Key sectors for jobs
The recent economic crisis has had a serious impact on the labour market in Serbia, particularly for young people. Switzerland supports economic sectors with high growth potential in a bid to create jobs.
The 2008 economic crisis has had serious consequences for Serbia – a decline in GDP, an increase in public debt, rising unemployment and growing social inequality. It is now on a slow road to recovery, but despite encouraging signs of revival, unemployment remains high. Finding a job and a sufficient salary on which to live are still sizeable challenges for many people in rural regions in the south and south-west of the country, who often run the risk of falling into poverty. Young people and women are the hardest hit by this situation. In light of this, SECO and the SDC support projects that aim to create new employment and income prospects in strategic sectors of the Serbian economy.
Strengthening local businesses
Established businesses in Serbia do not exploit their growth potential and many start-ups go bankrupt a short time after they are set up. In Serbia, it is difficult for businesses to access the expertise, venture capital and the services they need to develop. To remedy this situation, SECO’s entrepreneurship support programme helps create favourable local conditions for businesses. The programme’s various measures aim to increase entrepreneurs’ chances of success in the long term. To this end, SECO reinforces existing local support mechanisms and works with incubators, investors, mentors, the media and the Serbian diaspora. In 2016, the programme benefited 90 Serbian businesses.
Tourism – a growth sector
Tourism is a key sector of the Serbian economy, providing more than one in ten jobs. Winter destinations in the south-west of the country, which are mainly visited by domestic tourists, support the livelihoods of many businesses and employees. In a bid to further develop the region and to address its weaknesses, the SDC is supporting a project being implemented by a local agency in 25 municipalities across four under-developed districts. The project focuses on the promotion of new tourist locations and the creation or improvement of staff training courses. The aim is to equip staff with solid practical skills, which will enable them to provide better quality service. In addition, the school holiday dates have been adapted in order to attract families and tourists for longer and to extend the winter holiday season. This increase in the number of holidaymakers to the region has leveraged growth in tourism: during the 2016 winter season, 636 new jobs were created (6% more than the previous year) and employee salaries rose by nearly CHF 1.73 million (20% more per employee). SMEs in the tourism sector also recorded an increase in profit and therefore benefitted from the prolonged holiday season.
Supporting young people in the traditional products sector
The SDC is also involved in the field of traditional products, particularly food, with efforts to support dairy production, fruit growing and honey production. The focus is on raspberry production, which is carried out over an area of 11,000 hectares (7% of the land used for fruit growing) in the west of the country. In Serbia, close to 100,000 tonnes of raspberries are exported every year (22% of exported fruit), making the country the world’s biggest exporter of raspberries.
Switzerland’s contribution to the enlarged European Union
Through its contribution to the enlarged European Union (EU), Switzerland supports the 13 countries that joined the EU since 2004. An independent evaluation shows that the SDC and SECO have achieved good results in implementing the Swiss enlargement contribution. Overall, 79% of projects were rated good to very good, and no projects were rated as unsatisfactory. According to the report, the 300 or so projects make a positive contribution to economic and social development in the 13 partner countries. The objectives were achieved or even exceeded in the vast majority of projects. The evaluation recommends enhancing the efficiency of future efforts through increased thematic and geographical focus.