Journal of Social Policy Issues: Call for papers on Special Issue “Welfare state and social policies in the CEE region: past developments, present challenges and prospects for the future”, Deadline: 30 December 2020

The peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal Problemy Polityki Społecznej/Social Policy Issues invites original paper submissions for a special issue to bring together papers exploring a broad array of research questions related to welfare state and social policies in the CEE region.

University of Warsaw invites to submit original papers to the special issue of Problemy Polityki Społecznej. Social Policy Issues – a peer-reviewed, OPEN ACCESS journal, published by University of Warsaw.

The planned Special Issue “Welfare state and social policies in the CEE region: past developments, present challenges and prospects for the future” aims to bring together papers exploring a broad array of research questions related to welfare state and social policies in the CEE region, that may touch upon past developments, present challenges as well as future prospects. By CEE region we mean a large group of countries including Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine as well as sub-country regions, e.g. east of Germany.

The best paper submitted to this issue will receive an award of 400 euro. Read more

Criminal Law Protection of People with Disabilities against Discrimination in the Republic of Serbia

Persons with disabilities in the Republic of Serbia are a very sensitive category that is discriminated against in multiple ways and excluded from the main social aspects. The mechanisms of protecting persons with disabilities, securing equal representation and their complete integration are achieved through adequate legislation and criminal laws, and also special protection in big crisis such as pandemic COVID-19.

Filip Mirić & Aleksandra Nikolajević, University of Niš, Republic of Serbia

For an open and democratic society, it is of crucial importance that all its citizens, regardless of their personal characteristics and features, have a right to education, cultural activities, recreation, access to the labor market, and equality in all segments of social life. Persons with disabilities in the Republic of Serbia are a very sensitive category that is discriminated against in multiple ways and excluded from the main social aspects. The mechanisms of protecting persons with disabilities, securing equal representation and their complete integration are achieved through adequate legislation and criminal laws, and also special protection in big crisis such as pandemic COVID-19.

In the legal system of Republic of Serbia discrimination is a crime. Firstly, we should mention the criminal offense of violation of equality under Article 128 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia (hereinafter referred to as CC). Another important offence envisaged in Article 387 of the Serbian Criminal Code is the criminal offense of racial and other discrimination. The basic form of this criminal offense is committed by anyone who, on the grounds of differences in race, color, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or some other personal characteristic, violates the fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed by universally accepted rules of international law and international treaties ratified by Serbia; the perpetrator of such a crime may be punished by a term of imprisonment ranging from six months to five years. Apart from this, there are other forms of the same criminal offense. The same punishment (imprisonment ranging from six months to five years) will be imposed on those who persecute organizations or individuals for their efforts to promote equality.

A number of offences are punished by imprisonment ranging from three months to three years, such as in the case of anyone who spreads ideas about the superiority of one race over another, or propagates racial hatred or incites racial discrimination; anyone who disseminates or otherwise makes public texts, pictures or any other representation of ideas or theories that advocate or encourage hatred, discrimination or violence against any person or group of persons based on race, skin color, religious affiliation, nationality, ethnicity origin or other personal property; and anyone who publicly threatens to commit a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment exceeding four years against a person or a group of persons belonging to a particular race, color, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or other personal property. The criminalization of equality violations from Article 128 CC can be considered as a positive development. Namely, the amendments to the Criminal Code (adopted in 2016) also mention disability as one of the grounds for the violation of equality, which is in compliance with Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia concerning the prohibition of discrimination.

Awareness of persons with disabilities is a very important factor in preventing discrimination in all areas. The results of a study conducted by Filip Mirić in 2019 on the awareness of persons with disabilities about the legal protection mechanisms available to them, show that as many as 70.59% of respondents do not have enough information on criminal protection against discrimination. In addition, the existence of a large percentage of under-informed respondents indicate the need to create active policies to raise awareness about the mechanisms of legal protection of persons with disabilities against discrimination. While the legal framework seems to be complete, it is clear that more needs to be done in terms of awareness raising on the existence and applicability of these laws to protect persons with disabilities and their right to full integration in the Serbian society. The responsibility rests, certainly, on the institutions themselves and the created social policy measures that aim at the social integration and equality of all citizens in Serbia and that can be monitored by the evaluation of established measures and factual indicators of their representation.

An Interactive OnLine Platform for students and Practitioners of Social Work in Serbia and the wider region

At the beginning of April 2020, when we all have got convinced that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to disrupt even more the environments in which social service users and social care beneficiaries live, and to have several negative consequences for their well-being and protection, the need for united activities of all social actors became imperative.

Slavica Milojevic, FPN KONEKTAS

FPN KonekTaS is an interactive online platform that brings together practitioners, teachers and students of social work and social policy in Serbia to share new theoretical and practical knowledge, professional experiences and dilemmas and strategies for overcoming obstacles caused by COVID 19, but also in their everyday work.

At the beginning of April 2020, when we all have got convinced that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to disrupt even more the environments in which social service users and social care beneficiaries live, and to have several negative consequences for their well-being and protection, the need for united activities of all social actors became imperative.

Along with information on the scale of the pandemic and its impact on socially vulnerable individuals and groups, information on the additional workload of social services providers in this situation has become evident. Namely, an increased demand put on the professionals in the social welfare system in the current situation to ensure health care and safety at the same time for themselves and for their beneficiaries, made them vulnerable too. In such circumstances, the feeling of helplessness began to spread rapidly and threatened to jeopardize the quality of professional work. This is particularly important within the ongoing efforts and some of the challenges the system and professionals are facing in relation to their already limited resources to perform in a timely and high quality manner.

As expected, adversity brings people together and encourages innovative solutions to overcome the problems that communities are faced with. Proactive approaches to addressing the needs and problems of particularly vulnerable groups have begun to emerge in all sectors and at all levels.

Among the first initiatives that have been raised in order to offer an integrated answer on growing problems caused by COVID-19, was the initiative from the Faculty of Political Science – Department of Social Policy and Social Work in Belgrade.  By gaining insight into the intentions of both students and professors to get involved as volunteers in fighting COVID-19, three social work practice instructors together with professors and associates decided to organize a Voluntary Service.

The starting idea was to invite all students and teachers willing to be engaged in the activities aimed to support social welfare professionals in all the activities addressing problems caused by the pandemic. Due to the circumstances of the pandemic, it was decided to organize an online resource, which will offer information and opportunities for volunteering in accordance with all the social work professional principles as well as other aspects of maintaining personal and collective health security.

The idea was widely supported, and so FPN KonekTaS was established in collaboration with UNICEF and with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The very first activity was conducting a survey to get insights into the needs of communities of practitioners in the social protection system for necessary services in an unprecedented situation. The survey results have shown the common need for stronger cooperation among all of us involved in social welfare in Serbia. A mapping of local initiatives created in response to the pandemic followed, and all relevant services and contacts were posted on the platform. Meanwhile, social work students have been engaged in continuous needs assessment for psycho-social and other support for social service workforce during the pandemic.

The data obtained through the survey, mapping and interviews with colleagues in the field, indicated that practitioners need to connect with other colleagues, to discuss current issues related to the pandemic, to learn from the experience of others, to hear the results of research, to get acquainted with the latest research, to get familiar with best practices, and to access maps of newly established services that arise in response to the urgent needs of particularly vulnerable social groups. And, most importantly, there was a need for concrete materials for practical and rapid use. Accordingly, we all quickly realized, that social care practitioners in the whole region are faced with similar problems and have a strong need to connect with colleagues from other countries, especially with those speaking the same language and having common professional backgrounds.

That is how the FPN KonekTaS, driven by the needs of a social workers’ community that is online and offline began to grow rapidly from a volunteering platform to a digital destination where social care practitioners in the social welfare system, the academic community and students of social work and social policy can meet and network with colleagues, can ask and get peer support, where they can share ideas and  experiences, and where they can be safe and professionally protected.

Since its beginning in April till the end of July 2020, the FPN KonekTaS platform has gathered over 850 contributors from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia, and organized 8 webinars, 5 regional meetings, 10 supervision meetings and 20 discussion groups on the platform. The topics were conceptually oriented towards “helping helpers” and from the beginning they were a response to their originally examined needs. In this sense, the topics covered a wide range of needs: from specific techniques of personal mental health care in stressful situations, through the possibility of emergency care due to domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis up to webinars on the role of the Red Cross during the COVID-19 crisis. The number of realized interactive activities in these circumstances seems impressive, but the development processes that followed them are actually an occasion for learning and articulating new models.

As resource for practical use for all, there are printable materials posted on the platform, including translations from different sources, such as IFSW Europe – International Federation of Social Workers, EASSW — European Association of Schools of Social Work, The Global Social Service Workforce Alliance, National Bank, etc, as well as different materials of  practical use authored by colleagues from Serbia and the neighbouring countries.

Convinced that we are connected by common goals that guide us in the education of social workers and that our academic activities contribute to improving the competencies and professional credibility of social workers, thus improving the quality of professional work and the quality of services we provide, we are inviting both students and professionals across the region and beyond to cooperate within the joint activities which we organize online through the FPN KonekTaS platform.

To get involved in already planned events or suggest new activities that we could implement together, to the satisfaction of all of us and in the interest of our users, contact us at  konektas@fpn.bg.ac.rs

You can also share information with your students, social work practitioners and teachers: http://www.fpn.bg.ac.rs/konektas.

EaSI call: Establishing and testing integrated interventions aimed at supporting people in (the most) vulnerable situations, Deadline: 15 October 2020

This call for proposals aims to support existing or new partnerships in testing innovative approaches supporting in particular the delivery of Principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

This call for proposals aims to support existing or new partnerships in testing innovative approaches supporting in particular the delivery of Principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The call will support innovative and experimental local/regional-level projects aimed at putting in place comprehensive strategies, mechanisms and services ensuring a holistic approach to support people in (the most) vulnerable situations.

EESPN countries that can participate in the call include EU Member States, Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The deadline for the call is: 15 October 2020.

Please read the details here

Report: OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19) COVID-19 crisis response in South East European economies by the OECD

More than 16,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the South East Europe1 (SEE) region as of 14 April. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow rapidly in SEE, governments have been gradually announcing states of emergency, lockdowns and partial shutdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

Report: OECD Policy Responses to Coronavirus (COVID-19) COVID-19 crisis response in South East European economies by the OECD

More than 16,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the South East Europe1 (SEE) region as of 14 April. As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow rapidly in SEE, governments have been gradually announcing states of emergency, lockdowns and partial shutdowns to contain the spread of the virus. Coronavirus measures resulted in suspended flights, partial border closures, domestic travel restrictions and school shutdowns across the region. Government authorities banned large gatherings and imposed travel restrictions. Serbia and North Macedonia have cancelled their respective general elections scheduled for April. Read more

Crisis in Serbia: Economic Measures regarding the Coronavirus Situation

In periods of crisis caused by major social upheavals such as the current coronavirus pandemic (SARS-CoV-2), society is derailed with great consequences to social institutions and people’s lives. The states’ response to this challenge is varied, although most countries are implementing measures to regulate the market and its basic principles in order to meet the subsistence minimum and ensure the socio-economic security of their citizens.

Aleksandra Nikolajević, Teaching Assistant, University of Niš

In periods of crisis caused by major social upheavals such as the current coronavirus pandemic (SARS-CoV-2), society is derailed with great consequences to social institutions and people’s lives. The states’ response to this challenge is varied, although most countries are implementing measures to regulate the market and its basic principles in order to meet the subsistence minimum and ensure the socio-economic security of their citizens. Globally, we are witnessing various market shifts such as increasing government interventions, extensive capital expenditures, the emergence of alternative supply chains, and the like. Although the range of state intervention measures is very broad and varied depending on the country, we will also look at the packages of measures that the Government of the Republic of Serbia recently adopted as a “tool” for combating the socio-economic consequences caused by the coronavirus.

The measures adopted by the Serbian Government have mostly already been implemented, while it will take a longer period of time to see their effects.  The adopted socio-economic measures are aimed at preserving the well-being and living standard of the people, with a special emphasis on maintaining the achieved level of employment and strengthening entrepreneurs significantly affected by the crisis. In times of major turbulence, it is a special challenge to find an effective formula for the sustainability of public revenues and expenses, adjusting tax policy, and reorganizing budget funds. A great impoverishment of the population, mass layoffs, and a decline in living standards are just some of the burning problems that the Republic of Serbia is facing during the pandemic. Overcoming the crisis and remediating the mentioned consequences are possible only through state intervention and the implementation of a set of socio-economic measures that, in the case of Serbia, come in the form of tax-policy, stabilization, and comprehensive socio-economic measures.

First of all, tax-policy measures aim to relieve entrepreneurs (employers) of the great pressure created by the suspension of trade and production, the ban on public gatherings, and the introduction of a curfew, which has stopped many economic activities. The initial idea is to empower employers in the period when they are conducting business with large losses and to maintain the liquidity of business entities and taxpayers in order for them to successfully cope with the crisis (and keep their employees). Specifically, this set of tax-relief measures for the economy means that 1) all private companies are allowed to defer the payment of payroll and contribution taxes during the state of emergency (at least over a three-month period); 2) the payment (advance) of profit taxes is deferred for the second quarter of 2020, and 3) taxpayers that donated equipment/funds for remediating the consequences of the pandemic are exempt from paying VAT.

In order to prevent the “economic virus of illiquidity“, other direct assistance measures for the private sector were introduced in the form of providing assistance to all entrepreneurs over a period of three months in the amount of three net minimum wages for large, medium, and micro-businesses. Special measures were aimed at large enterprises, which were granted assistance in the amount of 50% of the net minimum wage (for employees who have been sent home). Additional planned financial incentives for preserving the liquidity of business entities include favorable loans from the Development Fund and loans from commercial banks. Companies that fulfill the conditions for exercising the rights to financial incentives include those that have not reduced the number of their employees by more than 10%, and that have not stopped their operation during the state of emergency.

The next set of measures are of a stabilizing character and are aimed at maintaining the stability of the currency, which the Western Balkan countries mostly achieve by borrowing on the domestic and international capital markets. Serbia has recently borrowed more than 29.3 billion RSD (around 249 million EUR) in order to partially remedy the budget deficit and implement economic measures to mitigate the consequences caused by the pandemic. A goodly portion of those funds will be spent on providing financial incentives as well as direct financial aid to all adult citizens, which was criticized by the Fiscal Council itself. While the Serbian Government sees the latter measure as stimulative to consumption and conducive to economic growth, a significant part of the expert community strongly criticizes this move by the government. The argumentation presented by the expert community indicates the lack of an adequate explanation of the manner and form in which the direct assistance to citizens will be paid. A well-founded question arises as to why the aid was paid in cash to the citizens’ bank accounts and not through vouchers for the purchase of provisions, which unequivocally ensures the growth of consumption and stimulates domestic production. The next point of criticism deals with the (un)selective character of the financial aid and the non-existence of a material census as a qualification criterion for this incentive. It is estimated that this budget expenditure for financing the one-time assistance to all adults would not only be enough to cover the funds for social assistance beneficiaries over a five-year period, but also significantly affect the generosity of measures aimed at the poorest strata of the population. The adverse attitudes of the general public are influenced by the visible irregularities in the method of applying for the financial assistance and the existence of citizen groups who are excluded from material aid (e.g. children in a well-to-do family of four whose members are all adults receives 400 EUR, while a single mother with three minor children receives only 100 EUR; or people from rural areas without digital skills and information on how to apply), causing the general public to interpret this monetary incentive as “purchasing political votes” (the presidential elections are expected to be held in June / July, despite the pandemic).

It should not be overlooked that the state passed bylaws that especially protect the elderly population – they banned the reduction of pensions, awarded pensioners one-time assistance payments in the amount of approximately 35 EUR, postponed the payment of utilities, and introduced a moratorium on loan payments (the latter is a universal assistance measure for citizens).

Finally, the last set of measures is mainly geared towards workers in the public (state) sector and aims to maintain the workers’ safety (which cannot be regulated in the private sector). Namely, layoffs in the public sector were banned, employment contracts that were to expire during the state of emergency were automatically extended, and salary reductions were abolished. As expected, the private sector suffered the most. The data on the number of dismissed workers since the introduction of the state of emergency vary. While state monitoring institutions provided data on the number of dismissed workers amounting to only 15,000, the SECONS Development Initiative Group together with FES presented the data of its research which cites the number of laid-off workers on an incomparably higher level (about 200,000 people lost their jobs). Private company employees at the highest risk of losing their jobs are workers in the hospitality, trade, and construction industries, including self-employed and informally employed workers, as well as those who worked with fixed-term contracts.

It is still difficult to assess the extent and character of the devastating effects the state of emergency and the suspension of socio-economic life had on human lives. Undoubtedly, most of the adopted measures were a necessary basis for stimulating the economy and maintaining the liquidity of business entities in Serbia, but it is still impossible to give objective data on the long-term effects of adopted and implemented socio-economic measures and incentives. If we want to see the real effects of state interventionism and what consequences this crisis has left behind, it is necessary to evaluate the mechanisms for implementing these measures, insist on transparency of all processes, and point out irregular practices and the (political) abuse of public funds and institutions. It is still unclear how much the proposed measures and the manner of their implementation will succeed in preventing economic contractions caused by the current crisis, and what consequences they will leave on the labor market and the economic sector (the economy of the Serbian society). Non-governmental researchers and trade union representatives warn that the real consequences of the suspension of economic activity caused by COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) can be expected only after the state incentives have ceased (as early as in September). Unlike the countries of the region, where state measures and interventions are prescribed for a period of 6 months, Serbia plans on ending its incentives after just three months. After the three-month state programs come to an end, union representatives expect mass layoffs in the private sector, an expansion of grey economy, a deterioration of the position of workers in the labor market, as well as an increase in poverty and a decline in living standards.

New Project: Bridging the gap between legislation and practice in the posting of workers

The European Centre started the new POW-Bridge project on the gap between procedures and practices in posting of workers company regulation covering Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, and North Macedonia.

The new two-year project studies the gap between procedures (legal basis) and practices (experiences) in posting rule enactment, identifies challenges and develops and shares effective ways of addressing these challenges for posting companies and implementation agencies. The strategic objectives include: to promote and enhance effective and transparent application of EU rules on posting; to promote a more active participation of employers in the process of evidence-based policy-making; and to establish, consolidate and expand multi-stakeholder cross-border collaboration among EU Member States and candidate countries. The project funded by the EaSI Progress programme is going to develop research, cooperation and dissemination activities in eight countries: six EU Member States and two candidate countries.The European Centre iss Lead Partner and collaborating with six international partners for the implementation of this project. Read more here

Register for the first session of Jour Fixe 2020 on Posting of Workers in Western Balkans

The first session of Jour Fixe 2020: Posting of Workers in Western Balkans by Sonila Danaj

The first session of Jour Fixe 2020: Posting of Workers in Western Balkans by Sonila Danaj

In the first session of the Jour Fixe taking place on 14 January 2020, our colleague Sonila Danaj will discuss findings of the Posting of Workers in Eastern Europe (EEPOW) project. The presentation focuses on the transposition of Posting of Workers Directive in the four candidate countries of the Western Balkans: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The analysis draws from research and a needs assessment of their capacities to implement this Directive in terms of six interdependent institutional domains: legal framework, institutional arrangement, inter-agency cooperation, human resources, stakeholder engagement, and public governance. Register here

Integrated Case Management challenges and opportunities in the Western Balkans

Sonila Danaj presented research on the integration of employment and social services in the Western Balkans at the 5th Conference, Faculty of Economics of the University of Belgrade, 21-22 November 2019.

Our colleague Sonila Danaj presented research led by the Head of Work and Welfare Unit Anette Scoppeta on the integration of employment and social services in the Western Balkans at the 5th Conference organized by the LSEE Research Network on Social Cohesion in South East Europe in collaboration with EBRD Economic and social inclusion in an age of political uncertainty in South East Europe. The event took place at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Belgrade on the 21-22 November 2019. Read about the project.

The final EEPOW national event in Bitola, North Macedonia, on 14 November 2019

The final EEPOW national event was held on 14 November 2019 in Bitola, North Macedonia. The event was organized as a panel discussion moderated by Aleksandra Iloska, PUBLIC, under the title Migration, Labour Mobility and Cross-Border Cooperation with inputs from our colleague Sonila Danaj,

The final EEPOW national event was held on 14 November 2019 in Bitola, North Macedonia. The event was organized as a panel discussion moderated by Aleksandra Iloska, PUBLIC, under the title Migration, Labour Mobility and Cross-Border Cooperation with inputs from our colleague Sonila Danaj, Sanja Cukut Krilić, ZRC SAZU, and Federica Misturelli, CIOFS FP Friuli Venezia Giulia. The panelists discussed the findings of the EEPOW project comparing the experiences of managing posting in EU Member States such as Austria, Slovenia and Italy with that of the candidate countries of the Western Balkans: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The North Macedonian case was highlighted through the discussions with the audience. Read more about the project.