Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, having approximately 440,000 residents in the city core and additional 230,000 in the FUA, is located at the western border of the country, only 80 kilometres from the Austrian capital, Vienna, with which it has strong labour market connections.
Slovakia has the second highest regional disparity among 33 OECD countries: while Bratislava Functional Urban Area is among the most developed regions, the rest of the regions are among the worst performing ones. The prosperous economic position and the significant regional disparity within the country resulted in a significant amount of internal migration towards Bratislava, which has an officially slightly increasing but in fact strongly increasing population.
The local housing market is under a great demand pressure especially due to the significant influx of work force from other regions of the country, which increases both housing and rent prices. The public policy on housing is unable to handle the housing affordability crisis, as the municipality of Bratislava and the districts of Bratislava together own only approximately 2,000 flats – about 1% of the total housing stock.
Spatial segregation is not an overarching phenomena in Bratislava, some small scale marginalised areas can be found in the city, inhabited partly by Roma population, where social deprivation has a multi-dimensional character.
Slovakia is among the countries with the worst overall job quality which couples with the uneven distribution of labour supply (this also has a territorial aspect: in some regions lack of work places, in others lack of adequately skilled labour force). Inside Slovakia Bratislava FUA has a favourable labour market with a high employment rate (69.4% in 2020) and a low unemployment rate (2.83% in 2019). Still marginal groups are excluded from the labour market even in Bratislava, and employment programmes, that are basically centralised, are highly dependent on external resources such as EU funds in Slovakia, for which the city is not eligible due to its low youth unemployment rate and high GDP/capita.
The Slovak education system is one of the least efficient in the EU to decrease the socio-economic disadvantages of students. Regional disparities are prevalent in this respect resulting in high early school leaving rate and worse performance in educational outcomes in the more remote parts of Slovakia, effecting strongly the Roma population. On the other hand Bratislava is the most important centre of education in Slovakia. The capital dominates both in terms of concentration of educational institutions and educational outcomes. The educational system has a multi-layer governance structure: regional governments are responsible for the secondary education while district municipalities in Bratislava are responsible for primary education and pre-primary education. In terms of educational outcomes, pupils and students from Bratislava have consistently performed best in all tested categories. This fact is rooted in the generally high social status of residents in Bratislava FUA and covers that fact that there is a serious lack of qualified teachers in the region as their salary is not competitive to the ones in the private labour market.
Thanks to the positive economic trends in the last decade up to the Covid pandemic, the main poverty and inequality indicators (e.g., at risk of poverty and social exclusion, households receiving ‘material need’ benefits) have dropped, while the minimum wage has increased. Although there are more vulnerable groups (e.g., single parents with children, Roma people living in smaller settlements, pensioners) who do not benefit from these prosperous opportunities.
The social allowance system is mostly centralised in Slovakia, and very few benefit in Bratislava FUA due to the fact that the eligibility thresholds are set on national level, while the incomes (and the cost of living as well) are generally higher in the capital.
Despite the neoliberal approach on the national level, after the 2018 municipal elections, Bratislava’s leadership shifted towards a more social approach. Although the interest of the city municipality is rather explicit it lacks the financial resources for an enlarged social agenda.
- The financial crisis of 2008-2011 had a severe impact on the national and local economy, but the GDP loss recovered quickly in the coming years, and the austerity measures were not significant. The Covid pandemic caused 4.4% fall of GDP in 2020, but it has strongly increased by mid-2021.
- There is a significant regional disparity within Slovakia: while Bratislava functional urban area is well developed not only on country but on European level as well, other regions of Slovakia are among the least developed ones. Economic development goes along with a wide variety of both educational and employment opportunities, which attracts newcomers from other regions.
- The influx of employees puts pressure on the housing market which appears in the increase of both housing and rent prices. The small capacity of the municipal housing stock does not provide a sufficient tool for fighting against housing affordability issues and support those who are in need.
- Poverty in Bratislava remains hidden and concentrated in small communities that are relatively insignificant in statistical terms. However, the statistically almost insignificant values of the indicators demonstrating the level of poverty in Bratislava do not mean that social exclusion, social inequalities and poverty do not exist in Bratislava: the favourable indicators are more of a result of their criteria being applied at the national level.
- Despite of decentralization endeavours, most responsibilities still belong to the state, which also manifest in the local possibilities of providing services to young people. While other regions implement important employment programmes for young people mainly from external resources (EU Funds), Bratislava, due to its economic development, is excluded from these opportunities.
- There was a paradigm shift in the Bratislava city municipality after the political changes of the 2018 municipal elections, which seems to import a greater emphasis on social issues. This manifest in small-scale but promising initiatives, although these initiatives are not organized within a consistent framework and lack sufficient financial backing.