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Serbian Job Market
In the ever-growing technology market, Serbia is determined not to be left behind. With huge investments in information and communication technologies and the support of startups and software education, the Serbian job market is on track to experience significant growth, specifically in the tech sector.

The Growth of the ICT Sector

In 2012, according to The World Bank, Serbia reported a 24% unemployment rate. Just 10 years later, this statistic dropped 14.8%– a 9.2% unemployment rate reported in Q2 of 2022, and the Serbian export of information and communications tech (ICT) definitely played a role. According to the International Trade Administration (ITA), Serbia generates as much as 10% of its GDP from its ICT sector. More than 3,300 ICT businesses employ almost 50,000 Serbs, and although that is just a small percent of the Serbian population of almost 6.9 million, it is evident that the Serbian economy is growing to rely more on ICT. That should ensure growth in the Serbian job market. Serbian tech companies produce software for everything from medicine to agriculture, games and testing. They run call centers and customer service centers.

Demand for More Skilled Workers

To meet the increasing demand for ICT exports, however, Serbia needs at least 15,000 more engineers in the tech sector. That is why the Serbian government invested 70 million euros in technical infrastructure, supporting start-ups and mandating software programming classes in elementary schools. This is particularly important because Serbia’s youth unemployment is 40%, and often young people will leave a country if they cannot find jobs there.

Importantly, Serbia and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are turning to the youth and aspiring entrepreneurs, with projects like Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievement and ICT Hub Venture.

Impact Hub Belgrade

Impact Hub Belgrade (IHB), launched with a USAID grant, provides young aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools, support and skills to brainstorm products, develop business models and network with regional and international investors. It is part of a global network that has branches in 49 countries. It provides a co-working space for project collaboration and sharing of practice and knowledge. In December 2022, for example, it sponsored a Western Balkan Winter Demo Day to help young entrepreneurs assess if they were investment ready.

Junior Achievement Serbia

Junior Achievement Serbia (JAS), another program that USAID funded, aims to advance entrepreneurship through a training curriculum, which effectively equips high schoolers with essential business skills– from communication and problem-solving to specifics on how to set up a business and predict earnings. JAS is part of Junior Achievement Worldwide, a global network in 121 countries. JAS launched in 2005 and by 2021 had served more than 60,000 students in 286 schools.

While the Junior Achievement (JA) program has numerous success stories across Europe, its presence in Serbia has been “among the strongest.” In fact, JA’s 2018 Belgrade team, Groove Street, designed and coded wristbands containing the medical information of the individual wearing it. Thanks to the JA curriculum, guidance and support, these students invented a life-saving device while also gaining real-life business experience.

ICT Hub Venture

While both IHB and JAS specifically focus on providing Serbian youth with the skills they need to succeed in the growing tech sector, other projects aim to support aspiring entrepreneurs of any age.

ICT Hub Venture, another partner project of USAID, equips young businesses with developmental assistance, mentoring and networking opportunities. Established in 2014 as ICT Hub, in 2017 the project became an investment fund in Belgrade, dedicated to supporting information and communication tech startups. ICT Hub Venture provides its partners with financing, guidance, support and education, in exchange for a 5 to 15% share in the company. As of 2022, ICT Hub Venture fully funds nine startups.

Milan Brindič, a co-creator of Bincode Entertainment, a software company specializing in game development and mobile software, says that ICT Hub has been “very useful,” and through its support, has become “like family.” Brindič also said ICT Hub provided his company a space to work and networking opportunities, both of which are critical to a startup’s success.

Looking Forward

With numerous success stories, Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievement Serbia and ICT Hub Venture are innovatively helping to broaden the Serbian job market and tech sector by supporting and investing in the future. The ITA estimates more than 20% per year growth in the Serbian tech sector, with opportunities continuing to grow in sub-sectors such as cybersecurity, gaming, and e-government. Through programs like Impact Hub Belgrade, Junior Achievements, and ICT Hub Venture, Serbia is not only gearing up to meet the growing demand of skilled workers, but equipping its aspiring entrepreneurs with the support, funding, and necessary skills to thrive in a growing job market.

– Micaella Balderrama
Photo: Flickr

Youth in Serbia
Serbia is a European country that was formerly a part of Yugoslavia. Located in the West-Central Balkans, it is surrounded by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia. The majority of the population is of South Slavic origin and they speak Serbo-Croatian, which is nearly the same language that the Croats, Bosniaks, and Montenegrins speak.

Over time, a majority of Serbia’s population migrated to the capital city Belgrade from more rural areas. As recently as 2018 however, 43.9% of the people in Serbia still lived in the countryside. In 1945, when the country was still part of the former Yugoslavia, Serbians were under a socialist economic system. Although some free-market characteristics were later adopted in 1948, there was still a large emphasis on socialist self-management.

Youth Unemployment

Today, the youth in Serbia have been consistently making efforts to promote and provide a platform for entrepreneurship among young citizens. Near Belgrade—which has been a center for innovation and entrepreneurship over recent years—is the Impact Hub Belgrade.

One problem affecting the economy in Serbia is related to job availability among young citizens. The unemployment rate among youth is 40%, so providing employment opportunities to these citizens would impact a large portion of the population that is struggling to enter the job market or start businesses.

As a result of poor job opportunities, large numbers of young Serbians leave Serbia in search of work elsewhere. If the youth had more accessible jobs and economic opportunities, it may be more compelling for them to stay and stimulate their own economy, as opposed to the economies of other countries.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub focuses on supporting young entrepreneurs by strengthening their networks with investors in order to attract their investments. This provides an economic foundation for businesses to operate and produce goods and services.

One of the programs initiated by Impact Hub was called the Launch Pad, which provided these young entrepreneurs not only with tools needed to create new products, but with training to broaden their business skills. In addition, the program helped the youth in Serbia develop business models and connect with investors at home and abroad. This program received grants from USAID to help with funding.

Even though the program has ended, it raised a total of $230,000 from the domestic public sector, as well as from the private sector both at the national and international levels. Investments continued, including a $100,000 fund from the Innovation Impact Grant Program in Dubai.

Continued Efforts and Progress

Serbia’s economic freedom score by 2020 has increased by 2.1 points, bumping it to 66.0, and it saw GDP growth as recently as 2018. Even though Serbia has faced numerous economic difficulties since its independence, there are efforts being taken by its citizens to drive and stimulate the economy. The youth in Serbia have especially taken notable actions and the country continues to be supported by the USAID and many other programs and countries domestically and internationally.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Youth Entrepreneurship in Serbia
Serbia is a southeastern European country with an upper-middle-income economy. It ranks relatively high on the Human Development Index (63rd), Social Progress Index (53rd) and the Global Peace Index (54th). However, the nation suffers from high unemployment, especially in the youth population: Serbia recorded a youth unemployment rate of 30.3% in 2019. The lack of entry-level jobs consequently drives many young Serbians to flee their home country in search of work elsewhere. However, USAID has invested in an inventive solution to this problem: initiatives to promote youth entrepreneurship in Serbia.

Impact Hub Belgrade—Fostering Youth Entrepreneurship

USAID’s most notable endeavor is Impact Hub Belgrade. Impact Hub is a USAID-funded global network focusing on establishing entrepreneurial communities in cities worldwide. Serbia’s Impact Hub is located in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city. It specifically focuses on youth entrepreneurship, helping youth-led start-ups to attract potential regional and international investors. In particular, it helps hone and validate young entrepreneurs’ business models, providing them with the materials and skills needed to turn their ideas into reality. Insufficient access to finance is the number-one challenge young entrepreneurs face. Therefore, Impact Hub dedicates itself to eliminating this obstacle and creating boundless opportunities for young Serbians. The program celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2019.

Impact Hub Belgrade also prioritizes gender equality in its work. While Impact Hub Belgrade has a special focus on youth, it also recognizes the unique barriers that young female entrepreneurs face. On its anniversary in December, Impact Hub launched Women Entrepreneurs (WE) Founders, the first Serbian female investment group dedicated to fostering and supporting gender-diverse entrepreneurial teams and companies. Some of its techniques include ensuring women have an equal role in decision making, building trusting relationships between men and women in the workplace and encouraging women to take leadership positions.

Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement is another USAID-funded entrepreneurial program. The program is a training curriculum with the intention of teaching Serbian high school students the essentials of entrepreneurship. These essentials include writing business plans, identifying product placement and forecasting earnings. It ensures Serbian high school graduates enter the job market with the technical skills necessary to successfully establish a business. And while Junior Achievement programs are present throughout Europe, Serbia’s is among the strongest; in 2018, Belgrade hosted the European Student Company Competition, where 39 student-led companies from across the continent convened to present their businesses to a jury of prominent Serbian entrepreneurs.

Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental organizations also support young entrepreneurs. A notable example is Smart Kolektiv, an independent nonprofit organization with the stated purpose of promoting youth entrepreneurship in Serbia. Smart Kolektiv assists young entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses. Its hope is that Serbia’s youth will use their power to drive positive social change.

Success in Entrepreneurship

Young entrepreneur success stories abound across Serbia. One example of lucrative youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is Nikica Marinkovic’s Box System, an eco-friendly replacement for styrofoam designed to transport organic produce. Thanks to Impact Hub, Marinkovic gained funding from Austrian investors and U.S. markets that allowed him to expand his business.

Encouraging youth entrepreneurship in Serbia is just one way to encourage young Serbians to stay in their home country and fulfill their dreams. However, the popularity of these initiatives and their encouraging results also demonstrate that fostering youth entrepreneurship is a lucrative option for Serbia’s economy. Prosperous, youth-led operations continue to emerge throughout Serbia, from independent coffee shops to cutting-edge technologies.

Abby Tarwater
Photo: Flickr