Labour Ministry Defends Work for Benefits Policy

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Bratislava, April 6 (TASR) – The policy that requires people on the receiving end of benefits to work on pain of losing the assistance was introduced with a nod to the discussion on the need to redress the absence of targeting in the social security system and its failure to encourage people to provide for themselves, said the Labour, Social Affairs and the Family Ministry on Thursday.

The ministry was responding to the findings of two NGOs – the Centre for Research into Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) and the Roma Advocacy and Research Centre (RAVS) – which were announced earlier in the day. The NGOs’ representatives presented the results of a study aimed at gauging the effectiveness of a policy in which work must be carried out in exchange for so-called material need benefits. According to the study’s findings, the measure doesn’t lead to progress among the Roma, as it fails to improve their prospects on the labour market.

The ministry takes a dim view of such conclusions. “This measure serves to increase the initiative of the unemployed in addressing their situation. It also supports them in retaining, or acquiring, working habits, and helps to prevent abuses of the social security system by people who work illegally while receiving state assistance,” reads the ministry’s statement.

The ministry also argued that the number of people on the receiving end of ‘material need benefits’ has shrunk by over 87,000 since January 2013. The vast majority of them have found a job, extricating themselves from reliance on state assistance.

Another irrefutable benefit is that public areas in cities, towns and villages have been spruced up by the unemployed, said the ministry. The policy has also brought improvements in the education sector, at cultural events, near water courses and in forests.

Backed up by a ruling by the Constitutional Court, the ministry also rejected the two NGOs’ claims that the policy is tantamount to forced labour.

The measure wasn’t introduced with the aim of addressing specifically unemployment among the Roma, said the ministry, arguing that it concerns all recipients of benefits, no matter what their ethnicity is.