The way that Slovenia provides support for persons with disabilities or chronic health problems is quite unique. Sickness policies, disability policies and policies for jobseekers with health barriers to employment cover similar groups and overlapping risks that are managed by different institutions. Unfortunately, this setup results in system duplications and inefficiencies and generates undesirable behavioural responses among persons with long-term sicknesses and disabilities as well as employers. It also leaves gaps in the system, leaving some people with inadequate social protection.

The disability benefit caseload is high in Slovenia; the number of long-term sickness claims is high and increasing; and employment rates among persons with disabilities are, sadly, stubbornly low. These developments have led the Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (MLFSAEQ) to engage in a project with the Directorate General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM) of the European Commission and the OECD in order to prepare a comprehensive reform of the Slovenian pension and disability insurance system.

Recommendations for pension reform were published in the series of OECD Reviews of Pension Systems, with a focus on how to encourage people to work longer and how to make the pension system financially sustainable while preserving the pensioners’ living standards. Increasing the low rates of employment after age 60 will be critical for achieving all of these goals; today, only 25% of Slovenians aged 60 to 64 are in employment. Reforms of sickness and disability programmes were not covered in the pension review although lack of necessary reform to those programmes could undermine the incentives to work longer and, thus, the success of pension reform.

This new report complements the pension review and supports the Slovenian Government in three ways. First, it provides new evidence on the state of social protection for persons with disabilities in Slovenia, importantly including the issues of long-term sickness and long-term unemployment and of premature labour market exit via those programmes. Second, it reviews existing policies and measures to support the work (re)integration of persons with disabilities and long-term health issues. Third, it provides policy recommendations to reform sickness and disability insurance programmes.

The preparation of the report involved a number of steps that contributed to shaping its conclusions:

  • A series of meetings with key stakeholders and institutions responsible for the management of the system of social protection for persons with disability in Slovenia; notably the MLFSAEQ and the Ministry of Health, the main implementing bodies (Health Insurance Institute, Pension and Disability Insurance Institute, Public Employment Service of Slovenia), the social partners and the main disability organisations.

  • Input from the University Rehabilitation Institute (URI-Soča) reviewing their existing measures to support work reintegration of sickness insurance claimants.

  • Linked administrative data, essential for the analytic results in the report, previously compiled for a project ran by researchers at the University of Primorska.

  • Administrative data kindly shared by the Health Insurance Institute, the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute and, in particular, the Public Employment Service of Slovenia.

  • A national virtual workshop with policy makers from the key institutions to present and discuss the analytical results of this report.

  • A series of focus group meetings with the key stakeholders and institutions to receive feedback to and create a common vision for the policy recommendations.

All participants in these events, and collaborators in sharing data, are warmly thanked for their invaluable support, insights and advice.

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