Availability and free kindergartens, universal child allowance, the burning issue of solving the housing issue and work models for parents were the main topics of the round table that we held on Tuesday, October 17, 2023 at the Algebra College in Zagreb, Croatia.
We cannot say that there are no family measures in Croatia, but they are very slow, insufficient, and not in accordance with the moment and the level of the problem and crisis we have. Last year, less than 34,000 children were born, the number of children is falling rapidly.
It’s not clear to anyone why the child allowance is still at the level of 2007, we have not seen the evaluation of the APN, we need more systematic housing policy measures, said Zdenko Babić, professor at the Department of Social Policy of the Faculty of Law in Zagreb, one of the participants of the round table “How to improve the quality of family life in Croatia?”. Professor Babić proposes a progressive child benefit or a universal child benefit, noting that currently in the EU, only Bulgaria has a lower amount of child benefit than Croatia, and warns of the financial burden on families who failed to enroll their children in kindergarten. A family that buys a residential unit out of necessity should be exempt from real estate transfer tax, regardless of whether it is the first property or is purchased due to an increase in the number of family members.
In Croatia, there is no regulation at any level of management that ensures the right of a child to early and preschool education. Kornelija Bojanić, senior expert advisor, specialist in the Parenting Support Service of the Central State Office for Demography and Youth, recognizes the pressure of the reality of the decreasing number of children, the slowness of current investments and sees the need to intensify the real cooperation of state administration bodies and local self-government units (LGUs) in the long term. He believes that the biggest change so far has taken place in the system of maternity and parental support. She announced that a new draft on child allowance will soon be submitted to public debate, and regarding the proposed modified measure ‘Parent educator’, she said that there is no such measure in the mandated program because the government’s goal is for both parents to be employed, that it is important that children attend programs in pre-school programs and that women do not move out of the labor market in the long term.
Petra Mandić, a lawyer, politician and mother of five children, further emphasized the problem of the unevenness of existing measures in Croatia and added that working hours are also an important topic, ie. reducing working hours to at least 6 hours. From the experience of an employer whose employees with children up to 15 years of age have the opportunity to work 6 hours, which are counted as 8 hours, she said that female employees are just as productive and often more motivated, which greatly contributes to balancing business and family obligations. He believes that the budgets of LGUs should be co-financed by the state or that their funding should be completely transferred to the state, as is the case with primary and secondary schools, so that their rights are uniform. Her fifth child in Rijeka this year is one of 947 children not enrolled in kindergarten, and she believes that for all children who fail to be enrolled in kindergarten, the JLS should ensure the right to compensation, which, if they were enrolled, would be co-financed.
Ivan Gadže, entrepreneur and father of six children, presented his own experience of a large family and how the decision on the number of children was between him and his wife. The measures make life easier for families, they are certainly not the reason why a family would decide to have more children. “It is in the employer’s interest to take care of the well-being of its employees, but Such moves should not be the burden of employers alone. We live in a country that has the highest VAT rate as a share of GDP, even 50% more than Hungary. A family with more children contributes much more in terms of taxes in the system we have, and we need to simplify the tax system, reduce tax repression, adapt the goals and interests of state policy, because otherwise we will really achieve the planned goal of every child having a kindergarten in 2030, but not because we have increased capacities, but because there will be no children”, he commented.
During the panel discussion, good examples from practice were also mentioned. In Umag, along with only three other Croatian cities Belišće, Obrovac, Vrlika, parents do not pay for their children to attend kindergarten. Slaviša Šmalc, head of the administrative department for general administration and social activities of the city of Umag, said that only a clear political decision is enough to change the situation with preschool education in a certain environment. “When we made that decision, we also had to decide what to cut in the budget, but this kind of policy helps us not only to keep people, children and professional staff, but we also attract new doctors, nurses, and teachers,” said Šmalc. It is a big problem when after the child is one year old, the parent has to go back to work, and currently in public consultation it is proposed that we pay these parents a monthly allowance of 200 euros so that they can manage independently with the care of the child until enrollment in kindergarten. The city currently participates in the costs of the kindergarten with more than 90% and believes that in the current circumstances everything depends on the skills of the leaders of the LGU to manage themselves in favor of family policies. Another example of good practice is the company A1, which Iva Turčin, Communications and CSR Expert, a mother of three herself, spoke about. Remote work, flexible forms of working hours with full pay for part-time work, especially for parents returning after maternity or parental leave, benefits for the birth of a child, and the right to use kindergartens at cheaper prices in their company, are just some of the indicators that families are important to them, she said.
Sporadic measures will not change the demographic picture of Croatia, pointed out Dr. sc. Marin Strmota, associate professor at the Department of Demography, Faculty of Economics in Zagreb. Political will is the key, it is necessary to make a major intervention in the entire system to start solving this problem in the first place. The Government’s attempt to solve the demographic problem with any financial compensation shows disinterest, incompetence and ignorance. One of the important tools should be the housing policy, which is continuously dealt with superficially at the national level, savings are made on the scale of child allowance, employers conduct “their” demographic policies, but all this is not coordinated and the role of the Government should be key in all of this. “400,000 people left our country, and 400,000 others came, I ask what kind of policy is that?” It is expected that we will lose 200,000 people by the next population census, the situation is catastrophic, and not implementing any policy is the same as politics”, commented Strmota, calling on the unity of society and powerful employers to recognize the real national interest. “In the levels of demographic processes, we are on the Titanic, and we are throwing out water with a glass”, vividly explained the alarming situation of Prof. Strmota and encouraged the association of Families 3plus to continue to represent and be the voice of families, insisting on raising awareness of the challenges they face.
Panel discussion participants:
– Kornelija Bojanić – Head of the Department for Programs and Projects in the Field of Demography and Youth of the Central State Office for Demography and Youth
– Slaviša Šmalc – head of the administrative department for general administration and social activities of the city of Umag
– Ph.D. Zdenko Babić – professor at the Department of Social Policy at the Faculty of Law in Zagreb
– Petra Mandić – lawyer, politician and mother of five children Ph.D.
– Marin Strmota – associate professor at the Department of Demography of the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb
– Ivan Gadže – entrepreneur and father of six children
– A1, Iva Turčin – Communications and CSR Expert, partner of the Family Card, examples of good practice
Moderator: Đurđica Mostarčić, vice president of the association Obitelji 3plus
The conclusions of the round table “How to improve the quality of family life in Croatia?” were sent to the Prime Minister Ph. D. Andrej Plenković
Croatian Large Families Association „Obitelji 3plus“ sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. sc. Andrej Plenković, in which thay informed him about the conclusions of the round table “How to improve the quality of family life in Croatia?” held on October 17, 2023in Zagreb.
The round table “How to improve the quality of family life in Croatia?” was organized by the Family 3plus Association on 17 Oct 2023 and it was focused on challenges, needs and solutions to improve the quality of life in Croatian families.
The main topics of the round table were residential problems, work models for parents, child allowance and kindergartens.
The conclusions of the round table can be summarized as follows:
• The need to introduce a universal child allowance, with progressive growth for third and every futher children, as a sign of concern for families;
• The need for tax exemption on real estate transactions for families with children when purchasing any real estate due to family growth;
• the need to subsidize kindergartens at the national level, so that they are not left to the (in)ability of the JLS;
• introduction of the right to work half-time until the youngest child reaches the age of 8, with a subsidy from the legislator;
• flexible forms of working hours, with full pay for part-time work, especially for parents returning after maternity or parental leave;
• tax relief on the purchase of a larger car due to the increase of the family.
Organizer: Croatian Large Families Association “Obitelji 3plus” gathers families with three or more children, advocates their rights and interests, and promotes family values. Through the implementation of specific programs, in cooperation with the involved citizens, business and public sector, we encourage the improvement of the quality of family life in Croatia.