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Young people and going abroad: “It will be difficult at the beginning, but it will be better than here”

Tijana Dušej Ristev, BBC journalist August 1, 2019

After graduating from the Medical Faculty in Belgrade, Vera Negović from Vrnjačka Banja started learning German. She and her spouse was making plans to move to this country, where she hopes to be able to do the job she was educated for. “The cost of living is almost the same in Serbia and Germany, but salaries are higher there,” Vera told the BBC in Serbian. She worked several jobs after studying in Belgrade and she has been “at the bureau” for five years and she lives in her hometown. Although she reports regularly, the National Employment Service did not call her with any job recommendation.”I waited long enough. They keep saying that we have lack of staff, and here I am without a job for so long, “says Vera. She is aware that it will not be easy for her in the beginning, but she also says that doctors in Serbia are paid 500-600 euros a month, and there they are paid four to five times more. People from the rural parts of Serbia, like Vera, more and more often decide to live in foreign countries, than in Belgrade or some other larger city, shows Faculty of Geography research on population migrations.

  • Faculty of Geography research conducted on a sample of 3,000 people: 46% of respondents support moving abroad
  • OSCE data say that 654,000 people left Serbia between 2000 and the beginning of the 20th century
  • Most young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are left

It's easier "over the board"

The research conducted by the Faculty of Geography, among other things, states that it is no longer a trend for only highly educated young people to migrate. “The availability of information is great thanks to the Internet, so even less educated individuals find it easier to find that it is not so difficult to find a place for yourself in Frankfurt, Milan, Vienna, Zurich, Paris,” Dr. Petar Vasic from the Faculty of Geography told the BBC in Serbian.

He also states that population migrations for the Balkans are normal. “Strong migrations are characteristic for this region. Also, there has been a constant replacement of the population with migration, “Doc. Petar Vasic from the Faculty of Geography told the BBC in Serbian. He explains that this is why there is almost no person in Serbia today who does not have a close relative or friend abroad.” That makes them easier to move abroad “, says Vasić.

During 2018, 122.193 people changed their place of residence, ie permanently moved from one place to another, according to a written answer for the BBC in Serbian from the Republic Bureau of Statistics. However, the institute does not have data on how many people migrate abroad.

„They’re just whining about how scary it is here”

Dajana Nikolić from Smederevska Palanka is studying architecture in Niš, but plans to continue her education in Vienna. She says that she has not yet been in a situation where Serbia has disappointed her, but that she believes that something like that is surely waiting for her. “I was in America during the summer, I worked, I saw that life, salary and standard are better. “I know that is not the case here,” Diana told the BBC in Serbian. She adds that these better living and working conditions make people happier and more satisfied. “And that is not the case here. They are just whining here,” Nikolic says.

Vasic believes that others who leave the country think similarly. He says that it is enough just to look at the difference in average salaries between cities in the rural parts of Serbia and foreign salaries.

“That’s how you put, an individual to faced with a particularly not difficult choice in whether he will look for a job in Kraljevo, Leskovac, Cacak, Sabac, Zrenjanin, Smederevo or somewhere abroad,” says Vasic. they do not go abroad for the sake of existence, because “they want to live in a certain environment and orderly system, but also to provide children with life with far more options and better education.” “Local-patriotic feelings are getting weaker, which significantly facilitates the decision to move abroad,” Vasic believes.

The solution is not in sight

Considering that almost half of the people in the research expressed their intention to leave the country for non-economic reasons, there is no quick solution for this situation. “Certainly, as living standards rise, emigration should subside, but non-economic reasons are a far bigger problem,” Vasic said, adding that it would probably be decades before non-financial reasons began to wane.

Smaller place – a life with less stress

However, there are other examples.

Vojin Klickovic was born in Belgrade, grew up there, studied and worked for several years. Then he got a good business opportunity from a company in Kragujevac. “For me, this job is primarily a career leap, and on the other hand, without the support of my wife and family, I would not have decided to take such a step,” Klickovic told the BBC in Serbian. in Kragujevac, they came from Nis, Negotino, Zajacar, Svilajnac. “A lot of them accepted the job because of better living conditions, a calmer environment, lower living costs,” says Vojin. He noted that the absence of good and experienced staff is particularly pronounced in smaller communities, precisely because of large migrations, and that large companies operating in smaller places in Serbia are forced to find qualified people often from Belgrade.

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Why are young people leaving Serbia

A panel discussion of the non-governmental organization “Serbia 21” was organized at the Petrus Hotel in Paracin on the topic “Why do young people leave Serbia”. The president of the NGO “Serbia 21” and MP Nenad Konstantinovic, a member of the Fiscal Council of Serbia Vlada Vuckovic and the Secretary-General of the organization “New Concept Paracin” Boris Lukic spoke at the tribune.

A survey conducted by Serbia 21 in July shows that 1.2 million Serbian citizens are considering leaving. Of the total number of those who would like to leave, almost half do not plan to return. Suitcases would like to pack 450,000 young people – 36 %of respondents aged 18 to 29. A better standard and orderly society is the main argument of young people why they want to go to the countries in Europe. Those who stated in the research of the organization Srbija 21, say that they are thinking about leaving, mostly because of state economic reasons.

“First of all, the standard, better salary, the possibility of employment, and a small percentage of them also state an organized state,” Nenad Konstantinović from the organization Srbija 21 told the BBC in Serbian. Similar research was conducted in the diaspora during the summer. 2,200 respondents participated, and 46 % of them stated that they did not plan to return. “When they retire, they plan to return only a third of them, but the key question is- do they see that their children could live in Serbia – 90 % of them answered negative,” says Konstantinović.

Precise data on the current number of Serbian diaspora do not exist. Figures of two or three, up to five million people are mentioned. Those who live abroad have different reasons to stay than those who are just planning to leave. “People who already abroad say that reasons are better perspective, certainty, security, safety, and better orderly state and a system in which they know what to expect. If you have a certain level of education, you know where you can get a job and what your salary will be. In Serbia, when you finish your studies, you don’t know if you will find a job at all, let alone how you will be get paid “, explains Konstantinović.

Boris Lukić said at the tribune that Paraćin has a big problem with the outflow of young highly educated people who either stay to live and work in Belgrade or decide to go abroad with their entire families: “Large outflow of young, mostly highly educated. In the past, in the 70’s, people from the countryside went, mostly to Austria, France, Switzerland, today urban children, and that is mostly Sweden and Stockholm. Thousands of people from Paracin have gone to Sweden in the last ten years. Closed factories, big giants, a huge number of middle-aged people have lost their jobs and have not been able to cope with the new circumstances. ”Lukić concluded.

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The departure of young people from Serbia can be stopped, here’s how

Radio Television of Serbia

Every day, 104 inhabitants leave Serbia, mostly young people. It is additionally worrying that half of those young people between the ages of 15 and 29 also want to leave the country. Some of them could keep higher salaries here, but for many money is not enough reason to stay.
They are looking for a better standard and a better perspective.

Plus one billion and two hundred million euros, how much was last year’s export of IT services,it was annulled by the minus made by the departure of the youth from the country.That’s how much cost the state education of 35,000 people who left the state. Serbia was left without enough craftsmen, engineers, doctors and IT experts.”Higher education positions, in addition to that economic moment, require other factors that could improve the quality of their lives,, That’s an investment that companies give them, a feeling that they can grow and develop professionally, a space for some personal development”, points out prof. Doc. Dragan Lončar, Vice Dean for Cooperation of the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade.

In terms of its ability to keep talent, Serbia ranks 134th on the list of 137 countries.
Some companies are trying to change those statistics. Dragomir Kostić from Atlantic Group says that in that company they enable workers to have flexible working hours following their needs. “We have also given the possibility for employees to go to the ‘sabbatic’, which is practically a form where it is a paid leave of several months, most often it is a question of additional education or resolving some personal situations,” Kostic says.

Hard to professional strength

Dissatisfied, they go abroad, leaving unsatisfied companies, who find it harder than ever to find professional workers. The President of the Board of Directors of the Serbian Association of Managers, Jelena Bulatović, believes that the economy should cooperate with universities. “In the early processes, they should be involved in creating a curriculum for certain positions that may not be present at the faculties now, then concrete solutions on how to make it easier for young people, for example, to obtain easy loans for houses or apartments,” Bulatovic said. The state assures that they are working on solving that problem – it has been formed a Coordination Body that should slow down the departure, return those who left, but also attract workers from abroad. “Without entrepreneurs, this Coordination Body and the measures they could take will not play any role for us. We need to have a private sector where we will employ those people “, points out Bojana Stanić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labor.

The Prime Minister’s Office announces that they are also working on the establishment of a body for circular migration, which will help those who want to return to Serbia. Among them, the least will be highly educated, because 76% of them do not intend to return to the country.


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