If someone said twenty years ago that Serbia would import workers, it would have been hard for anyone to believe them, since, back then, unemployment was one of the state’s biggest problems. But in the past two decades, Serbia’s population has shrunk by 625,000 and the workforce is becoming a scarce resource.
For years, Serbia has been importing workers in one way or another, primarily from neighbouring countries – Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as from ‘exotic’ and poverty-stricken countries.
According to relevant sources, the Serbian government and the Ministry of Labour are finalizing an agreement with Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Guatemala, which would facilitate the arrival of workers from these countries to Serbia. This was discussed at an interdepartmental meeting last week, when, among other things, the Foreign Minister asked the Labour Minister to provide him with a list of economic branches where Serbia lacks a workforce.
Bangladesh with more than 160 million and Vietnam with nearly 100 million inhabitants may be an inexhaustible source of labour for Serbia, but the question is under what conditions.
As Nebojsa Atanackovic of the Union of Employers of Serbia explains, more available workers suits employers. “If there is a lack of workforce, it hinders the economy, but it also increases the cost of labour. Our economy cannot pay these workers as much as they can get paid in Western Europe. Our companies are not at the technological level to be hiring an expensive workforce. Since people from Serbia have been leaving for Western Europe, someone has to replace them,” Atanackovic said, adding that there has been a shortage of workforce, especially seasonal workers, for years.
“Employers support the import of workers if there are no local ones available,” Atanackovic concluded.
Sasa Torlakovic, president of the Union of Construction Workers and the Building Materials Industry, recalls that in the late 1990s, there were 100,000 construction workers in Serbia, and then the construction companies were destroyed during privatization.
“Our construction workers are well-trained, they are versatile, and they don’t want to work in Serbia where an average monthly salary is between 55,000 and 60,000 dinars. Rather, they would work in Europe where they can get between 10 and 15 euros an hour. On the other hand, people from Asia are willing to work for 300 euros a month,” explains Torlakovic.
This post is also available in: Italiano