Measuring distance to the SDG targets – The Slovak Republic

The Slovak Republic has already achieved 18 of the 125 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, is expected to meet 7 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, the Slovak Republic has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned by the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). The Slovak Republic is among the fastest growing OECD economies and displays some strengths when it comes to protecting biodiversity. Yet, challenges remain, in particular on education and health outcomes.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of the Slovak Republic’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG targets. As such, it differs in nature from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment draws on the global indicator framework and relies on data sourced from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Over the past 20 years, the Slovak Republic has achieved high economic growth. Before the pandemic hit, GDP growth, supported by a strong growth of labour productivity, was well above the OECD average (Targets 8.1 and 8.2). As a result, the labour market also improved. In 2018, national compliance with labour rights (freedom of association and collective bargaining) was among the highest of the OECD (Target 8.8). The unemployment rate, while still close to the OECD average, has been falling and earnings increased (Target 8.5). While the share of youth not in education, employment or training (at 14%) remains high and close to the OECD average, it decreased significantly (Target 8.6). Poverty is also lower than in most OECD countries (Targets 1.2 and 10.2).

On the environmental side, the Slovak Republic performs well on biodiversity related targets (Goal 15). Substantial progress has been made in expanding protected areas, which now cover 38% of the territory, (above the Aichi target of 17%). Further, more than 85% of terrestrial, freshwater and mountain areas that are considered key for biodiversity are already protected (Targets 15.1 and 15.4) while available measures suggest good management of forest areas (Target 15.2). In addition, while rising, the environmental impact of agricultural production (measured through nitrogen surplus) is only a third of the OECD average (Target 2.4) and degraded land accounts for less than 5% of the territory (Target 15.3). As a result, while the loss of biodiversity is also concern, the conservation status of major species is better than in most OECD countries (Target 15.5).

Health outcomes are comparatively weak. The distance to Target 3.4 on premature mortality is large, the suicide mortality rate is around the OECD average, and the risk of dying from non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease) is well above the average among OECD Members. Overweight and obesity are also a growing concern. Last available data (referring to 2008) show that around 17% of adults are obese (Target 2.2). Unlike most OECD countries, smoking rates have not been decreasing. In 2019, more than one in five Slovak smoke daily (Target 3.a). Although decreasing, the Slovak Republic also features above average per capita alcohol consumption (Target 3.5). As a result, the 12-months prevalence of alcohol use disorder (at 12%) is 4 points higher than the OECD average. In addition, the high level of fine particle matters in metropolitan areas (Target 11.6) weigh heavily on health outcomes (Target 3.9).

Improving skills require further efforts. While the shares of low skilled students and of adults taking formal and non-formal education are roughly in line with the OECD average (Targets 4.1 and 4.3), there is scope for improvement on many education-related targets. Relatively to other OECD countries, a small share of adults and young people have a broad set of ICT skills (Target 4.4) and more should be done to mainstream education for sustainable development in national education policies, student’s curricula and assessments (Targets 4.7, 12.8 and 13.3). In addition, educational disparities remain important and start early in life. While, on average among OECD countries, over 95% of children are enrolled in early childhood education and care one year before the official primary school entry age, this rate is below 85% in the Slovak Republic. Differences in socio-economic background, gender, immigration status and location contribute to disparities in education outcomes (Target 4.5).

The Slovak Republic is also far from some Targets on the Peace and Partnerships goals. In 2020, only one fifth of citizens trusted the judicial system (Target 16.6). Decision-making could be more inclusive, with the OECD index of diversity in the central government workforce almost half the OECD average and only one in four parliamentary seats held by women (Targets 5.5 and 16.7). On Goal 17, as it is the case in many OECD countries, Official Development Assistance is at 0.13% far below the long-term 0.7% Target of GNI (Target 17.2).

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For the Slovak Republic, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 125 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While ten goals (mostly within People, Planet and Prosperity categories) have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goal 11 on cities (50%), and Goal 14 on life below water (20%) – the Slovak Republic is a landlocked country and some Goal 14 Targets may not apply. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those providing contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% for only Goals 3 on health and 4 on education. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within the Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also in Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, data are lacking to monitor changes over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of the Slovak Republic’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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