Inequality measures and metrics – what makes Slovenia stand out?

Inequality

Following our recently published report on inequality in Europe, Deborah Hardoon, Deputy Head of Research at Oxfam, looks at the inequality data for Slovenia. She finds that Slovenia outperforms the rest of the EU across a range of indicators, including gender inequality and income distribution. While not a perfect model, Slovenia does offer an example of the sort of social conditions that encourage equality.

Oxfam recently published a report, A Europe For the Many, Not the Few. The report draws on an analysis of lots of different data points for all of the 28 countries in the EU, all available online in our nifty new data explorer. From analysing all this data from all these countries, one country in particular stands out to me.

The list of EU countries includes some of the biggest economies and most powerful nations in the world. Countries that have given us the globally transformative internet, Democracy and Pizza. In contrast the country that has piqued my interest is relatively young, small and unknown. She gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in
1991. She has a landmass of just over 20,000sqkm, less than half the size of Switzerland and a population of less than 2 million. She has a lower than average income per person by EU standards of €14,800. No billionaires live here according to Forbes’ ranking.

So why has the little country of Slovenia made such a big impression on me?

Slovenia has the lowest gender pay gap of any other country in the EUFrom exploring the inequality data, the first point I looked at was the gini measure for the income distribution, after adjusting for taxes and transfers. This rather simplistic measure attempts to summarise the entire distribution of income in a country on a scale of 0 (everyone has the same income) to 100 (one person has everything), after accounting for things like income tax and unemployment benefits provided by the government.

Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic together have some of the lowest levels of income inequality as measured by the gini, after taking into account taxes and transfers. Sweden does too, but in contrast to Sweden, these three countries also have some of the lowest levels of income inequality before taxes and transfers.

In other words, people in these countries have more equal incomes before the government gets involved through tax and spending policies. Some of this can be explained through demographics, Slovakia has proportionally more people of working age than any other country in the EU, with a dependency ratio of 40. The Czech Republic does well at keeping the majority of its work force in paid work, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU. Whilst Slovenia also has a relatively low dependency ratio, the unemployment rate of 9% is average for the EU.

What makes Slovenia stand out?

Apart from its low gini, two findings in particular make Slovenia stand out from the crowd.

Firstly, Slovenia has the lowest gender pay gap of any other country in the EU. Women in Slovenia on average earn a similar income to men, with a gender pay gap of just 3%. This is in contrast to Slovakia and the Czech Republic that have gaps of 20% and 22% respectively.

Slovenia ranks 1st on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index and has been climbing up the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index year after year, ranking first in the world for professional and technical workers.Slovenia looks the kind of country I would want to live in With three females for every two males going on to tertiary education, women are well represented
in senior and professional occupations, unlike in many other EU countries.

Another positive for women in Slovenia is that they have the lowest rates of physical and sexual violence reported by women EU countries in the past 12 months. Of course there is still room for improvement; women continue to work more hours than men on unpaid and domestic duties and less than one in five Ministers are women.

Secondly, Slovenia comes top on Transparency International’s score card for transparency and integrity in lobbying practices. Other data also paints a rather rosy picture of Slovenia as a country with ‘good’ governance and strong institutions and rule of law. Slovenia ranks joint 1st with Austria for having the lowest rate of violent crime according to the analysis within the Social Progress Index. Slovenia provides ‘substantial’ budget information, according to the new Open Budget Survey, it is the 8th best performer in the EU for measures for budget accountability taking into account that the government only provides ‘limited’ opportunities for public engagement.

And the challenges?

Of course there are some important governance challenges in Slovenia, according to the most recent Eurobarometer carried out earlier this year, almost 80% of people in Slovenia ‘tend not to trust’ the government and 85% don’t trust the parliament.

From the data, Slovenia looks the kind of country I would want to live in. One where the difference between the haves and the have nots is one of the lowest in Europe. Where women do just as well as men in the work place and where influence over policy making is well regulated.

Slovenia is not a perfect model by any means, 20% of the population is at risk of poverty and 7% of people live in severe material deprivation. The economy is still struggling following the financial crisis and street protests in recent years have blamed the political elite for rampant corruption and economic failure. That being said, the data is clearly inviting me to dig deeper into the social, economic and political story of Slovenia and what we might be able to learn from it about the sort of social conditions that
encourage equality, perhaps whilst hiking through picturesque alpine forests. I will also be rooting for them to make it to the Euro 2016 finals!

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Photo: Map of Europe which has been colour graded, countries with higher levels of income inequality are red and countries with lower levels of income inequality are blue. To view the full map visit our data visualisation page. Copyright: OpenStreetMap contributors.

Author: Deborah Hardoon
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.