Facts About Poverty in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, or simply Serbia, is a landlocked country in southeast Europe. Poverty in Serbia remains a persistent issue. During the 1990s, the region experienced war, internal displacement of populations and economic depression. Global and national reports indicate that despite the increase in coverage of infrastructure, unequal access to housing, adequate sanitation and education persists between rural and urban populations. Here are five facts about poverty in Serbia.

5 Facts About Poverty in Serbia

  1. In Serbia, deprivation of education is the largest contributor to the Multidimensional Poverty Index, a measure that looks at multidimensional poverty at an international level. This is especially true of Serbia’s minority populations, where primary and secondary school attendance is lower than the national average. This education disparity worsens social exclusion and reduces employment opportunities for vulnerable populations. On its path towards EU accession, Serbia must comply with the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative, improving its educational system’s inclusion of all social groups, therefore facilitating their entry into the labor market.
  2. Poverty rates in Serbia are four times higher in the southeast than near the capital. The country is unevenly developed, with marked differences between rural and urban areas. This inequality stems from the vulnerability of Serbia’s agricultural regions, which face a combination of seasonal flooding, weakened infrastructure and a crop yield that changing weather has lowered.
  3. Serbia faces the highest percentage of citizens living below the national poverty line in the Balkan region. Estimates determine that this percentage has declined from 25.8% in 2015 to 18.9% in 2019, following Serbia’s emergence from economic and political isolation. Adequate conditions for implementing market reforms and sustainable development have only recently emerged.
  4. One-third of Serbians have inadequate health care. Women make up most of these cases at 33%. Unequal access to health care results from citizens’ financial status or proximity to health care facilities. Earlier this year, vulnerable Serbian medical centers received a 4.6 million Euro donation from the EU to purchase medical equipment to fight COVID-19. This donation contributed to the Serbian government’s renovation program as well, aiming to modernize the nation’s health care system to improve its efficiency.
  5. With an undernourishment rate of 5.7%, Serbia has the second-highest population living in hunger in Europe. This number has only decreased by 0.3% in the last 5 years. The U.N. is working to end malnutrition in Serbia by 2030 as a part of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means increasing agricultural productivity and improving rural infrastructure to promote sustainable food sources.

Looking Ahead

While it is important to be aware of the conditions that these five facts about poverty in Serbia present, it is equally as important to consider the projections that some are making in regard to the country’s economy and growth. The containment of COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the Serbian economy, restricting growth. The economy will enter a recession due to lower tourism, transport activity, exports and investment.
The Serbian government introduced a 5.2 billion Euro stimulus program that received approval in late March 2020. The program aims to bolster employment and aid small and medium enterprises. If successful, these efforts, along with ongoing reform programs seeking to stabilize the economy, will allow for the creation of more secure jobs in vulnerable areas.

Economic recovery depends on international developments and the rate of change. It is critical to consider the longterm impacts of these projections on poverty in Serbia’s most vulnerable regions.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr