Serbian workers leaving the country, foreign ones coming in

In the first half of 2023, almost 25,000 work permits for foreigners were issued which is a thousand more than during the whole of 2021.

As this number continues to grow, it is expected that the number of issued work permits will exceed that of last year, when a total of more than 35,000 permits were approved.

In just four months, the number of work permits issued to foreigners in Serbia has more than doubled. While in March this year, that number was around 11,000, and in June it reached almost 25,000, according to data from the National Employment Service.

Most foreign workers in Serbia come from China, Russia, Turkey, India, Cuba, Belarus, Ukraine and Nepal, while the “top 10” list also includes workers from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia.

“Earlier, we granted several dozen permits to workers from countries like the Philippines and Nepal, and for the first six months of this year, that number stood at 150. There are now many more Russians working here than ever before, as well as citizens of Belarus and Ukraine,” says Zoran Martinović the director of the National Employment Service.

From the minimum wage to 70,000 dinars

Looking at the education level of these foreigners, the majority is workers with a high school or university diploma, but also there are a lot of low-qualified workers. Their wages also vary – from the minimum wage to up to 70,000 dinars.

“The largest number of foreign workers in the previous year was mostly working in the construction sector – masons, rebar workers, auxiliary construction workers, plasterers, joiners and carpenters. A large number of permits were also issued to welders. Also, more work permits than usual were issued to IT experts from different segments of the IT sector,” said Martinović.

Why is Serbia appealing to foreigners?

Some companies, such as delivery companies, sometimes had 20 percent of their workforce being foreigners.

“Serbia will become increasingly appealing to foreign workers. I expect such a trend to continue next year as well. One of the main reasons is that lately we are running out of qualified workers, I am especially thinking of tradesmen. Our people go to EU countries to work, while Indians, Egyptians and Cubans usually come to us. From an economic point of view, I think this not bad and that it can only generate profit, especially when it comes to the construction industry,” said economist Ljubodrag Savić.

The Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Goran Vesić, once said that the importation of foreign workers is good for Serbia “because it means that the country has progressed and is being viewed as a country where you can make money”.

While not denying that it is completely legitimate for foreign workers to find work in our country, economy experts and trade union organizations in Serbia point out that the reason they do this is not because they can make good money here, but because a lot of Serbian workers leave for work abroad, so in some sectors there is a shortage of manpower.

Also, foreign workers, particularly in the construction and agriculture sectors, come to work in Serbia because the countries they come from are even poorer than ours.

Another problem is that some employers take advantage of the difficult financial situation of these foreign workers and pay them the minimum wage. By doing so, they are reducing labour costs and lay off domestic workers who are not willing to work for that kind of money.

(Vreme, 05.07.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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