Prime Minister Janez Janša: Work is the source of welfare and a test of our abilities
Published below is the statement of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr Janez Janša, on 1 May, the International Labour Day, and the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
While 134 years ago workers in Chicago and elsewhere fought for basic labour rights, most notably the eight-hour workday, contemporary workers of the present day characterised by coronavirus face quite different issues and challenges.
The coronavirus epidemic has changed our everyday life. What was unimaginable yesterday is now our daily reality. Changes do not reflect only in our social life; the consequences of the epidemic are much worse and especially much longer-lasting in the economy and labour market.
Coronavirus has brought most of the world to a standstill. Almost all global economic activities have slowed down dramatically. The labour market situation is increasingly harsh and at the moment there is not a single country in the world not trying to find possible ways forward.
The top priority of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia was to curb the progress of the epidemic and to preserve the healthcare system and its capability of effectively tackling the epidemic at any moment. These measures were taken instantly and without hesitation. We are grateful for the fact that data from the competent institutions show that the number of people actively infected with the coronavirus and coronavirus patients in Slovenia has decreased to a level that allows the phasing out of the restrictions for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, our efforts are now primarily focused on managing the impact of coronavirus on the economy and life in general. The Government of the Republic of Slovenia is well aware of the problematic situation encountered by companies and employees. We are worried about a dramatic decrease in production, loss of markets, a sharp decline in gross domestic product and an increase in the number of jobs lost.
Our message to all of you who provide for yourselves and your dearest ones with your own work and management of your own resources is: “We are doing our best to minimise the consequences of the crisis caused by coronavirus. In this difficult unprecedented situation, we create conditions for all companies with markets to continue their production, preserve the existing jobs and create new ones. We help employees in companies whose existence is threatened and all who ended up unemployed because of the epidemic.”
The total value of the anti-corona measures adopted in two packages is six billion euro! This is by far the highest state aid to the population, workers and companies provided in the history of this country. These six billion euro are intended for preserving jobs and the vital capacities of the society in general. We have not forgotten families with several children, the elderly and other most vulnerable groups. We have facilitated the conditions for obtaining state aid, broadened the range of people entitled to the payment of social security contributions and the range of people entitled to the solidarity bonus. Aid will be provided to occupational pension beneficiaries, farmers, part-time students, family assistants, people with disabilities, war veterans, war disabled people and also the unemployed who have lost their jobs after the coronavirus epidemic was declared, as they would not be entitled to unemployment benefit without this measure. We are increasing the lump sums provided to municipalities, because we are aware that they carry the major burden of this crisis.
The situation in the world after the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic is very serious and above all unpredictable. It is clear that without making radical changes in our thinking and response to the challenges of the present time, we are not going to make it. Accordingly, the most successful in the fight against the consequences of the epidemic will be those countries that will be able to seek solutions outside the well-established frameworks. In this context, we will have to review and modernise our tax and social systems, and will also have to examine the concept of a universal basic income.
Although the situation today cannot be compared with that of a hundred and more years ago when workers had to fight for basic labour rights which we take for granted today, the experiences gained in the last month have thought us that nothing can be taken for granted anymore and that once we have defeated the coronavirus, the world will no longer be the same as we knew it yesterday. Yet, despite the fact that change is the only constant in the modern world, there are things that have been and will remain fundamentally the same as long as the world and the humanity continue to exist.
These are, without a doubt, the values of freedom, justice and solidarity. Without justice, there is no lasting peace and no genuine solidarity. Without justice, there is no basic order that is the foundation of the freedom of the individual. Only the place where justice dwells is recognised by free people as their home. Only the place of the rule of law and only the house in which justice reigns provide for genuine solidarity, which is the soft binding tissue of every normal human community.
Everything that has and will still happen around the world, Europe and Slovenia in the coming months, is going to be a test of our maturity of whether we are able to share the burden of the consequences of the epidemic in a fair and solidary way, and to seek for reasonable and effective solutions on our way back to normal life.
In this crisis, we, the Slovenian people, may recognise our proverbial entrepreneurial spirit, agility and ability to adapt, including the harsh teachings of our recent historical trials, as a great asset. It enables us to respond quickly to a daily changing situation. Thanks to adopting the right measures, Slovenia is currently among the most successful countries in managing the virus. There are no reasons other than a lack of self-confidence and an excessive doubt in our own abilities not to be successful also in all other areas.
Sincere congratulations to all of you, and particularly to those among you who provide for yourselves from your own current or past work and the management of own resources, on 1 May, International Labour Day and the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.