In recent years, poverty in Serbia affected astounding rates of unemployment despite reasonably high levels of development. The country faces unique geographic and economic difficulties that make poverty reduction especially difficult.
Top Six Facts about Poverty in Serbia:
- One in four people in Serbia lives below the poverty line, making it the poorest country in Europe. However, poverty statistics alone do little to illustrate Serbia’s complex problems that make destitution so prevalent. Many external and internal factors, some of which are uncontrollable, heavily contribute to poverty in Serbia.
- In 2014, Serbia’s population and economy took a massive hit. In May of that year, flooding caused serious damage within Serbia — many towns were destroyed and thousands of people displaced. The Serbian government estimated the total damage at 1.5 billion euros. The GDP growth rate decreased 4.4% to an alarming negative 1.8%. While those numbers have since begun to increase, there’s no getting around that such a devastating event will take years to recover from.
- The areas hit hardest by the natural disaster — small southern towns and rural regions — had the highest incidence of poverty before the flood. These areas are dependent on smallholder farming and often have less access to education than major cities. In 2014, the southeastern region of Serbia had poverty rates close to four times higher than those in Belgrade, the nation’s capital city.
- Unemployment remains a huge problem in Serbia, with a reported 1 in 5 people unemployed and half of the country’s youths jobless. The United Nation’s report suggests that much of the potential workforce is unequipped to participate in the economy due to a lack of education.
- Despite persistently high rates of corruption in the entire Balkan Peninsula, Freedom House has rated Serbia a highly democratic and free nation, which gives hope for the future. As a result of the improvements made by the government to encourage democracy and freedom, Serbia has begun negotiations to join the European Union. Membership to the E.U. is a major developmental goal for the Serbian coalition government.
- Even though Serbia recently faced a massive economic setback, The World Bank has a positive outlook for the nation’s economy. Likewise, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sees the current government as demonstrating a strong commitment to economic transformation to eliminate poverty in Serbia.
These six facts about poverty in Serbia are not exhaustive, nor are they a tell-all of the conditions within the Balkan country. Even with relatively little aid from international groups and extremely costly natural disasters, Serbia has shown some real progress in recent political and economic development. Joining the E.U. may give the Serbian government the resources it needs to adequately address issues of poverty and unemployment.
– John English