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The three main challenges to social inclusion of young people in Serbia are:
- high unemployment rate,
- the high rate of young people who are not employed and not in any education or training systems,
- risk of poverty.
The National Report on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction in the Republic of Serbia (Nacionalni izveštaj o socijalnom uključivanju i smanjenju siromaštva u Republici Srbiji) provides a summary of the status of social exclusion and poverty trends in the period 2014–2017, as well as the challenges faced by Serbian society.
The report especially points out that:
- there is a very high unemployment rate among young people and the high rate of young people who are not employed and not in any education or training systems are serious reasons for concern,
- there is a total of 25.5% of the population (1.79 million people) at risk of poverty, 19.5% (1.37 million people) severely materially deprived, and 15.7% (1.01 million people) live in households with low work intensity,
- there is a high risk of poverty in rural areas, since people with lower education attainment are significantly more vulnerable,
- one in five young employed persons worked in the informal sector without the basic legal protection provided by employment/work contracts.
Additionally, the report shows the statistics on employed people according to their professional status - there was an increase in the share of paid workers and a decrease in the share of unpaid family workers in the total number of the employed youth. However, the benefits of this positive trend were enjoyed only by young men, not by young women.
Furthermore, the report emphasizes that more than a half of the total number of youth in the unemployment registry of the National Employment Service are jobless longer than 12 months. The records on the structure of youth in the registry show that the share of youth with no/low qualifications has increased. Also, the share of highly educated youth has increased only slightly. The educational structure of unemployed young women has also seen an increase in the share of women with no/low qualifications.
According to the Analytical overview of the status of youth in the European integration process published by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia in 2021, the at-risk-of-poverty rate is the highest in children and young people, standing at 23.6% for young people aged 18-24. The lack of financial opportunities causes further long-term dependence on parents and late acquisition of independence of young people, approx. 60% of young people who are still dependent on their parents report financial factors to be the reason. In terms of employment opportunities, young people are still in a worse position than the rest of the working-age population. The gender structure of youth unemployment indicates a worse position of women. Namely, 31% of young women and 25.8% of young men were unemployed in 2020. High youth unemployment rates and NEET rates, as well as the long period of time it takes to transit from education to employment, are identified in The European Commission’s 2021 Report on Serbia.
Social Inclusion and poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of the Republic of Serbia (Tim za socijalno uključivanje i smanjenje siromaštva Vlade Republike Srbije) in its Glossary defines social inclusion as follows:
“Social inclusion is the process enabling those at risk of poverty and social exclusion to have the opportunities and funds required for full participation in the economic, social and cultural life and achieving a living standard and wellbeing considered normal in the society they live in. Social inclusion ensures greater citizen participation in decision making, impacting their lives and ensuring basic rights.”