Montenegro has been an independent state since 2006. It is located is in Southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, known favorably for its magnificent coastline, limestone peaks and glacial lakes. Unfortunately, the people of Montenegro face many challenges, including a national poverty rate of 8.6 percent. Listed below are 10 facts about poverty in Montenegro.
10 facts about poverty in Montenegro
- Most children in Montenegro attend primary school. In 2018, the enrollment rate of primary school-aged children was almost 90 percent. However, according to a World Bank press release, the quality of this education is not up to par. On average, students only get 8.6 years of quality education. Fortunately, recent action has been taken resulting in reforms to the education policy that are in accord with EU legislation. The country is also working on programs to keep students from leaving school early. Educating the youth of Montenegro will better their chances of having healthy and productive lives. It also boosts the economy and decreases poverty rates.
- Poverty has historically been concentrated in the Northern, rural areas of Montenegro. The rural poverty rate was 11.3 percent in 2010. This was almost three times the urban rate of 4 percent that year. This is consistent with the global trend of development as many aspects of economic modernization only affect urban areas. In Montenegro, the rural population relies primarily on agricultural subsistence in the form of family farms. However, as urban development has spiked, young people have begun moving to the cities and suburbs. This has left the rural population to a generally older demographic, rendering the family farm model unsustainable.
- While levels of education are relatively consistent across genders, the number of men in political positions largely outweighs the number of women. Men also tend to have higher incomes. Fortunately, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) held a conference with all of the women in Parliament and the Vice President. The Vice President pledged to do more to support the Gender Equality committee in their goals to decrease domestic violence against women and encourage female entrepreneurship. These initiatives will help women feel safe and empowered.
- The tourism industry accounts for 20 percent of the GDP. It currently brings in more than three times the population of Montenegro in tourists annually. These numbers are projected to increase as many new luxury tourism complexes are being built along the coast. They will operate in conjunction with nearby boating and yachting facilities. This means that tourism, which currently generates 7.7 percent of total employment, is forecasted to provide 21.5 percent of jobs in Montenegro by 2028.
- The future of the tourist industry in Montenegro relies on the natural health and beauty of the country. An organization called Green Home is committed to addressing Montenegro’s existing ecological problems. It will use public advocacy to deal with issues like air and water pollution. Green Home has carried out many successful projects in Montenegro, including school recycling, strengthening hydropower regulation and the South East Europe Sustainable Energy Policy. Green Home has also contributed directly to the tourism industry with its support of local communities around Sasko Lake to implement tourist practices. Green Home’s projects allow tourism to flourish and, therefore, keep thousands of Montenegrins employed.
- Montenegro is in the process of transitioning to a market economy. So far, 90 percent of all companies and 100 percent of banking, telecommunications and oil companies have been privatized. This process was facilitated by Montenegro’s low corporate tax rate, which also encourages foreign investors. Montenegro’s foreign investments per capita are now one of the highest in Europe, making it competitive on the international stage.
- Montenegro is a lead candidate for integration into the European Union. It is projected to be a member by 2025. This would solidify their trade relationships with other European countries and stimulate natural resource trade and production. This could lead to an increase in industry and create more jobs. Additionally, the EU’s rural development policy would help Montenegro lift its rural population out of poverty.
- Montenegro’s unemployment rate was 14.5 percent as of September 2019. One of the main reasons that the rate is so high is that more than 29 percent of Montenegro’s youth (ages 15-24) are unemployed. The country ranks at 15 of the 25 highest youth unemployment rates in the world. Some say it is a result of the high levels of education since most jobs in Montenegro are more blue-collar and often offered to foreign migrants. Regardless, unless unemployment decreases dramatically for this age group in the next few years, this could be a major challenge to the economic future of Montenegro.
- State-sanctioned social welfare provides money and social work to those who struggle. However, there is not enough to go around. Only 44 percent of people under the poverty line receive welfare money. Additional help, such as child psychological services, is reportedly hard to come by. The United Nations has been working with the government in Montenegro to change this by providing funding through the #ENDViolence campaign. The campaign includes initiatives such as strengthening social work services and helping parents support their children through a variety of methods.
- NGO 4 Life is a non-profit organization working to help former drug addicts reintegrate into society in Montenegro. In 2012, the organization worked with Parliament to reverse a law that said people convicted of drug crimes had to go to prison. Through reforms, drug addicts were offered rehabilitation in certain circumstances. The organization continues to launch projects to help recovering addicts with an overarching goal of decreasing the unemployment rate in Montenegro.
These 10 facts about poverty in Montenegro show that the country’s future promises hope. The World Bank Country Manager in Montenegro, Emanuel Salinas, stated, “We believe that the Government of Montenegro has understood that the prosperity of the country relies on equipping people with the skills and knowledge that are needed in a rapidly changing world.” He admits that this is no easy task, but remains confident. Hopefully, the efforts of the government, along with those of various organizations mentioned in the 10 facts about poverty in Montenegro amount in a significant change in the lives of Montenegrins.
– Madeline Esther Lyons