The The Matthew Effect in Local Welfare Policy in Croatia
The ESSPROS methodology was first used in Croatia in 2018 to collect data on social protection expenditure in local government, for the year 2017. The aim of this research is to use these data to reveal the level of social inequalities between regional government units (counties) in Croatia and to demonstrate the Matthew effect in the functioning of local welfare policies. Quantitative analysis has demonstrated a significant level of spatial and local disparities in the availability of institutional care for the elderly and children, as well as uneven social protection in terms of the provision of cash or in-kind benefits. The Matthew effect in the local social protection can be found in different forms in different social protection programmes which are provided at the local level, with the general rule that the more developed local units invest more in social services and provide greater cash benefits to their citizens. The underdevelopment of these services is particularly noticeable in the less developed, eastern part of Croatia (counties of Slavonia), while at the same time, highly developed social services are provided in the City of Zagreb. Over the last 20 years, uneven economic development and partial decentralisation have created a situation in Croatia in which one of the fundamental principles of social welfare and social policy, the principle of equality, has been seriously compromised. This has brought about the problem of double inequalities: economic ones, as a result of a lower level of development and continuous lagging behind in the development of local and regional self-government units, and social inequalities, as a result of the inability of less developed units to provide similar levels of social protection to their citizens.