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The Republic of Serbia


Socio-economic profile

The global economic crisis hit the Republic of Serbia in 2008 and its impact is still being felt. Although figures show the country’s economy is growing slightly, the improvement is not enough to generate more jobs. The long-term unemployment rate was already high before the crisis, at 10% of working age population. Now the Republic's long-term unemployment rate is more than five times higher than the average for the EU.

Unemployment is having a greater impact on some groups than others: women, members of the Roma community, older citizens – all are disproportionately represented in the statistics. Fifty-four per cent of men are in work, for women that drops to 40%. The financial crisis took youth unemployment up: 49.9% of young people were without work in 2011 and 31% of graduates are jobless.

Poor job prospects at home are forcing young people to look beyond the border to jobs abroad. This brain drain could worsen the problem of skills loss in an already ageing population. To meet the challenge, the Republic of Serbia has developed its National Employment Strategy for the period 2011-2020. Its main objective is to boost the employment rate from the current 47% to 61% by 2020.

When it comes to preparing people for the job market, only around half of the population complete secondary school, although the figure is higher for women, 54%, than for men, at 49%. The situation is improving with stronger enrolment than before, but there is a way to go to meet the EU average of 71% completing high school.

Targeting support in the Republic of Serbia

To help countries on their way to joining the EU, a fund called the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, or IPA, has been set up by the European Union. Part of the funds has been used to deal with the following challenges in the Republic of Serbia.

Less emphasis on theory, more on practical skills

In a bid to reform the education system, the Republic of Serbia has been working to improve the quality of vocational training by: training (or retraining) teachers; introducing new methods and techniques; getting new equipment and materials and meeting higher quality standards. Since 76% of its secondary students are on vocational courses, this improvement is very important. However, in 2010 only 18% of students were on the improved courses.

North – South divide too wide

A dynamic business sector and a healthy service economy have kept Belgrade afloat in the economic crisis which has hit the industrial southern regions far harder. Over the country, urban areas are faring better than rural ones.

Closing down large state companies, restructuring, privatisation, weak infrastructures that hold back communication and the movement of workers and a lack of investment have all intensified regional disparities. In depressed regions, unemployment can be as much as three times higher than the national rate.

IPA – support where it is needed

The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) supports the candidate and potential candidate countriesto develop in a way that tackles social challenges and benefits the entire society.  It is based on the strong sense of solidarity that exists between the EU and the countries at its borders - countries with which the EU shares enduring commercial, historical and cultural ties. IPA is directed towards countries that are on the pathway towards joining the EU.

From 2007 to 2011 funding has gone into boosting social development as part of IPA support. Here are just a few examples of the goals that received help:

  • In 2007, €4 million went into modernising the vocational education and training system.
  • In 2008, €3 million funded the improvement of education for marginalised children.
  • In 2009, €3.75 million supported pre-school education.
  • In 2010, €25 million was given over to improving higher education teaching infrastructure.
  • In 2011, anti-discrimination and social inclusion projects received €2.2 million and €4.7 million respectively.

Financial Plan

IPA support in the field of Human Resources Development between 2007 and 2011 came to just under €754 million spread out over that time as follows:

IPA allocation from the European Union, in euros:






162 000 000

168 641 314

70 551 643

174 206 679

178 556 810