Remarks by Angel Gurría
Brdo, Slovenia, 5 September 2017
Minister Kopač Mrak,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you to open this event and present the new OECD report, Local Job Creation: Employment and Skills Strategies in Slovenia. Allow me to begin by acknowledging the close partnership with both ministries throughout this project. This initiative is one of the ways in which we are working with Slovenia to address some of the issues in the Labour Market Activation Review we published last year.
Later this morning, I will launch our latest Economic Survey of Slovenia with Minister Vraničar Erman. Although it is under embargo until then, I can confirm that the headlines are encouraging! The economy has improved considerably since my visit two years ago. Growth is now forecast at 4.5% this year, and unemployment continues to decline.
Despite this good news, Slovenia still faces important challenges. Productivity is low compared with other OECD countries, and it is not growing. Slovenia’s labour market has become more polarised over the past two decades with middle-skill jobs being lost in favour of low and high-skilled jobs.
In 2016, youth unemployment sat at 15.3%, slightly above the OECD average. Meanwhile, the employment rate for older workers (aged 55-64 years) stands at 35% compared to an OECD average of 55%. At the same time, 25% of employers face difficulties in finding people with the right skills.
Later this morning, I will talk about the importance of education and labour market policies that equip workers with the skills they need to find good jobs, and to adapt to changing labour market conditions.
As we tackle these challenges, we will need to look beyond the national average. There are often large differences in economic performance and employment within countries.
In Slovenia, the highest unemployment rate in 2015 was found in Mura, at 19%. This is more than twice that of the sub-region with the lowest rate: Upper Carniola at 9%. Such large gaps are not uncommon – we have seen them in other countries, ranging from Hungary to Australia.
Regions in Western Slovenia still drive a large proportion of the country’s growth. These regions were responsible for 70% of the country’s GDP growth between 2000 and 2013. Inter-regional disparities in GDP per capita grew between 2000-2013 as measured by the Gini index, although they remain below the OECD average.
These regional variations underline the importance of tailoring national policies to local needs. This is a message that lies at the heart of this study, which is part of a series which now covers 16 countries.
Let me single out on three specific recommendations in my remarks today:
Slovenia’s Smart Specialisation Strategy represents an opportunity to address these challenges. The Regional Development Plans – such as those in Drava and Southeast Slovenia – also emphasise the importance of raising the quality of human capital as well as the overall productivity of enterprises.
A number of mechanisms can be used to help local employers better use the skills of their workforce, and this report highlights some of them. Targeted programmes to help employers improve management practices, as well as efforts to expand life-long learning are some of the opportunities explored in this report.
Much can also be learned from the experiences of other OECD countries such as Sweden, Finland and the UK, which have developed programmes to support employers as they re-organise their workplaces to boost productivity.
Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The OECD is proud to have worked closely with Slovenia in the definition of its National Development Strategy. I am also pleased to announce that we will, over the coming weeks, begin work on the Action Phase of our partnership with Slovenia on its National Skills Strategy. If they are to succeed, all of these efforts and others must be complemented by implementation at the local level.
The OECD stands ready to support Slovenia as it pursues the ideas presented in this report. This is, ultimately, about designing, developing, and delivering Better Policies for Better Lives.