UNDP is promoting sustainable economic growth, inclusive employment, gender equality and improved access to social services. Programmatic activities contribute to the availability and quality of employment opportunities and services for socially excluded and vulnerable people. These activities comprise active labour market measures that equip workers for employment in a knowledge-based economy, and which cultivate demand for labour, particularly women, youth, people with disabilities, and minorities. Support for private sector-led job creation in the services, agriculture and manufacturing sectors aims at reducing urban-rural income disparities through area-based initiatives targeting isolated and disadvantaged regions.
The economic crisis continued to have significant impact on the labor market. The negative economic growth wasn’t conducive to job creation with employment rates declining further to their lowest level in a decade. Unemployment reached 28 % according to data from the Chamber of Commerce and is mostly structural: Around ¾ of all unemployed persons have been without a job for more than a year. Even more worrying is the fact that employment declined even in sectors which had positive growth rates, implying gains in labour productivity and increasing informalities. Youth unemployment, reaching 52% in 2012, is still significantly above the average rate.
South and Southwest Serbia are the most economically and socially deprived regions in Serbia, with the consequence of generating intensive migration. An increase in number of false asylum applications in several European countries was reported throughout 2012, with Serbian citizens remaining among the highest-ranked nationalities of asylum applicants in the EU. According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 2,673 Serbian citizens, the majority of them reportedly members of the Roma community, applied for asylum in Germany for the first time in 2012. In October, following requests from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the EU Council of Ministers discussed measures to address concerns about the number of asylum applications from Serbia and other Balkan states. The Council stopped short of removing the visa liberalization arrangements in place since 2009 but, in effect, required Serbia and other states to introduce additional measures to prevent potential asylum seekers from leaving the country.
The Government continued to implement active measures to increase social inclusion of Roma and other vulnerable groups. This resulted in increased school enrolment of Roma children, and an increased number of teaching Roma assistants (170) and Roma health coordinators (75). With the UN’s support, 7% of the country’s stateless Roma received ID cards for the first time, facilitating their access to jobs, education and health care services. However, availability of community-based services remains limited and Roma are exposed to multiple forms of exclusion. The majority of Roma still live in informal settlements under challenging conditions, with lacking personal documents and thus access to public services, and are thus by far the most discriminated group in the labor market. Roma women face additional hardship by frequently being subject to in-family violence. Unofficial data, collected through interviews with Roma women from four informal settlements, indicate potentially very high violence exposure rates (90% -100%). At the same time, the national budget for active labor market measures has been significantly cut from 66 million EUR in 2011 to approx. 30 million in 2012 and 2013, which suggests a further deterioration of the prevailing situation for Roma and other vulnerable groups in the near future.
The public condemn of violence against women, an area where UNDP has been active for several years, has significantly increased in 2012. The Government is showing more commitment overall, but the cooperation of relevant institutions with the mandate to provide adequate prevention, protection and support to the victims of gender based violence needs to be further strengthened.
The May elections saw a significant increase in number of elected female candidates, with the number of women elected to local assemblies increasing from 18% in 2008 to 32 % in 2012 – thus meeting the national MDG target. UNDP remains strongly positioned to continue supporting the Government in gender related matters, given its proven expertise and tangible results achieved over the past few years.
In social inclusion area, UNDP predominantly implemented inclusive development programmes.
Through Youth Employment Fund, UNDP supported over 2800 disadvantaged youth to get employment, vocational training or receive self-employment grants. Around 10% of them were social welfare beneficiaries and with this measure transited from welfare to work. The impact assessment confirmed that 25% of young people that underwent on-the-job training got employed afterwards, 74% managed to sustain own business and 97% of PWD that received employment subsidies remained employed.
UNDP supported establishment of 5 Citizen Advisory Centers to expand services to returnees from Western Europe. 70 municipal administrators were trained on how to facilitate reintegration process of returnees under the readmission agreements and subsequently provided 847 advisory services. 725 Roma individuals thus obtained their first ever ID cards and personal documents. 400 health professionals were educated on Roma culture, vulnerabilities and rights and Roma Health Coordinators reached over to 5,000 new families which resulted in 1,400 previously unregistered Roma entering the health system for the first time.
UNDP assisted the Government to adapt more gender sensitive policies which contributed to an increase in reported cases of violence against women. UNDP’s value added was also evident in support for the Gender Equality Directorate which established a set of new sexual and gender based violence measures focused on 1) prevention (e.g. adoption of National Strategy for Combating and Preventing Violence against Women in Family and in Intimate Partner Relationships); 2) protection (e.g. hotlines and safe houses); and 3) support measures (capacity development of service providers) for the victims of family violence. In order to increase the rate of reported violence, UNDP supported the establishment of 4 new hotlines and 2 new hotlines for ethnic minority and Roma women.
UNDP supported the Police Academy, the Judiciary Academy and the Human Resources Agency of the Government of Serbia to introduce new curricula on violence against women and gender equality in their regular educational programmes. In 2011 a total of 150 state officials, 400 police officers, and 300 judges and prosecutors were trained on how to deal with victims of VAW without exposing them to secondary victimization.
UNDP contributed to raising awareness about gender equality and VAW by supporting publishing of 3762 articles on these topics in 2010-2011. While the fairly broad coverage is positive, the fact that the 80% of respective articles was published on the cover pages of national dailies indicates a tendency towards sensationalistic reporting. To balance this, UNDP trained more than 90 journalists and editors on taking a more objective view on the topic.Tangible results in this area were recognized in 2012 EU Progress Report.