Serbia "could have 30% unemployment rate" next year

BELGRADE -- Although the official number of unemployed persons in Serbia stands at 755,000, estimates suggest that the figure "long ago crossed a million".

That means that in Serbia, almost a third of the working age population is unemployed.

Experts say that in the coming period unemployment will continue to rise, with its rate expected to go above "the psychological barrier of 30 percent" in late 2013.

Vladimir Gligorov, an associate of the Vienna Institute for Economic Research, estimated that Serbia will end this year with an unemployment rate of between 28 and 29 percent, while the Association of Independent Trade Unions of Serbia recently warned that their methodology produced a figure of 28.3 percent.

In the region, the situation is worse only in Bosnia-Herezgovia where nearly half the population is unemployed, as well as in Macedonia, where the rate has exceeded 31 percent. According to the International Labor Organization the global economic crisis has hit women harder than men.

"The data from the Labor Force Survey will be published in mid-January, and the document will show that unemployment is likely to reach 28 or 29 percent. It is not impossible that by the end of 2013 the unemployment rate will come to 30 percent," warned Gligorov.

Unemployment will, it is expected, continue to grow next year.

"Even if there were no new layoffs, unemployment will rise, as young people looking for their first job will simply not be able to find it. It is not unrealistic to expect that some companies will have to be further consolidated as the insolvency of the economy is huge. There is a significant number of redundant positions in the public sector but, in all likelihood, they will be dealt with only in 2014," this expert believes.

The Serbian Association of Employers UPS) said they were "threatened by all the workers who are not profitable". Layoffs are, as the organization pointed out, a logical sequence, while the best indicator was the market that declined drastically in the trade sector - by 30.4 percent compared to 2008.

"A quarter of people in the sector are becoming redundant. Lower production means fewer jobs in the administration as well, and there probably won't be work for economists and lawyers," said the UPS.

The National Employment Service said that "plans are still being made for 2013", but that they relied on programs to encourage employment. The service is hoping to receive the same amount of funding in 2013 as was the case this year - RSD 3.4 billion.