Western Balkans Policy Analysis Laboratory on Welfare State Issues

//Western Balkans Policy Analysis Laboratory on Welfare State Issues

Western Balkans Policy Analysis Laboratory on Welfare State Issues

PALThe Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans Network organized the Western Balkans Policy Analysis Laboratory (PAL) on welfare state issues in Montenegro (Bečići) from 21 to 25 October 2019.

The PAL was aimed at around 50 professionals working in the social sectors either as policy and decision makers, service providers (from the state, NGO and private sectors), administrators, activists, advocates, think tank analysts, researchers, lecturers or service users from across the Western Balkan countries.

Working methods of the streams were hands-on and interactive through real world examples, scenario-building exercises and inputs from resource persons drawn from the region and beyond. Each stream enabled participants to:

  • Familiarize themselves with data, indicators and trends in the Western Balkans and beyond;
  • Gain important new skills in policy analysis and the promotion of evidence-based policies;
  • Develop an advocacy platform and action plan for work that may be presented at the 2020 Conference or elsewhere.

Also, there were keynote speakers, renowned experts discussing with participants in structured dialogues in evening plenary sessions, as well as Round Table Discussions on choices for the Welfare State in the Western Balkans and future challenges.

PAL Streams

The Policy Analysis Laboratory was combination between panel sessions and work in groups (3 streams):

Stream Leaders: Gordana Matković, Center for Social Policy, Belgrade, Sabina Ymeri, ESA, Tirana and Blagica Petreski, Finance Think, Skopje

Economic and overall prosperity does not diminish the importance of social protection and the role of welfare state. The population aging, the transformed world of work and employment, the changed role of the family and the new social values increase the demand for social protection and impose more prominent role of the welfare state.

There are numerous challenges related to welfare state financing. The key challenges include issues of sustainability and equitable financing, pathways for improving efficiency (doing more with less), a combination of public and private financing, an optimal level of decentralization (national versus local financing), and mix of contributory and non-contributory mechanisms (social insurance and social assistance).

Focus of this stream was primarily on the past or planned reforms in the financing of welfare state, including prospective innovations. Through a mix of brainstorming sessions and interactive discussions, case studies and theoretical presentations, participants explored the following issues:

  • Decentralization of social protection – what are the challenges and what works?
  • Financing of preschool education – local versus national level, private versus public funds;
  • Earmarked transfers for the financing of social care services – an attempt to overcome the disadvantages of decentralization;
  • Privatization of pension insurance – should we follow the path of structural reforms?
  • Extension of social security to workers in the informal economy – an attempt to reduce non-contributory financing of social security?
  • Universal basic income – new ideas;
  • Financing of healthcare – is there a justification for tax-financed healthcare in Western Balkans?

Stream Leaders: Nermin Oruč, Center for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research, Sarajevo and Aleksandar Baucal, Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade

This stream focused on different types of inequalities of life opportunities related to the socio-economic background in Western Balkan countries (e.g. inequalities of income and consumptions, inequalities in employment, access and quality of social services, inequalities in educational opportunities, gender inequalities, urban vs. rural gaps etc.).

The stream started with conceptual and methodological issues and an overview of inequality trends in the Western Balkans and its main drivers.  The first session reviewed available databases for analysis of inequality in the Western Balkans and trained participants how to calculate various indicators of inequality (income, consumption, education, employment, …), their decompositions and visualizations from available datasets. It had a specific focus on systematic review of indicators, data and trends in Western Balkan countries in terms of different inequalities. The first session also included interactive discussions aiming at the long term social and political implications of such inequalities.

The second stream session focused on identification on different social, political, financial, policy related, and institutional mechanisms contributing to creation and maintenance of inequalities through a supervised small-group work and an interactive discussion.

The third session focused on systematic integration of key conclusions from previous two sessions, identification of key barriers and opportunities for improvement of equity in Western Balkan countries as well as creation of a joint advocacy platform and action plan.

The stream used similarities and differences existing among Western Balkan countries as a platform for building better understanding of rising inequalities in the region as well as for building capacities of participants for analysis and formulation of policy proposals.

Stream Leaders: Paul Stubbs, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb and Maja Gerovska Mitev, Faculty of Philosophy, Skopje

This stream explored the principles behind, rationale for, and aspects of the delivery of community-based services, broadly defined as accessible services to individuals, groups, families and communities that seek to empower and enable the right to independent living as opposed to placement in restrictive, institutionalised, settings.

Across the Western Balkans, developing a range of community-based services has been a crucial element of reform processes aiming to transform institutions and contribute to deinstitutionalisation. Through a mix of interactive discussions, case studies and external resource persons, participants explored:

  • The right to inclusion and independent living;
  • Working with users’ strengths;
  • Planning community-based services;
  • Delivering holistic community-based services;
  • Financing community-based services;
  • User involvement, advocacy and leadership; and
  • Inspection, monitoring and evaluation.

Whilst seeking to avoid an approach to community-based services that focuses on specific vulnerable groups, examples from practice for persons with disabilities, children at risk of abuse; and young people leaving institutional care were used to illustrate the challenges involved.

PAL Photos

PAL Downloads

Please click on the links below to download the PAL documents:

About the Network

In 2017, a group of think-tank organizations and social policy researchers developed a Regional Research and Advocacy Platform focusing on the future of the welfare state in the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia). The platform aims to raise awareness, promote discussion, and develop a common advocacy agenda for strengthening the welfare state at local, national and regional levels and ensuring that social policy challenges are given greater attention in the EU enlargement process.

In June 2018, a Regional Conference on the topic was held in Belgrade, Serbia attended by over 250 policy makers, professionals, activists, development actors, and researchers. The Conference will be held every two years, focusing on issues of mutual concern. In 2019, the priorities of the network are to develop indicators, undertake research, support peer review processes for Governments in the region, and to hold an intensive Policy Analysis Laboratory.

2019-11-13T18:56:33+00:00 November 7th, 2019|News|