According to data from the State Statistical Office, the unemployment rate in Serbia is at the 2019 level.
In fact, in the period April-June 2021, the unemployment rate was 11.1%, the same as in 2019, when there was no pandemic-induced crisis. Compared to the first quarter, unemployment fell by 1.7% in the months of April to June.
Compared to the same quarter last year, when the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic was ongoing, the number of unemployed this year increased by 51.3%. In the population of young people aged 15-24, the number of unemployed people declined in the second quarter of 2021.
However, all comparisons with last year, especially in the months when there was a total lockdown, do not paint a realistic picture of the situation. Economist Sasa Djogovic says that having the same unemployment rate as in 2019 comes as a result of an increase in employment in the public sector since with the increase in investments in infrastructure projects, the number of workers has also grown.
“On top of that, housing is growing, so is the need for the workforce in the construction sector, whom we have to bring in from abroad. However, there have been redundancies in some other sectors, such as in services,” Djogovic explains.
Compared to 2019, he points out, there is growth in industrial production and retail turnover, exports are higher and so is GDP, while the unemployment rate is the same as in 2019, which according to him, reveals that we have not entered the crisis.
For trade unions, however, these data do not say much. The vice-president of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Serbia, Zoran Mihajlovic, says that unemployment has been somewhat alleviated by state intervention, but that this intervention has not been sufficient especially in those economic segments that recorded a significant decline.
“Last year, almost 60,000 people in Serbia lost their jobs in the hospitality and tourism sectors. I don’t think the situation can be improved in such a short time. Most of these sectors employ undocumented workers which are not covered by official statistics. The problem will arise once young people start going abroad for work once the borders open, as there is a big shortage of labour in both Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Unfortunately, if they leave, we will not have the problem with unemployment but rather with labour outflow,” Mihajlovic concludes.
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