HDZ deputy and HDZ Zagreb city branch leader Mislav Herman said on behalf of the HDZ/HSLS group that the announced drastic cut in grants for stay-at-home parents and the proposal to shorten the period during which they receive them was tantamount to their abolishment.
The City of Zagreb last Friday put to public consultation a decision abolishing grants for stay-at-home parents after their child reaches the age of seven, and the grant for those with younger children is reduced to HRK 1,000 per month, from 65% of the gross average pay in Zagreb.
Herman said “the abolishment of the grants was accompanied with a bizarre explanation that it was a huge cost.”
“Does demography in the 21st century in Croatia and the whole of Western Europe have a price? We believe it does not, and that the benefit of this demographic measure was great,” said Herman.
He added that the measure currently costs HRK 44 million a month, while city subsidies for kindergartens amount to HRK 45 million a month, which, he said, could result in the cost of kindergarten subsidies going up because of children who will return to pre-school institutions due to the cancellation of grants for stay-at-home parents.
Herman also believes that Deputy Mayor Danijela Dolenec’s view that the grants had yielded insignificant results “is not competent as no concrete figures have been provided.”
He claimed that the scheme had stopped negative demographic trends in the city, concluding that Mayor Tomislav Tomašević was guided by “ideological and not by financial interests.”
Bridge: 2,700 Zagreb children left without kindergarten care in 2020
Bridge deputy Lovro Marković said that the city had not made a thorough analysis of demographic and economic effects of the scheme, introduced by former mayor Milan Bandić, and that it did not know how its cancellation would affect the filling of kindergarten capacity in Zagreb, adding that in 2020, 2,700 children could not enroll in kindergartens.
“The scheme for stay-at-home parents covers more than 6,000 children, and according to current rules, coming from families with more than one child, those children will have advantage when enrolling,” he said.
His Bridge party also strongly criticises the reduction of grants for layettes, stressing that that measure was a way for taxpayers to get back the money paid into the city budget in the form of local rates.
Peternel: Tomašević attacking foundations of Croatian society
Homeland Movement deputy Igor Peternel said the abolishment of the scheme was “outrageous”, causing complete mistrust in state institutions.
“We consider this to be a worldview-motivated decision which symbolically strikes at the foundations of the Croatian society, namely at the family,” said Peternel, condemning also the reduction of grants for layettes.
Last Friday, the city administration submitted for 30-day public consultation its proposal to abolish grants for stay-at-home parents, as well as reduce allowances for layettes for newborn babies.
A document has been released analysing the demographic and financial effects of the scheme, as well as its effects on the inclusion of women in the labour market and children in educational institutions.
“There will no longer be new applications for the scheme, only regulating the rights of existing beneficiaries, and the right to use the measure is reduced to seven years of age of the child,” Deputy Mayor Dolenec said.
This means that the beneficiaries whose children have already reached the age of seven or more will no longer be eligible for the grant as of 30 April 2022, which creates a period in which they can adapt to the new circumstances, that is, they can look for a job and get a job while they are still using the grant.
The grant for beneficiaries who have children under the age of seven will be reduced to HRK 1,000 per month as of 1 May.
They can use the measure until their child reaches the age of seven, but they can also find a job immediately and they are also allowed to enroll their child in kindergarten in May, said Dolenec.
The analysis attached to the public debate shows that the City of Zagreb has spent HRK 1.8 billion on this scheme since 2016, and if applications had not been suspended in August, the monthly budget expense for that measure would be HRK 700 million.
“The amount is equivalent to the construction of 27 new kindergartens in Zagreb”, said Dolenec, adding that the measure was unsustainable for the budget.
She underscored that the demographic effect of the measure was small, that is, dubious.
“For families with three and more children there is a small increase in the period when the measure was introduced, but the total number of live births has not risen,” she pointed out.
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