National HD Report - Serbia 2022

National Human Development Report

Response to Demographic Change

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    Depopulation As a Policy Challenge of Global Demographic Trends

    Throughout history, societies have lost population due to factors fundamentally beyond human control, such as food shortages, diseases and wars. Today, in many societies in the region, including Serbia, the population is declining due to people’s decisions, two of which are key – to have fewer children and to migrate. All projections show that these societies will shrink and become older.

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    Multifaceted Nature of Depopulation in Serbia – Recent Trends and Prospect

    According to all projections, the population of Serbia will shrink in the future. The regions of Western Serbia and Šumadija, as well as Eastern and Southeastern Serbia will be more affected by depopulation. Big cities will continue to grow, and regional demographic and social development will be increasingly uneven. In addition to large economic inequalities, there are differences in the regional human development index. While the Belgrade area is at the level of Poland, the rest of Serbia is comparable to the region and the countries of Central and South America, the Middle East and North Africa.

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    Addressing the Depopulation Challenge from the Family Life Perspective – Is Fertility Rise Possible?

    For decades now, the goal of population policy in Serbia has been to increase fertility. This goal can be pursued by striving to become more “family-friendly” as a society and helping parents reconcile work and parenthood in four domains: the labour market, state support for parenthood, marital and family relationships, and the position of women in society, that is, new gender roles. In all these dimensions, Serbian society is partially “unfriendly” to young families and parents. Youth unemployment rates are high and working conditions are poor and do not allow them to balance work and parenting responsibilities.

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    Migration, Skills and The Labour Market

    Although public discourse is dominated by the idea of a massive “brain drain” with tens of thousands of people leaving Serbia every year, detailed analysis reveals a different picture. The number of permanent migrants is stagnant, the number of short-term and circular migrants is growing, while the educational structure of migrants corresponds to that of the population of Serbia. These important findings provide the basis for new policies that will respond to population challenges.

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    Education and Depopulation

    The number of inhabitants of Serbia is decreasing, as well as the number of pupils and students. The education system will have to adapt to demographic change and find ways to positively impact it. To better develop the increasingly scarce human resources, the education system will have to increase its quality, efficiency, and equity. This applies to both children and adults in schooling.

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    Depopulation and Public Health

    Healthy early life and living habits lead to longer, more productive, and better-quality lives, as well as reducing fertility problems. For Serbia to have a small, healthy and productive population, it should consider further developing good quality preventive health care services. Various actors should engage in this, ranging from government to schools and companies, and to families and individuals.

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    Population Ageing

    In addition to shrinking, the population of Serbia is also ageing, and this process will continue in the decades ahead. This chapter analyses three key challenges: reforming the pension system, reforming long-term care, and reducing old-age poverty. Demand for long-term care for older people will grow, which will raise issues of development of community-based services, the reform of cash benefits and the introduction of additional long-term care insurance.

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    Urban and Spatial Aspects of Depopulation in Serbia

    Rural depopulation has been a subject of public interest for decades. From the perspective of balanced demographic and social development of Serbia, however, the key role actually belongs to medium-sized towns with up to 100,000 inhabitants. These towns connect villages and small towns to fast-growing large cities. Many of them are shrinking in size and, judging by the experiences of countries in the region, will continue to shrink in the future. Is it possible to stop the decline of these cities and can they adapt to new demographic trends?

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    Environment, Climate Change and Depopulation in Serbia

    This chapter brings forth some of the complex set of factors that affect the depopulation process in Serbia – its environmental and climate aspects. To what extent do the environment and climate affect fertility, mortality or migration as basic drivers of demographic change in Serbia? The first part of the chapter analyses the links between climate change and demographic change, looks at different climate and socio-demographic scenarios, and seeks to understand the impact of climate change on demographic dynamics, as well as the space for government intervention.

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