The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia has published the analysis “Status of Vulnerable Groups in the Process of Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union – Status of Youth”.
The publication was drafted as part of an initiative for drafting an analytical review on the status of vulnerable groups in the context of EU accession started by the Unit with the following objectives:
- To increase the visibility of the challenges faced by vulnerable social groups in the Republic of Serbia;
- To inform stakeholders on current processes in the development of the strategic and legislative framework in the field of social inclusion;
- To promote a dialogue and cooperation in meeting the obligations under the process of Serbia’s accession to the EU in the field of social inclusion.
The series of informative analytical situation overviews on the status of vulnerable groups in the context of meeting the obligations in the process of European integration is intended for a broad circle of stakeholders: decision makers, state administration and staff in local self-government units, development partners, civil society organisations, the academic community, and journalists.
The situation overview covers the following vulnerable groups: Roma, persons with disabilities, LGBTI, women, children, the elderly, youth, national minorities, migrants and asylum seekers, persons living with HIV. The sixth analysis is related to the status of the younger population in the process of European integration.
The content of the analysis “Status of Vulnerable Groups in the Process of Accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union – Status of Youth” provides a broad analytical reflection on the status of the young population aged 15-30 from the aspect of compliance with obligations under the process of the accession of the Republic of Serbia to the European Union (EU). The first part of the study introduces information on the status of young persons in the Republic of Serbia with an overview of statistical data regarding the population number belonging to this group and an assessment of the status of youth and their views towards the EU. The next chapter consists of a reflection on the socio-economic status of youth, including their material status, labour market status, education, health and security and social participation.
The next segment of the analysis presents the legislative and strategic framework in the Republic of Serbia, followed by an overview of the situation and obligations in the process of Serbia’s accession to the EU. The last chapter of the analysis is dedicated to key conclusions and recommendations for improving the status of youth.
The most important findings of the brief analysis note that according to the latest published population estimate from the end of 2020, there are 1,210,353 youth aged 15 to 30, comprising 17.6% of the population in Serbia, i.e. nearly precisely 1/6 of the population. Regarding the status and needs of youth, the majority (26.4%) noted lack of economic opportunities and employment as the reasons for leaving the state. Regarding the views of youth on the Republic of Serbia entering the EU during 2021, 39% of young people supported Serbia joining the EU, 33% were against, while 28% did not know.
Regarding the socio-economic status of youth and their material status, according to data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, in 2020 youth were most at risk of poverty. Financial reasons were listed as the cause by 59.9% of youth who did not become independent from their parents. The reasons are the same in a large number of cases for deferring establishing a family.
The status of youth in the labour market is reflected through the majority in the status of employment or unemployment. In the Republic of Serbia during 2020 there were 341,416 employed young people age 15-29, i.e. 15.4% of the total number of registered employed persons. The average net salary of youth aged 15-29 in September 2020 was RSD 45,936, while the gross salary was RSD 63,247. The employment rate of youth is significantly lower compared to the EU27 average, where the value of this indicator was 31.5% in 2020. The share of youth in the work force in the Republic of Serbia is very low by European standards. The NEET rate (youth not employed, in education or training) was 15.9% in 2020 in the Republic of Serbia.
Regarding education, the findings of the analysis indicate that the population of youth aged 15-30 is dominated by four-year secondary school education (41.4%), followed by incomplete primary and complete primary education (21.4%), and three-year secondary education (14.8%), while 11.9% of youth have completed basic academic studies. A total of 41,331 students have graduated during the calendar year of 2020 at all higher education institutions and at all study levels, i.e. approximately 1,000 less than in 2019. According to the results of the PISA test implemented in 2018, the average achievement in the Republic of Serbia regarding numeracy is 448 points, literacy 439, and scientific literacy 440 points.
Regarding the segment of health and safety, young people mainly assess their health status as good and very good (47.2% and 33.8%, respectively). A survey by the Youth Umbrella Organisation in Serbia has shown that as reasons for a poor health status young people mainly list stress in the workplace and in education, drugs, irregular physical activity and the state of the environment. One concerning fact is that young people encounter marijuana and methadone as early as 18, and ecstasy at 19. “Older” youth with an average of 27 years turn to sedatives.
Social participation in this segment of the situation overview was regarded through political participation and youth volunteering and activism. Regarding political participation voter turnout among youth in 2020 was 40%, while the share of those planning to vote in the next elections is somewhat higher (48%). An increase is noted among youth not ready for more active participation because they believe no one will listen to them. Between 45 and 60% of respondents agree that volunteering activities are useful for young people, but as many as 69% state they have not participated in any volunteering activities to date.
The legislative framework regulating the status of youth covers primarily the Law on Youth, adopted in 2011. The goal of the law was to create conditions for support for youth in their organisation, social action, development and exercising their potential for personal and social welfare. An analysis was conducted in 2021 of the implementation of the Law during the past ten years with the aim of providing material for an ex-post evaluation, showing among other things the need for amendments. Another important law in this field is the Law on Volunteering from 2010 that regulates the main terms regarding volunteering, the principles of volunteering, volunteering contracts, rights and obligations of volunteers and volunteering organisers, etc. Ten years after the adoption (2020) an ex-post analysis of the effects of the Law on Volunteering was produced that also indicates the need to initiate amendments to the Law.
The strategic framework notes the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 as the document that establishes the main principles, directions and expected results. A report on the implementation of the NYS 2015-2020 was drafted in early 2021. The report leads to the conclusion that the implementation of measures and activities in the NYS was improved during 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Strategy for the Development of Education in the Republic of Serbia by 2030 and the relevant Action Plan 2021-2023, adopted in 2021, are the basis for achieving systemic improvements in education in the Republic of Serbia. The Strategy on Economic Migration of the Republic of Serbia 2021-2027 was adopted in 2020 and notes that young people are mainly stimulated towards migration due to economic motives. Furthermore, the Strategy for the Development of Digital Skills in Serbia 2020-2024, adopted in 2020, notes youth as a special target group, recognising that digital skills in contemporary conditions enable employment, productivity, creativity and success, particularly among youth. The Employment Strategy in the Republic of Serbia 2021-2026 deals with youth in detail, and provides a considerable amount of data and sources of information, as it recognises youth as a vulnerable social group.
The overview of the situation and obligations in the process of EU accession notes that chapter 26 – Education and Culture was open and temporarily closed in 2017. In the field of education amendments are planned for the legislative framework with the aim of achieving the strategic goals of Serbia and the package of objectives of the strategies “Europe 2020” and “Education and Training 2020”, to improve the quality of education at all levels and ensure raising capacities for participation in EU programmes. The Action Plan (AP) for chapter 19 – Social Policy and Employment, adopted by the Republic of Serbia in 2020, envisages the adoption of a Law on amendments to the Labour Law and Rulebook on amendments to the Rulebook on preventive measures for the safe and healthy work of youth with the aim of full harmonisation with the Council Directive on the safety of youth at work. Aiming to improve the status of youth in the labour market in EU countries, there is a Council recommendation on establishing Youth Guarantees that promote the establishment of a support system in all member states that will enable all persons under 25 years of age gaining quality job offers, the opportunity for further education, practical education or internship within four months of losing a job or ending formal education. The status of youth under the EU accession process and Economic Reform Programme (ERP) is mainly viewed through the status of youth in the labour market. The European Commission Progress Report for Serbia, published in October 2021, states that the percentage of youth unemployment continues a declining trend in 2020, however it is still higher than average unemployment and, in general, at a high level.
The main conclusions of this analysis indicate the fact that the status of youth in the Republic of Serbia largely depends on their status in the labour market. High values of youth unemployment rates and NEET rates, and a long period of transition from education to employment, have been recognised in the EC Progress Report for Serbia. These issues have also been recognised under the Employment Strategy 2021-2026, and addressed through measures for improving the status of youth in the labour market. Young people are not satisfied with the programmes and education obtained through the educational system, particularly viewed through the perspective of finding employment after completing education. Young people mainly assess their health as good. The lack of interest of young people in political events can be explained by their belief that the system is set up so that young people cannot change anything through their involvement. Youth do not tend towards activism or volunteering. Key recommendations are given regarding the need to amend or adopt a new Law on Youth through the broadest possible consultative process. The process of reviewing the National Youth Strategy needs to be accelerated and in parallel an Action Plan for its implementation needs to be adopted as soon as possible, with full respect to the findings of ex-post evaluations and reports on the status of youth.