% of the net average wage; maximum pension base is established at four times the minimum pension base. The ratio of maximum to minimum pension should not exceed 4:1 ratio.

The new act attempts to compensate for the lowering of pensions by introducing additional insurance. The proposers of the act are of the opinion that a more radical reform will be required in the mid-term. Until then, we can only hope that we shall still be able to claim that the »position of pensioners in Slovenia is, in relative terms, the best in the world« (J. Mencinger, in: Štefanec, 1999), and that such a situation will not have adverse effects on the position of younger generations. When incorporating new funding, such as voluntary insurance, the financial position of the pensioners in the future - according to the expectations of the architects of the reform - should not change significantly (Development Programme).

The Social Security and Health Insurance Act (1992-1993) reaffirmed health insurance and abolished the state-controlled system of health care. There have been changes in several fields: in the introduction of new providers and the obligations of the providers; in the network of health services providers (introduction of the private sector); in the introduction of contractual partner relations; in the introduction of compulsory and voluntary health insurance. There is also greater emphasis on individual responsibility for one's own health. Supposedly, the primary reason for the reform is limited funding, considering, of course, the presumed allocation of the funding, which can be a bone of contention.

It would seem, therefore, that despite the reforms and the streamlining of both social welfare systems, the latter still provide social security for elderly people.

National programme for the fight against poverty
The government adopted a National Programme for the Fight against Poverty and Social Exclusion in February 2000. The Programme's aim therefore is to co-ordinate, integrate and upgrade programmes that only deal partially with these issues. The Programme is based on the idea that steps to be taken in this area are urgent and that neither poverty nor social exclusion can be eradicated completely. It is important to reduce them by continuing activities and to prevent the long-term exclusion of individuals and families from everyday life in their social environments. This requires the joint action of all ministries responsible for particular areas, local communities, public services, and non-governmental organisations.

The Programme has two main goals: l. to help those facing the conditions of poverty and social exclusion; 2. to prevent poverty and social exclusion of people from critical social groups. In order to meet these goals, it is most important to: 1. provide jobs that ensure social security to everyone; 2. reduce the number of dropouts from educational system and raise the level of qualification; 3. provide more non-profit or social housing and introduce subsidies for those who cannot cover the cost of high rent; and 4. raise the level of social benefits for those who cannot provide for themselves and introduce measures to ensure that social benefits are only used to bridge the period before going back to living independently. Thus, unemployment, housing, education and survival benefits are the main targets of the programme.

There is a number of changes in legislation foreseen by the Programme, most of them having some relevance to the position of the elderly (e.g. subsidising housing rents, minimal ensured income), even if the accent of the Programme is on the prevention of poverty and social exclusion of the younger and active population.

Changes in the social welfare field are of more direct consequence to the elderly. The enactment of the Social Welfare Act in 1992, led to the enactment of by-laws (Standing Orders on Standards and Norms for Social Welfare Services) and to the adoption first of the National Social Welfare Programme up to 2005, The Programme for the Development of Social Welfare for the Elderly up to 2005, and of the Programme for the Development of Institutional Care for the Elderly up to 2005 as well. The Social Welfare Act introduced streamlining of the public contributions and services, pluralizing providers of social welfare and the establishment of a social welfare network at local level. A condition for the establishment of a local network of social security providers is the participation of the local communities, i.e. municipalities that must assume their responsibility and its share of contribution of funds to this cause.

The social welfare network consists of the providers of public services (centres for social work, retirement homes, anticipated regional centres for help at home, providers of other public services within the living environment), providers in the private sector (which is developing too slowly), non-governmental and voluntary organisations, among which self help groups and organisations of pensioners and elderly people play a special role. This picture is completed by the informal sector - family, relatives, neighbourhood. It is a tight network of public institutions and non-governmental organisations in municipalities or local communities. Centres for social work (of which there are 53 across Slovenia) are carrying out public mandates (allocating financial assistance, welfare of disabled persons, guardianship), social prevention services (self-help groups for the elderly), social first aid services, personal assistance services, assistance to families at home and for the home, organising common activities. In addition to their basic activity, homes for elderly (63 of them) also offer external services, including delivering meals to local population of elderly and nursing. Pensioners themselves have a well-developed system of self-organisation.

It seems therefore, that in spite of less generous system of pension and health insurance in the future, a number of measures have been taken to prevent from poverty and social exclusion of elderly people.

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