Written by: Miljana Đurčević Cucić, Coordinator for European Integration and International Cooperation, and Jovana Ilić, Gender Equality and Human Rights Coordinator, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
The monitoring of the situation and trends in the domain of poverty and social inclusion and the analysis of the status of vulnerable social groups has gained particular importance during the past two years, considering the COVID-19 pandemic that affects the entire world and has the greatest impact on the lives of the most vulnerable categories of the population. In accordance with its legislative and strategic framework, and in cooperation with various stakeholders, the Republic of Serbia endeavours to regulate and improve the status of vulnerable groups, aiming to provide all individuals with the right to decent living and working conditions in accordance with European standards and international mechanisms.
Since its establishment in 2009 the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia (SIPRU) has been actively participating in the processes of creating, coordinating, implementing and testing evidence-based public policies aimed at improving the status of vulnerable social groups. Furthermore, SIPRU provides support to the Government in reporting on progress in the domain of social inclusion and poverty reduction in regards to the obligations of the Republic of Serbia in the European integration process and under obligations defined by relevant international conventions.
Based on the new European Union (EU) accession methodology called “Enhancing the accession process – A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans”, the European Commission (EC) has adopted a document on 9 March 2021 whereby the new methodology applies to Serbia and Montenegro. In accordance with this methodology, the negotiation chapters were divided into 6 clusters: 1. Fundamentals; 2. Internal market; 3. Competitiveness and inclusive growth; 4. Green agenda and sustainable connectivity; 5. Resources, agriculture and cohesion; 6. External relations. The improvement of the status of vulnerable social groups has been defined under chapters within the first (chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights) and third cluster (chapter 19 – Social Policy and Employment), but it is also regulated under the remaining clusters and the chapters they cover.
Considering the importance of the European integration process, as one of the priorities of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit has been continuously implementing various analyses and participating in processes that contribute to the social dimension of Serbia’s integration with the EU. Accordingly, during the recent period SIPRU has started an initiative to draft an analytical review of the status of vulnerable groups in the context of EU accession with the following objectives:
- To increase the visibility of the challenges faced by vulnerable social groups in the Republic of Serbia;
- To inform decision makers and other stakeholders on current processes in the development of the strategic and legislative framework in the field of social inclusion;
- To promote 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 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, staff in state administration and local self-government units, development partners, civil society organisations, the academic community, journalists, and other stakeholders. Each analysis, on the one hand, shows the current status of vulnerable groups in various areas of life (healthcare, social welfare, education, status in the labour market), while on the other hand it deals with the existing normative and institutional framework of the Republic of Serbia that regulates the status of vulnerable social groups. Furthermore, it provides an overview of the recommendations and obligations to be met by Serbia in the process of integration with the European Union, along with recommendations for improving the status of vulnerable social groups. Through these analyses SIPRU endeavours to contribute to raising awareness of the importance of improving the living conditions for impoverished and vulnerable groups of citizens, and to show the need for further efforts by all segments of society that will provide for a decrease in the number of those living in poverty.
The analysis of the status of women and gender equality in Serbia was published immediately prior to the start of the campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, marked globally every year during the period 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). This analysis is based, inter alia, on the results of the new, third edition of the Gender Equality Index in the Republic of Serbia, drafted through the cooperation of the Coordination Body for Gender Equality, the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the SeConS group for development initiative, and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Serbia was the first country outside the EU to calculate the gender equality index in accordance with the EIGE methodology, while in the meantime several other candidate states for Union membership have also calculated their indices (Montenegro, North Macedonia and Albania), making it possible to have, in addition to comparisons with European Union member states, comparisons with countries in the region.
The third Gender Equality Index for the Republic of Serbia is based on data from 2018, amounts to 58.0 points and indicates continuous, albeit slow progress in improving gender equality. Compared to the first Gender Equality Index (calculated based on data for 2014), it registers an increase of the index by 5.6 points. If progress continues at this pace, it will require 59 years to reach full gender equality at a high level of achievement in the domains covered by the index (work, money, knowledge, time, power and health). Compared to the 27 EU member states (EU-27), Serbia still registers lower index values (58.0 compared to 67.4), but the gap between the EU and Serbia is decreasing, since during the calculation of the first index (2016) the gap between EU and Serbia was 10.4 points, while the gap between the indices in 2018 is 9.4 points. Regarding domains, the greatest gap between EU-27 and Serbia is present in the domain of money (21.9) and domain of time (16.2), followed by the domains of knowledge (6.8) and power (6.6), while the smallest gap is in the domains of work (2.0) and health (3.7). This edition of the index for Serbia also contains a thematic focus, as a separate segment of the report, introduced at the EU level. In drafting this part of the report Serbia followed the European Union and prepared an analysis on the topic of “Digitalisation and Future of Work” that deals with the effects of digitalisation on the lives of women and men, analyses the use and development of digital skills and technologies, the digital transformation of the world of work and the broader consequences of digitalisation on human rights, violence against women and care activities.
The informative analytical reviews on the status of vulnerable social groups in the process of Serbia’s European integration and the Gender Equality Index serve as the basis for developing evidence-based public policy, and for monitoring progress in improving the living conditions of all citizens. During the forthcoming period SIPRU will continue to publish informational analytical reviews dealing with the status of youth, children, national minorities, migrants and asylum seekers, and persons living with HIV. The thematic reviews will be published on the website of the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit.
(The text was originally published as the Introduction to the 69th Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Newsletter.)