The challenges of digital work in Serbia

Working on digital platforms (the so-called gig economy) is a source of income for millions of people around the world.

Serbia still ranks first in the number of online freelancers in relation to the number of inhabitants. Despite the fact that most of them earn good money, at the same time they face a number of challenges due to unregulated working conditions.

The Public Policy Research Centre (Centar za Istraživanje Javnih Politika) has analyzed the key features of the Ukrainian online freelance work market and compared them with other Southeast European countries.

Ukraine is taken for comparison because for nearly a decade, the country ranked first in the world in terms of the number of workers on online platforms. According to a study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute, Ukraine ranks 7th in the world in terms of the number of freelancers.

An analysis done by the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that about 500,000 Ukrainians are registered as working on online platforms, representing about 3 percent of the country’s total workforce and placing it among one of the ten fastest-growing markets in the region in this segment.

Following an influx of Ukrainian refugees, including online workers, in Serbia, the competition in the online work segment is now tougher which could lead to a possible decline in labour prices. “It is very likely that the current situation will cause changes in the labour market in the SEE region, but also in the continent itself,” Branka Anđelković, director of the Public Policy Research Centre, believes.

Regarding Serbia and the wages for online work, 60 percent of online workers work at an hourly rate below the average price for that kind of work, and the average price per hour of work for Serbian workers is still below the pre-pandemic level. Interestingly, the global average hourly wage is $28, which is unattainable for most Serbian workers.

“In many countries in the region, including EU countries, a freelance business model is applied which entails that people, regardless of their work engagement, limited or occasional, have all rights, including health, social and pension insurance. However, our Labour Law does not recognize freelancers as a worker category unless they pay salary tax themselves or are taxed at a flat rate. Some of them do not have enough money, so they consciously decide to remain invisible to the system,” Andjelković explains.

She recalls that Serbia tops the world in the number of online freelancers in relation to the number of inhabitants and that they should become more visible to the legislative system as the benefit would be mutual.

(eKapija, 20.06.2022)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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