How did Serbia go from being a country with high unemployment to having to import workers?

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Only from the beginning of the year to November, 85,321 people were employed in Serbia, and the last cross-section of the Republic Institute of Statistics at the end of last month showed that the unemployment rate in our country is 8.9 percent.

The data on the number of employees in 2022 was presented yesterday by the Minister of Labor, Nikola Selaković, recalling on that occasion the unemployment rate, which ten years ago was close to 25 percent.

“From a country that until ten years ago had 700,000 unemployed, and the unemployment rate was 25.9 percent, today we have become a country that is an increasing importer of labor force”, Selaković said.

The data on the number of employees in 2022 was presented yesterday by the Minister of Labor, Nikola Selaković, recalling on that occasion the unemployment rate, which ten years ago was close to 25 percent.

“From a country that until ten years ago had 700,000 unemployed, and the unemployment rate was 25.9 percent, today we have become a country that is an increasing importer of labor force”, Selaković said.

Mihail Arandarenko, professor of the Faculty of Economics, tells Danas that when the unemployment rate decreases, it can be manipulated in some way and says: yes, it is lower, but because there are fewer people. In this case, he points out, it is different.

“When you say that employment is growing despite the fact that the working population is decreasing, then that is the crowning proof. Then there is no further. You can also look at the structure of employment and real wages, but there is no manipulation there”, notes Arandarenko.

In the case of data from the Labor Force Survey, this can happen, he says, because some say that those who work one hour are also counted as employees, others will say that it should not be counted even though there are few who actually work one hour a clock.

“This is about employment and if it grows, then that is good. It is the most difficult to manipulate data on administrative employment, on registered employment, because they exclude the element of relativity, because they are absolute numbers”, says Arandarenko. If those absolute numbers have increased, he points out, the number of available labor force has decreased and unemployment has decreased even more.

Until fresh data from the latest population census arrives, it is estimated that more than 650,000 people left Serbia, and the average age of the population increased from 40.2 to 43.5 years.

During 2020, more than 40,000 people left our country for EU countries, mostly Germany, and that was a year in which movement between countries was quite limited due to the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic, in addition to everything else, was also great on life expectancy, and it is estimated that the average life expectancy in Serbia for the last three years was “shortened” by a full three years, to 72.7 years.

Even in earlier years, according to some estimates, 50,000 people left the country every year, and obviously the pandemic did not stop that trend much.

On the other hand, the number of employees is increasing, because new factories are opening and Serbia is forced to import labor from abroad due to the lack of domestic labor.

“On the one hand, employers are reducing their work, actually the number of hired workers, but in some areas there is a constant shortage of manpower. It seems to me that for years there has been a problem with the craft workforce, with service activities, with those jobs that cannot be learned and adapted to needs just like that”, points out Nebojša Atanacković from the Union of Employers of Serbia.

As he says, the import of labor is our future, and if the economy continues to develop, the need for more and more qualified people, of which there are obviously none, will grow.

“It is a special story when Germany adapts its legislation to be able to import qualified people. They are doing it for themselves, but it will be easier for our people to leave, because they were wise in Germany and it will facilitate the arrival of foreign labor, but not for everyone, not for the unqualified and those who cannot prove that they will be good for their economy”, says Atanacković and notes that such profiles will not have benefits, but qualified ones will.

In Serbia, this will make the situation more difficult, because people will leave the country in addition, and not for three months, as was the case before, he notes, but perhaps they will be people who will take their families with them and stay there permanently. 

“When we import labor, we generally do it on purpose, but this increased influx will not help employers to make it cost less for them. “Deficit occupations are the ones that require the employer to pay more for them because they are not available”, notes Nebojša Atanacković, Danas writes.

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