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news 19 Apr 13

Unemployment Rises Daily in Serbia

New figures show that 500 working-age Serbians are laid off every day - and one economist says the situation will only improve if Serbia continues on its EU path.

BIRN
Belgrade

The latest figures in Serbia show that 500 people a day become jobless. By the end of February, the total number of unemployed jumped from 762,000 in December to 790,000, an unemployment rate of 27 per cent, according to a European Commission report.

There are 2.8 million people of working age in Serbia, a country of about 7 million.

Milan Kovacevic, an expert in foreign investment, blamed declining living standards. "When people spend less, many economic activities have nothing to do, and the result is that they lay off employees," Kovacevic told Radio Free Europe.

The average salary in Serbia is already low when compared to prices, at about €380 a month. Statistics say the average monthly family food basket costs much more, around €490.

Kovacevic predicts that the unemployment rate will continue to rise to over 30 per cent unless the authorities "show the world that they are determined to join the EU...This in turn could encourage a wave of investments", he said.

"It would improve the mood and increase optimism about the future, which would lead to higher spending," Kovacevic added.

Serbia obtained EU candidate status in March 2012 and is hoping to get a start date for EU accession talks in June. This, however, is jeopardized by the failure so far of talks with Kosovo, which the EU has set as a condition.

In the region, the jobless situation is worse only in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where nearly half the population is unemployed, and in Macedonia, where the unemployment rate is over 31 per cent.

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