The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to a decline in working hours equivalent to 510,000 full-time jobs in the second half of 2020, but the government has managed to contain the expansion of poverty thanks to a large economic package, a report prepared by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) showed on September 15.
The government has adopted a €5.1bn economic package to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which was assessed as the most generous among the Western Balkan economies.
“Following the introduction of strict public health measures and the subsequent slump in economic activity, working hours in Serbia declined by an estimated 14.8% during the second quarter of 2020. Shorter working hours and furlough schemes contributed significantly to this decrease. If the health crisis persists and employment retention programmes discontinue, however, people may be pushed into unemployment,” the report says.
It has assessed that more than 700,000 workers are at immediate risk if the health crisis persists, including wholesale trade, retail trade, accommodation, transport, services, forestry and logging, and crop and animal production. The number includes around 314,000 self-employed and over 267,000 informal workers.
The most severely hit were the micro enterprises that employ more than 735,000 workers with more than 25% of them ending operations due to the crisis.
The report recommended Serbian authorities to use more selective and targeted approach in order to back the most vulnerable groups, as well as to find a way to support circular and seasonal workers.