One million pensioners in Serbia receive less than 30,000 dinars per month, and even 300,000 of them receive less than 16,000 dinars. And that’s not the worst. The average annual pension has never been lower in regard to the average salary since 2008, according to the portal Nezavisnost.org.
The issue is what happens to the 150,000 people over 65 who have neither a pension nor social assistance. Probably nothing until the next elections and new promises about social pensions, despite the latest announcements by the President of the Republic and the Government about the imminent significant increase of pensions.
On August 24, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić announced a cumulative increase of pensions in November of this year and January next year by a total of about 19 percent. Practically, it was a repeat of the promise of the President of the Republic Aleksandar Vučić, although it is outside his authority, who announced in mid-June that pensions would be increased twice, and that the cumulative amount would not be less than 18 percent. It will be seen in the coming months whether these increases will at least slow down the trend of pensioners becoming impoverished, although it is certain that the inflation will quickly “ground” this “jump” of pensions.
Serbia is at the top of Europe in terms of the number of people over 65 years old, behind Italy, Germany, Portugal and Greece, and the population aging trend has been going on for more than a decade. However, unlike the residents of Europe, who in most countries will receive a decent pension from which they will be able to provide themselves with a safe and peaceful old age, the citizens of Serbia are getting old in an environment that sees them as an insignificant part of the community.
One of the reasons for this analysis was the public debate “Poverty of the elderly and Agenda 2030″, organized by the Center for Democracy Foundation, where it was heard that the population of pensioners, i.e. those over 65, has made the least progress in meeting the goal of reducing poverty. And not only that.
“The poverty rate of the elderly is the only rate that has not improved since 2016, we have even moved away from the goal and come to the situation where the poverty of the elderly, which was traditionally lower than the average, is now even higher,” said the author of this research Lidija Kuzmanov. Kuzmanov emphasizes that pension is the key choice of well-being and the main source of income for the oldest, and when we look more closely at how much pensioners are paid, it becomes quite clear why these people are sinking more and more into poverty. True, not all, but the most of them.
In May of this year, one million pensioners received a check of less than 30,000 dinars, that is, a pension smaller than the average one (31,724 dinars). Of these, about 100,000 people received a pension of up to 10,000 dinars, 190,000 of the oldest receive between 10,000 and 15,000 per month, and as many as 260,000 pensioners live on a pension ranging from 15,000 to 20,000 per month while 200,000 pensioners receive pensions from 20 to 25,000 or from 25 to 30,000 per month.
How to survive with 15,000 per month?
“Very hard. Put those amounts in comparison with the minimum basket of goods and it’s clear to you that those 300,000 people who receive less than 15,000 dinars per month live quite badly,” says Nataša Vučković from the aforementioned Foundation. These people live miserably, but it’s not even the hardest for them. In Serbia, 150,000 old people have no income and most often live alone in the countryside, completely isolated, without medical and social care. These are people who do not have right to social assistance because they mostly own some kind of land, which makes it impossible for them to receive assistance, and since they did not pay contributions for the agricultural pension, they were left with nothing.
“Not only that there is a moral basis, but today there are also available means for establishing social pensions.” If those three to four percent of GDP from the state’s general taxes, which supplement current pensions, were redistributed to all old people through a long transitional adjustment period – both current pensioners and old people who do not have any pensions ~ the poverty of the elderly could will be significantly reduced”, proposed professor at the Faculty of Economic Mihail Arandarenko.
“Because now there are more and more “transitional losers”, those who lost their jobs during the 90s and 2000s, or remained stuck in the gray economy, are retiring with very low pensions that often cannot be lived on, or are entering old age without the right to any pension,” warned Arandarenko.
In today’s conditions, where half a million people work for the minimum wage, we should not expect any more comfortable old age even for current workers. “The worst thing is that trust in the Republic Pension Fund has been lost, no one counts on a pension anymore, young people agree to work illegally just to have some income and they don’t think what will happen to them in their old age,” stated Nadežda Satarić from the Amity Association.
“All researches have shown a connection between material status and health, i.e. the lower the income, the sicker people are, which means that if we do not invest in these people, we will have to go to health care and that is again an expense for the state. I have to remind you that in 2002, the pension was at the level of 67 percent of the average salary, and today it is 42 percent,” said Satarić.