Finding a job and earning a salary is a considerable challenge for many unemployed people in rural regions in the south and south-west of Serbia. This situation is particularly acute for young people, affecting more than 50% in 2013. Women are also strongly affected: 52% of the 750,000 registered unemployed in 2013 were female.
In order to tackle this situation, the project supports economic sectors with strong growth potential. Tourism provides more than one in ten jobs in the country. Other major sources of income are traditional products, mainly food products.
Domestic tourism is very important in Serbia, in particular in winter resorts in the south-west of the country, where many businesses and employees depend on the sector. One of the main aims of the project is to help promote locations and to offer staff training which meets the needs of the labour market. The project has also succeeded in having the dates of the school holidays changed in order to attract families for longer and extend the winter season. A proposal was drawn up taking account of the needs and interests of the various stakeholders, then presented to the education minister, who is in charge of the adoption of the school calendar.
This change generated 636 new jobs and increased total employee income by CHF 1,733,191 during the 2016 winter season. The influx of additional tourists also benefited small businesses, whose profits rose during this period to CHF 1,225,000.
Improving traditional products
With regard to traditional products, the main objective of the project is to improve their quality and to expand the production of honey and raspberries. The latter are currently being cultivated in the traditional manner over an area of 11,000 hectares in the west of the country. However, in recent years the system has suffered as a result of outdated agricultural machinery, inadequate cooperation between small producers and buyers, and elderly producers who refuse to hand over the reins to the younger generation.
Launching a new business can be a particularly difficult undertaking. The buyers only agree to negotiate with experienced producers. Besides, raspberry production requires considerable knowledge in order to avoid errors that may prove fatal to the longevity of the stock. A lack of capital also frequently poses a huge barrier. In order to give new producers an easier start and to create employment for the young, the project encourages buyers and producers to work more closely together, with buyers providing funds and advice to producers, and producers benefiting from improved quality control of their product.
The project has got off to a very successful start. Five hundred and nineteen unemployed young people, 142 of whom are women, have obtained 100 hectares of raspberry orchards. One of the women, who has taken part in an advisory group, told us: "I was unemployed. Our family had never grown raspberries before. I am delighted to have been given this opportunity. Next year I'd like to double the number of plantations."