According to the latest study published by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), working hours in Serbia in the second quarter of this year, decreased by 14.8%, which is equivalent to the loss of 510,000 full-time jobs.
However, by offering the most generous and comprehensive economic package among the Western Balkan economies, the Serbian government has slowed the spread of poverty.
If the health crisis continues and incentive programmes aimed at preventing job loss are stopped, an employment crisis could occur, the study warns.
In the coming months, the workers in following sectors will be most at risk: wholesale and retail trade, housing, transport, food and drink, service activities, forestry and logging, agriculture and livestock.
According to estimates, about 700,000 people in these sectors are at immediate risk of losing their jobs, including people who work in the informal economy, self-employed and workers employed in micro-enterprises.
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Of this workforce, nearly 314,000 are self-employed and over 267,000 are informal workers. Micro-enterprises, which employ more than 735,000 workers, have been the hardest hit by the crisis and more than one in four have closed down. The government provided generous financial assistance in the form of subsidies, which for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises amounted to approximately 65% of total labour costs.
Although the report highlights “nearly universal support for both businesses and citizens”, it also presents five recommendations for further measures: a more selective and targeted approach, solutions to support large numbers of “circular” and seasonal workers, mitigating the less visible social costs of a pandemic, the optimization of the new programme aimed at youth employment and more coherent and efficient use of the social dialogue.
Measures to preserve jobs (through direct support and deferral of payment of tax) have reduced the poverty rate by 1.2 percentage points across all age groups.
When one-off aid of 100 euro is added to the rest of the measures, the effect of the combined measures against poverty is extremely strong, and reduces “the relative poverty rate to 22.9%, below pre-crisis levels”, states the report in its summary.
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