New findings on depopulation in Serbia presented

June 30, 2021

Marija Drobnjaković, the Geographical Institute "Jovan Cvijić" at SANU, the Geoanalysts team

Belgrade, June 30 - Four research teams, winners of the "Depopulation Data Challenge", presented their new findings on population movements in Serbia, economic migrations abroad, Serbian scientists in diaspora, as well as on the spatial aspects of depopulation.

All teams combined official with alternative data sources, in order to gain a deeper and more accurate insight into the dynamics of migration inside and outside Serbia, which is closer to real time than existing statistics.

Their work was supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the German Organization for International Cooperation (GIZ), in order to contribute to the creation of new public policies to respond to depopulation in Serbia.

Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia, Borka Jeremic, Assistant Representative and Head of Office, UNFPA Serbia, Marija Bogdanovic, Program Lead, Migration for Development and Migration and Diaspora in Serbia (GIZ) and Natali Delic, Telekom Srbija's Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, will also attend the presentation of the solutions.

"When it comes to complex challenges, such as depopulation, our ability to adapt and understand changes as they happen is crucial to finding successful and sustainable solutions. That is why we gathered researchers and invited them to use new data sources, to be creative and innovative, in order to shed light on this phenomenon from different angles. We hope that the knowledge and new methods that the researchers came up with will contribute to the creation of more efficient public policies, in line with the new demographic reality in Serbia, but also in the region and globally", said Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia.

According to Borka Jeremic, UNFPA Assistant Representative and Head of Office in Serbia, many countries in the region, are facing lower birth rates, extended life expectancy and emigration, same as Serbia. "Every fifth person in Serbia is older than 65, and we are yet to see the effects of demographic aging. Our regional program for demographic resilience includes support for maintaining the census, which is planned for the fall of 2022 and whose findings will be enriched with a unique set of data from alternative sources and solutions of the winners of the Depopulation Data challenge”, Jeremic pointed out.

"The migration profile of Serbia, as a set of data that is produced on an annual level, is a prerequisite and starting tool for the work of all organizations and institutions dealing with the topic of migration in Serbia. The speed and variability with which migration flows take place now require new ways of collecting data, as well as a greater diversity of data. In order to create appropriate, timely measures, so that Serbia can benefit from the economic and social contribution of its citizens on the move, German Development Cooperation supports innovative ways of generating data, with the help of new scientific research and digitalization", said Marija Bogdanovic, Lead of the Migration and Diaspora programme of GIZ in Serbia.

“At Telekom Srbija we are committed to support and drive digitalization of society, we recognize the opportunities for data-centric business models, and we believe that combination of open data and business sector data are great potential for innovation. Of course, this is the area where we need to install rigorous practices and ensure privacy, fair and ethical data use and that requires a lot of work and sensitivity. But as leader in telecommunications and governmentally owned company we also have moral obligation to support initiatives which can lead to improving quality of life in Serbia. That is why we found the way to support depopulation data challenge and we will continue to support all similar, positive innovative initiatives in the future”, said Natali Delic, Telekom Srbija's Chief Strategy and Digital Officer. 

Sanja Brdar, PopInsight team, Biosense Institut

Researchers at the BioSense Institute in Novi Sad - PopInsight, are the first research team to use anonymized and aggregated data from a mobile operator to detect population trends in the country, thanks to cooperation with Telekom Srbija. Combining these with satellite data, and data from OpenStreetMaps, they found that the municipalities in Serbia with the most pronounced depopulation trend are Novi Pazar and Tutin, which official statistics have not yet registered. On the other hand, the municipalities in which they noticed the largest influx of population are two from Belgrade - New Belgrade and Savski Venac, as well as Smederevo. More about this research can be found at:

Presentation of InfostudData team solution

The InfostudData team, from the company Infostud from Subotica, used data on offer and demand for jobs abroad. They found that most job offers abroad in the period from 2013 to 2020 came from Germany, followed by countries in the region, such as Croatia and Montenegro and Slovenia. In terms of professions, the biggest number of open positions for candidates from Serbia was in the field of mechanical engineering, construction and information technology. Also, the team found that professionals from Serbia mostly applied for jobs abroad in the field of technical sciences, trade and services, as well as tourism, catering and economy. Among those who expressed a desire to go abroad for employment, most are highly educated, aged between 25 and 40 years. More about this research can be found at:

Presentation of Bootstrappers team

The Bootstrappers team, made up of researchers from Harvard University and the Brookings Institution, analysed trends of people emigrating from Serbia, especially researchers, by analysing Facebook Ads data, and data from a search engine for academic publications, Microsoft Academic. They learned that in the last 20 years, 9% of scientific researchers who have already published scientific articles in the country have left Serbia, and that the productivity of Serbian scientists increases significantly when they work in renowned institutions abroad. This research also showed that the most popular countries for emigration from Serbia are Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The researchers concluded that such an approach to monitoring population movements, combined with official statistics, could help monitor the volume of emigration from Serbia on a quarterly basis. More about this research can be found at:

The Geoanalysts team presenting their solution

Researchers of the Geographical Institute "Jovan Cvijić" at SANU, the Geoanalysts team, monitored the change in the number of inhabitants in different parts of Serbia, following satellite data, data on night lighting and data from OpenStreetMaps. By combining geospatial data from different sources, they were able to obtain a picture of depopulation much closer to the situation on the ground than classical demographic sources can show. Their research showed that the number of inhabitants in Serbia is decreasing in the peripheral parts of the country, in hilly and mountainous areas, as well as on the outskirts of settlements. Depopulation is thus most pronounced in Eastern and Southeastern Serbia. On the other hand, the number of inhabitants is growing in urban areas, as well as in areas that have a good traffic infrastructure.

More about this research can be found at:

All four solutions and data obtained within the "Depopulation Data Challenge" are open and available for free use for further research or creation of new products, to all who are interested in using them to contribute to a better quality of life in Serbia.

The winning solutions to the Data Challenge will be presented on the occasion of marking two years of work of the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Serbia. The Accelerator Lab uses innovative approaches to find answers to complex development challenges of the 21st century.