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An aerial view of Pula, Source: Orlovic on WIkipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pula, Croatia: People on welfare will have to work for the city or lose their benefits

Pula, Croatia: People on welfare will have to work for the city or lose their benefits

According to city officials, people will work up to 90 hours a month pay-free and for the ‘common good’

This week, the Croatian city of Pula introduced a new work scheme for people who receive minimal social benefits. The scheme would mandate unemployed and able-bodied people to do free community labour for 90 hours a month to justify receiving benefits, according to a statement by the local government.

These conditions will apply to people receiving minimal welfare benefits, which are set at about 800 kuna, or 100 euros. At the same time, the only way people will be able to opt out of the free labour scheme is if they can present a government-certified document showing they have physical disabilities.

Discouraging social welfare recipients

The new Pula regulation is part of Croatia’s Social Welfare Act (Zakonom o socijalnoj skrbi), which has been in place for several years now, however, many cities have opted out of introducing it.

The idea behind the free labour scheme is that all able-bodied people who receive minimal social benefits would get an invitation to perform community labour, for instance - green areas maintenance.  Then, they have a chance to provide a valid reason for declining the invitation.

According to a report by Gradonacelnik, the handful of municipalities that have introduced the scheme consider the valid reason to be a medical issue. If people fail to answer the invitation or fail to provide a valid reason, they will see their rights to receive social benefits suspended for six months, after which time they are allowed to apply again.

This policy aims to discourage people from receiving minimal benefits. The Social Ministry of Croatia spends about 300 million kuna on this type of social aid. Their aim is to discourage as many people as possible from receiving them, especially, able-bodied people who refuse to work or look for work.

This, however, neglects the fact that the most vulnerable beneficiaries are often people with compounding conditions, like mental issues, single parents and etc.

Pula’s bid for the common good

The City of Pula will start sending out work invitations as soon as possible, while they also create a schedule for the people who will have to do free labour. The first people drafted would have to start working in July.

As the administration put it in their statement on the subject, able-bodied people receiving social welfare will start participating in projects for the ‘common good’ (opće dobro). People will have to work without a wage for the city for up to 90 hours a month or risk losing their social welfare.

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