Living and working in Serbia

30 Marzo 2022

  •   Population: 6.8 million (2021)
  •   Real GDP growth: 7.4% (2021)

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for potential candidate countries.

Eurofound seeks to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to the quality of life and work – in Member States and in potential candidate countries. The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance programme 2014–2020 is an important tool that supports these countries in better preparing the implementation of public administration reforms, improving their economies and achieving the objectives set during the reform process. In this context, Eurofound country profiles offer a wealth of information on key components of working life in the enlargement countries.

    2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Serbia: 36% of people consider their job affecting their health negatively

    Living in Serbia

    Quality of life

    Quality of life

    Findings from Eurofound’s European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) show that many of the quality of life indicators are lower in Serbia than on average in the EU28. For instance, the WHO-5 Mental Well-being Index was lowest in Serbia among all the surveyed countries in the EQLS, at 52 in 2016 versus an EU28 average of 64 (on a scale of 1–100). However, 68% of respondents in Serbia were optimistic about their children’s or grandchildren’s futures in 2016, a significantly larger share than the EU28 average of 57%.

    The share of respondents reporting difficulties in making ends meet has decreased in Serbia from 75% in 2011 to 69% in 2016. However, this is still significantly higher than the EU28 average of 39% in 2016. Furthermore, the share of respondents reporting that they felt free to decide how to live their lives has decreased in Serbia from 36% in 2011 to 23% in 2016, falling slightly below the respective EU28 average of 26%.

    Life satisfactionMean (1-10)--6.36.3
    Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)--7.17.0
    Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---58%
    Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---68%
    Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--20%19%
    In general, how is your health?Very good--31%26%
    WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)--5452
    Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty--75%69%
    I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--36%23%
    I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---31%
    When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---28%

    Work-life balance

    Work-life balance

    The frequency of work–life balance problems in Serbia is higher than on average in the EU. For instance, in 2016, 83% of respondents in Serbia were too tired from work to do household jobs at least several times a month, which was much higher than the EU28 average of 59%. This was also the highest share among all the surveyed countries in the EQLS. Additionally, 66% of respondents in Serbia had difficulties to fulfil family responsibilities because of work at least several times a month in 2016, again a much larger share than the EU average of 38%.The least common work–life balance problem was having difficulties to concentrate at work because of family responsibilities, reported by 52% of respondents in Serbia in 2016, far above the EU28 average of 19%. When looking at the breakdowns by gender, it can be observed that the frequency of work–life balance problems is similar among men and women.

    (At least several times a month)   
    I have come home from work too tired to do some of the household jobs which need to be doneTotal--79%83%
    It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities because of the amount of time I spend on the jobTotal--50%66%
    I have found it difficult to concentrate at work because of my family responsibilitiesTotal--26%52%

    Quality of society

    Quality of society

    The Social Exclusion Index is on average higher in Serbia than in the EU28. In 2016, Serbia had a Social Exclusion Index score of 2.5, versus the lower 2.1 in the EU28 (on a scale of 1–5 where a lower value means a lower incidence of social exclusion). Similarly, average trust in people in Serbia was lower than the EU28 average in 2016, at 4.4 compared to 5.2 (on a scale of 1–10).

    However, perceived tensions between different racial and ethnic groups are lower in Serbia than on average in the EU. In Serbia, 23% of respondents reported a lot of this type of tension in 2016, compared with 41% in the EU28.

    Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)--2.52.5
    Trust in peopleMean (1-10)--4.64.4
    Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--3%5%
    Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'--0.536%
    Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'--0.323%
    I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---32%

    Quality of public services

    Quality of public services

    Quality ratings for seven public services

    Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

    In Serbia, the perceived quality of all seven public services examined in the EQLS are slightly below the EU28 averages. The education system in Serbia received the highest quality rating of 6.4 in 2016 (on a scale of 1–10). On the contrary, state pension system in Serbia received the lowest quality rating of 4.8 in 2016.

    When looking at the change over time, many public services have improved their quality ratings between 2011 and 2016 in Serbia. For example, the perceived quality of social housing increased from 3.6 in 2011 to 4.9 in 2016. Similarly, the perceived quality of health services increased from 5.1 in 2011 to 6.0 in 2016.

    Health servicesMean (1-10)--5.16.0
    Education systemMean (1-10)--5.66.4
    Public transportMean (1-10)--5.96.1
    Childcare servicesMean (1-10)--6.16.2
    Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--5.05.4
    Social housingMean (1-10)--3.64.9
    State pension systemMean (1-10)--4.24.8

    Working life in Serbia


    • Autor: Mihail Arandarenko
    • Institution: Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade
    • Published on: Jueves, Junio 27, 2019

    This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Serbia. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated regularly.

    Key figures

    Key figures

    Comparative figures on working life in Serbia




    Percentage point change

    GDP per capita




    Unemployment rate – total (15–64-year-olds)




    Unemployment rate – women




    Unemployment rate – men




    Unemployment rate – youth (15–24-year-olds)




    Employment rate – total




    Employment rate – women




    Employment rate – men




    Employment rate – youth (15–24-year-olds)




    Note: Employment and unemployment rates refers to people aged 15 to 64 unless otherwise stated.

    Source: Eurostat and Labour Force Survey, Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia



    In April 2018, the European Commission adopted its annual Enlargement Package assessing the implementation of the European Union's enlargement policy, which is based on established criteria and fair and rigorous conditionality. The current enlargement agenda covers the partners of the Western Balkans and Turkey. Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014) and Turkey (2005). North Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005, and Albania obtained candidate status in 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates.

    Economic and labour market context

    Between 2012 and 2017, Serbia gradually recovered from the impact of the economic crisis that hit in 2008. In terms of economic developments, the period between 2012 and 2014 was unstable, with a widening fiscal deficit and growing public debt. GDP dropped in 2014, reflecting the impact of the worst floods in 50 years. Also in 2014, a programme of fiscal consolidation was agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), involving pension and public sector wage cuts. However, the programme was successfully carried out without recessionary trade-off. Instead, between 2015 and 2017 the growth rate averaged at slightly below 3%.

    Labour market indicators steadily improved throughout the whole period of 2012–2017, recovering most of the employment losses seen between 2008 and 2012. The recovery was relatively even across demographic groups. However, the statistics presented overstate the actual improvements (which are nevertheless significant), due to methodological changes to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), namely the introduction in 2014 of quarterly surveys instead of semi-annual surveys and, in 2015, of a permanent, round-the-year survey. Since the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia (SORS) could not produce harmonised LFS series either backwards or forwards, there is a break in the LFS data series in 2014.

    Legal context

    Industrial relations are regulated by a comprehensive body of labour legislation. One pillar of this legislation is the labour law adopted in 2005. This was thoroughly amended in July 2014, with far-reaching changes aiming mostly at reducing the perceived rigidity of employment protection.

    Working time regulations and the rules for employer termination of employment contracts were made somewhat more flexible. The maximum length for fixed-term employment was extended to 24 months, within one or more subsequent fixed-term contracts, twice the previous limit of 12 months.

    The 2014 amendments reduced many monetary and non-monetary employee rights. For example, severance payments for redundant workers are now calculated only for the tenure with their current employer rather than for their entire previous work experience, and seniority premiums for years of service were lowered from 0.5% annually for the employee’s entire work experience to 0.4% annually for the tenure with their current employer. The mandatory wage premiums for shift work were abolished, and negotiations on shift premiums were left to the process of collective bargaining. The maximum annual number of paid days for a leave of absence for personal reasons was reduced from seven days to five days.

    In the area of collective bargaining, the conditions for the extension of sectoral collective agreements to non-signatories were made much more restrictive; the minister of labour can only extend the agreement if the majority of employees in a sector are represented by signatories.

    Industrial relations context

    Serbia’s industrial relations system broadly corresponds to the fragmented, state-centred model – typical of other central and eastern European countries that underwent the transition to a market economy. If anything, the imbalance of power between the state, on the one hand, and the employer organisations and unions, on the other, is even more pronounced in Serbia. While relations between the state and non-state actors are largely characterised by acquiescence, relations between the employer organisations and unions and among various union confederations have been quite conflictual, creating a cycle of fragmentation and weakness among the non-state industrial relations actors.

    After the changes to the labour law in 2014, amid weak union protests, and the successful completion of a fiscal consolidation programme in 2017, which involved cuts in public sector wages, the government has more recently shown an interest in improving relations with the social partners. It has, for example, worked jointly with the social partners in the Social and Economic Council to determine minimum wage increases. However, fiscal prudence and the competitiveness of the economy remain the main priorities, while accommodating the interests of foreign investors limits the development of industrial relations and collective bargaining at the company level.

    Actors and institutions

    Actors and institutions

    Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Serbia.

    Public authorities involved in regulating working life

    The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy (MLEVSP) is in charge of overall regulation of industrial relations and working conditions. Its Department for Labour prepares drafts of labour-related legislation and bylaws, facilitates social dialogue, monitors the implementation of collective agreements and keeps records on trade unions and their representativeness at all levels. Several other government ministries – finance, education, health and economy – are involved in the operation of the Social and Economic Council for minimum wage determination, as well as making legislative changes in their respective areas of responsibility affecting the interests of the social partners.

    The MLEVSP includes two administrative bodies active in the monitoring and promoting of health and safety at work: the Occupational Safety and Health Directorate, which prepares legislation and bylaws, among other activities, and the Labour Inspectorate, which is in charge of supervision over its enforcement. The Republic Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labour Disputes is a separate government organisation that deals with the amicable settlement of individual and collective labour disputes.

    Trade unions

    About trade union representation

    A trade union is defined by the labour law (Article 6) as an independent, democratic and self-supporting organisation of employees, which they join voluntarily for advocacy, representation, promotion and protection of their professional, labour, economic, social, cultural and other individual and collective interests. The right to join a union is near universal, and no sector is excluded.

    There are no reliable data on trade union membership. There are two nationally representative trade union confederations – the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia (CATUS – Savez samostalnih sindikata Srbije) and the United Branch Trade Unions (UBTU – UGS Nezavisnost). Both participate in the Social and Economic Council at national level. Their self-declared membership is around 500,000 and 200,000 members, respectively. There are three more union confederations with significant membership: the Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CFTU – Konfederacija slobodnih sindikata), the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions (AFITU – Asocijacija slobodnih i nezavisnih sindikata) and the United Trade Unions ‘Sloga’ (UTUS – Udruženi sindikati ‘Sloga’), with self-reported membership of 180,000, 150,000 and 100,000, respectively. Independent analysts estimate the ‘true’ numbers at around the half of self-reported membership, which would put the unionisation rate at around 25–30%.

    Main trade union confederations and federations

    Long name


    Estimated membership


    Involved in collective bargaining?

    Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia




    At all levels

    United Branch Trade Unions




    At all levels

    Confederation of Free Trade Unions




    At sectoral and company level

    Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions




    At sectoral and company level

    United Trade Unions ‘Sloga’




    At company level

    Employer organisations

    About employers’ representation

    According to the labour law, an association of employers may be established by employers who employ no less than 5% of the employees in a certain branch, group, subgroup or line of business, or in a particular territorial unit. An association of employers is considered representative if its membership includes no less than 10% of employers within a certain branch, group, subgroup or line of business, or within a certain territorial unit (under the condition that such employers employ no less than 15% of the total number of employees in that unit).

    In recent years, the most relevant employer organisation has been the Serbian Association of Employers (SAE – Unija poslodavaca Srbije), which remains the only representative employer organisation at national level. The legitimacy of the SAE is disputed by its rivals and also sometimes by other social partners on the grounds that its representativeness is questionable.

    Main employer organisations and confederations

    Long name



    Involved in collective bargaining?

    Serbian Association of Employers



    At all levels

    Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

    National tripartite policy concertation takes place within the Social and Economic Council, defined by law as an independent legal entity formed to enhance the development of social dialogue. It consists of 18 members, 6 of whom are representatives of the government, with 6 trade union representatives and 6 employer representatives. The Social and Economic Council has a relatively wide agenda and remit, but in practice the concertation is reduced to minimum wage determination and discussion of various socioeconomic issues, such as changes in legislation relevant for working conditions and living standards of workers and pensioners. The relations between social partners are more often conflictual than cooperative, and overall, the government is not much interested in pursuing consensus. Additionally, the social partners are burdened with unresolved issues of representativeness and the full legitimacy of their constituent members, and the work of the Social and Economic Council has frequently been stalled in recent years.

    Main tripartite and bipartite bodies




    Issues covered

    Social and Economic Council

    Independent legal entity


    Legislative proposals, minimum wage determination, other relevant issues

    Collective bargaining

    Collective bargaining

    The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in Serbia.

    Bargaining system

    General and special collective agreements are implemented directly and are binding on all employers who, at the time the collective agreement is concluded, have been members of an employers’ association that is party to the collective agreement.

    Since the 1990s, collective bargaining has been characterised by the asymmetry in the legitimacy and bargaining power of the three key representatives of organised interests: the government, trade unions and employers. The government has always been able to influence the key outcomes of social dialogue and collective bargaining, especially at national and sectoral levels. However, it often also takes the role of a powerful mediator, even at company level.

    Judging by the collective agreements signed, the main collective bargaining trends are differentiated. In the public sector, there is a tendency for sectoral negotiations, while in the private sector, decentralised, company-level bargaining is more common, especially since the 2014 changes, which make it more difficult to extend collective bargaining legally.

    Bargaining levels

    Wage bargaining in the public sector still predominantly takes place as centralised sectoral talks between the government, represented by the line ministries, and the trade unions. In the private sector, wage bargaining takes place predominantly at company level. The minimum wage is negotiated within the Social and Economic Council, with the government effectively having the final say. It is then universally applied throughout the country and for all age groups.

    Levels of collective bargaining, 2017


    National level (intersectoral)

    Sectoral level

    Company level



    Working time


    Working time


    Working time

    Principal or dominant level






    Important but not dominant level





    Existing level




    Given the dual character of industrial relations, articulation is also dual: while sectoral agreements dominate the public sector, enterprise-level agreements are dominant in the private sector.

    Timing of the bargaining rounds

    The maximum duration of collective agreements according to the labour law is three years, and this is duration set in almost all instances.


    There is some limited coordination at sectoral level between the public sector unions.

    Extension mechanisms

    The labour law changes in 2014 made it more difficult (and for all practical purposes impossible) to extend the sectoral agreements to non-signatory employers. Such extension is now possible only if signatory employers employ more than 50% of the workforce in the sector.

    Derogation mechanisms

    There are no derogation mechanisms outlined in signed agreements, but the enforcement of wage clauses (and increasingly working time clauses too) has always been an issue in the private sector.

    Expiry of collective agreements

    Collective agreements conclude after a three-year term. Upon expiry, collective agreements become invalid unless the parties to the collective agreement agree otherwise 30 days before expiry at the latest.

    Peace clauses

    There are no explicit peace clauses in collective agreements.

    Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

    No information available.

    Industrial action and disputes

    Industrial action and disputes

    Legal aspects

    The Law on Strikes (1996) defines a strike (štrajk) as an interruption of work organised by employees for the purpose of protecting their professional and economic interests regarding their labour. Employees decide freely whether they participate in a strike. A strike may also be organised as a warning strike (štrajk upozorenja), which may last for up to one hour. The decision to go on strike or participate in a warning strike against an employer must be made by a majority of employees or a trade union as defined by the General Trade Union Act. The decision to go on strike within a branch and business activity must be made by a competent authority within the trade union. The decision to go on general strike (generalni štrajk) must be made by the highest authority in the trade union.

    Traditionally, strikes often include street protests ( ulični protesti) as a way of seeking solidarity from the wider public and exerting political pressure on employers (the practice goes back to the time of late socialism in the 1980s). Often the state is the ultimate target of street protests. Such protests are not regulated by the law on strikes.

    Industrial action developments 2013–2016

    Although there are no official data on strikes and industrial action, a recent CATUS study provides a useful qualitative assessment of recent industrial action. Analysing recent strikes and focusing on 2015, the study concludes that most people strike for economic and social reasons. Many of the 2015 strikes were organised against employers that do not make a profit, hence the possibility of putting economic pressure on such employers is minimal. Employers were not interested in retaining the employees on strike, so mass layoffs often occurred.

    Many of the 2015 strikes turned into protests, spilling outside of the place of work. A large number of strikes were organised in privatised companies due to poor privatisation, with some strikes resulting in the termination of the privatisation contract. Some public sector trade unions, which involved a large number of workers, also protested. The majority of strikers’ demands were aimed at achieving basic employee rights. Between 2013 and 2016, teachers, workers, farmers, police officers, miners, journalists, utility sector employees and Telekom Srbija employees were involved in protests. Employees of individual companies also conducted protests.

    Dispute resolution mechanisms

    Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

    The Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labour Disputes is a separate government institution in charge of collective industrial dispute resolution. Its remit includes:

    • concluding, amending and implementing collective agreements and general acts that regulate:
      • the rights, obligations and responsibilities of employees, employers and trade unions
      • the right to form and join a trade union
      • the right to strike
      • the right for employees to be informed and consulted and to participate in management
      • determining the representativeness of trade unions at their place of employment
      • establishing the minimum provision of services

    The settlement procedure is conducted in accordance with the main principle of voluntary participation. It is initiated by a ‘motion for the initiation of the procedure’, which contains information on the proposer, the other party in the procedure and the subject of dispute. If the other party accepts the proposal, the procedure is initiated. Parties to the dispute can select a conciliator and arbitrator from the directory of conciliators and arbitrators. If an agreement is reached, the conciliation panel (comprised of parties to the dispute and the conciliator) adopts the recommended dispute resolution. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, the conciliator may give their own recommendation, which is not binding upon the parties.

    Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

    Individual disputes are resolved before the court. The arbitrator closes the procedure by giving a decision that is final, valid and binding upon both parties. There is no possibility of appeal. When the procedure is closed by an arbitrator’s decision, the parties have no right to initiate court proceedings. Instead, the party that is not satisfied with the outcome has the right to extraordinary judicial remedy in accordance with the law.

    Use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

    The Agency for Peaceful Settlement of Labour Disputes is also in charge of individual dispute resolution. Here, its remit includes:

    • termination of employment contracts
    • working time
    • exercising the right to annual leave
    • salary payments
    • compensation and payment of minimum wages
    • workplace discrimination and harassment
    • severance payment on retirement
    • allowances for meals and transport
    • holiday cash grants and jubilee awards

    In 2017, the agency dealt with 26 collective disputes and 1,041 individual labour disputes, out of which 16 collective and 393 individual disputes were peacefully resolved.

    Individual employment relations

    Individual employment relations

    Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Serbia.

    Start and termination of the employment relationship

    Requirements regarding an employment contract

    The labour law stipulates that an employment relationship can be concluded with a person above the age of 15 who meets other requirements for completing certain tasks, stipulated under law or in the Organisational Structure and Human Resources (OS&HR) document. The OS&HR document establishes:

    • employer organisational structures
    • job titles and descriptions
    • the type and level of education or qualifications (and other special requirements).

    For certain posts, a maximum of two consecutive levels of education or qualification may be required in accordance with the law. The OS&HR document need not be enacted by an enterprise with 10 or fewer employees.

    Employment relationships with people below the age of 18 can be entered into upon written approval of the parents, under the condition that such work does not jeopardise their health, morals or education and is not prohibited under the law.

    Dismissal and termination procedures

    An employment relationship is terminated:

    • on the expiry of the term of the contract
    • when the employee turns 65 years old and has the minimum of 15 years of retirement insurance, unless otherwise agreed between employer and employee
    • by mutual agreement between employer and employee
    • by cancellation of the employment contract by employer or employee

    Employment relationships may be terminated on the basis of written agreement between an employer and employee. If an employee initiates termination, they must submit notice in writing of the termination of the employment contract at least 15 days before the date of dismissal (notice period) stated in the contract.

    An employer may terminate the employment contract:

    • for a just cause relating to the employee’s working ability and behaviour, for example in the case of underperformance or a criminal conviction
    • if an employee breaches work duties due to their own actions, for example through:
      • the negligent or reckless performance of work duties
      • abuse of their position or exceeding their powers
      • inappropriate and irresponsible use of the employer’s property, equipment or tools
      • if an employee violates work discipline (for a variety of specified reasons)
      • if, due to technological, economic or organisational changes, a particular job becomes redundant or the volume of work is reduced.

    Entitlements and obligations

    Parental, maternity and paternity leave

    The rules regarding maternity and parental leave are relatively generous, with compensation rates of 100% and the duration of one year for the first two children and two years for the third and every other child. The uptake of paternity leave, although legally possible, is not encouraged or promoted and thus it is all but non-existent.

    Statutory leave arrangements

    Statutory leave arrangements

    Maternity leave (rules as of 2018)

    Maximum duration

    Three months (at least four weeks before the birth and two months after the birth)


    100% of average salary for the past 18 months, with the limit of three times the national average salary

    Who pays?


    Legal basis

    Law on Financial Support to Families with Children

    Parental leave (rules as of 2018)

    Maximum duration

    For the first and second child, nine months following the maternity leave

    For the third child and any subsequent children, two years from the birth


    100% of average salary for the past 18 months

    Who pays?


    Legal basis

    Law on Financial Support to Families with Children

    Paternity leave

    Maximum duration

    No specific regulation – rules as for parental leave


    100% of average salary for the past 18 months

    Who pays?


    Legal basis

    Law on Financial Support to Families with Children

    Sick leave

    Sick leave is regulated by the labour law. The employer pays sickness benefit for the first 30 days. After that period, it is paid by the Health Insurance Fund. The amount paid is 65% of the calculation base (or 100% of the base in the case of a work injury, occupational disease or organ/tissue donation). The calculation base for an insured person is their average wage in the last three months, up to five times the national monthly average gross wage. If the benefit is paid for more than two months, the calculation base is adjusted each month, according to changes in the average wage in the insured person’s place of employment.

    Retirement age

    As of 2017, retirement age rules are as follows.

    Old-age pension: 65 years for men and 61.5 years for women (gradually rising to 63 by 2020 and 65 by 2032), with at least 15 years of insurance coverage. People with 45 years of coverage or more may claim their pension at any age.

    Early retirement: 56 years and 4 months for men (gradually rising to 60 by 2023) with at least 40 years of coverage. 55 and 8 months for women (gradually rising to 60 by 2023) with at least 37 years and 6 months of coverage (gradually rising to 40 years of coverage by 2023).



    Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Serbia and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

    The gross average wage in Serbia has stagnated at around €500 per month (based on the exchange rate as at 8 May 2019) between 2012 and 2017. Similarly, it has recorded only a minimal cumulative increase of 2–3% in terms of purchasing power parity. Following the spread of the global economic crisis to Serbia in late 2008, the country was exposed to macroeconomic problems and an increasing level of public debt. In 2014, a programme of fiscal consolidation was adopted in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which reduced all public sector wages above the minimum wage by 10%. On the other hand, amendments to the labour law have cut some monetary rights of all employees, which, according to some estimates, led to a reduction in labour costs of about 3% for employers. All these factors hampered the increase in real wages. As a result, wages in Serbia diverged from those in the EU, which probably contributed to the increased emigration from Serbia.

    Minimum wages

    A statutory minimum wage is set once a year (twice until 2015) by the Social and Economic Council, taking into account relevant economic and social factors, most notably developments in the cost of living. If the decision cannot be reached by consensus, the government (advised by the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Finance) can set the minimum wage level unilaterally. It was essentially frozen during the period of fiscal consolidation between 2014 and 2016, which contributed to the stagnation of the overall wage level during that period. More recently, the minimum wage was allowed to increase and reached slightly above 50% of the average wage.

    Hourly minimum wage rates, 2013–2017







    Adult rate

    RSD 115 (€1.02)

    RSD 115 (€0.98)

    RSD 121 (€1)

    RSD 121 (€0.98)

    RSD 130 (€1.07)

    Youth rate

    Same as adult

    Same as adult

    Same as adult

    Same as adult

    Same as adult

    Note: RSD = Serbian dinar

    Working time

    Working time

    Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Serbia.

    Working time regulation

    The labour law defines statutory working time as 40 hours per week. The working week lasts five days, and the employer is entitled to define the daily schedule within clearly defined limits. It is also possible to reschedule working time between working weeks, but within a six-month period (or nine-month period, if regulated by the collective agreement), it should not exceed 40 hours per week on average. There was a traditional regulation of reduced working time in industries with exceptionally high levels of effort or adverse working conditions, but changes in 2014 made these reductions less generous, allowing not less than 36 hours per week as the full-time equivalent in these industries. Annual holiday entitlements are a minimum of 20 working days (4 weeks), which can be increased depending on work experience, working conditions, education level and other criteria. However, employers outside the public sector rarely extend the holiday entitlement beyond the legal minimum.

    Overtime regulation

    Upon the request of an employer, an employee can work longer than their full-time hours in the case of a force majeure, an expected increase in the volume of work and in other instances when it is necessary to finish unplanned work by a set deadline. Overtime cannot last for more than eight hours per week. An employee may not work for more than 12 hours per day including overtime. Overtime is not allowed for jobs for which reduced hours apply, unless otherwise determined by law. Overtime and redistribution of working hours is not allowed for employees below the age of 18. The legally set minimum premium for overtime work is 26%.

    Part-time work

    The labour law stipulates that an employment relationship may be agreed for part-time work for indefinite and definite periods. An employee hired for part-time work is entitled to a salary and other forms of emolument, as well as working conditions and other rights resulting from the employment relationship, proportional to the time spent at work, except when the law, general document and labour contract cover some of the rights. The main exception relates to the requirement to pay the mandatory minimum social insurance of 35% of the average national salary. This requirement hampers low-hour and low-wage part-time work, reducing the share of part-time employment in total employment, which according to the LFS is around 12% of the adult population. However, the rates are significantly lower for formal working-age employees.

    The labour law stipulates that employers should notify employees about available part-time and full-time jobs in a timely manner, as determined in the general document. The employer is obliged to consider any request by a part-time employee to transfer to full-time hours, as well as a full-time employee’s request to transfer to part-time work. A collective agreement may regulate cooperation with and ways of informing trade unions about part-time jobs. An employee working part time for one employer may, for the remaining hours, enter into an employment relationship with another employer to reach the full-time quota.

    Part-time employment in Serbia, 2013–2017













    Full time






    Part time






    Share of all employees employed part time






    Note: Employees aged over 15 years

    Involuntary part-time employment

    There are no available data on involuntary part-time employment.

    Night work

    The labour law defines night work as work performed between 22:00 and 6:00 the following morning. If an employee works at night for three hours per day or more (or one-third of their full-time hours) during one week, the employer is obliged to provide conditions for them to work during the daytime, if a competent health authority advises that such night work could lead to a deterioration of the employee’s health. Before introducing night work, the employer must consult the trade unions about the necessary security measures and requirements to protect the life and health of the employees affected. Employees below the age of 18 are generally not allowed to work at night.

    Shift work

    The labour law defines shift work as work with a single employer when an employee’s hours in the same job are shifted according to a specified schedule, with continuous shift changes or interruptions during a specific period of days or weeks. An employee working in shifts is defined as an employee who works for a single employer performing organised shift work who does their monthly work in different shifts for at least one-third of their working hours. If work is organised in shifts that include night work, an employer must provide a change of shifts, so that no employee works the night shift continuously for more than one working week. An employee may work the night shift for longer than a single week, but only upon their written agreement to do so.

    Weekend work

    Apart from the general guidance that weekly rest should be taken on Sundays, the labour law does not recognise weekend work as any different from weekday work.

    Rest and breaks

    The labour law stipulates that an employee is entitled to a weekly rest of no less than 24 consecutive hours, plus the rest period time of 12 hours, unless the law stipulates otherwise. Generally, the weekly rest takes place on Sundays.

    Any employee working full time for not less than six hours per day is entitled to a daily break of no less than 30 minutes, while those working more than four and less than six hours a day are entitled to a daily break of no less than 15 minutes. Employees working more than 10 hours a day are entitled to a daily break of not less than 45 minutes. The daily break cannot be used at the beginning or the end of a workday. The break time is treated as regular working time.

    Working time flexibility

    The labour law stipulates that, if the nature of the work and the organisation permits it, the beginning and end of working time may be determined or contracted for a definite time period (flexible working hours). The employer is allowed to schedule the working hours within the working week. A working week, as a rule, consists of five workdays, while a workday should as a rule last for eight hours. An employer with whom the work is performed differently – in shifts, during the night or when the nature of work or organisation of work require it to be completed – may organise the working week and distribution of working hours in a different manner.

    Health and well-being

    Health and well-being

    Skills, learning and employability

    Skills, learning and employability

    Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Serbian system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

    National system for ensuring skills and employability

    Serbia’s National Employment Service plays the leading role in anticipating and matching the skills needed by employers by means of its annual Employer Survey and the annual programme of training and requalification.

    The Law on Dual Education was adopted in 2017. Dual education is defined as a model of teaching within the vocational school system in which students build their competencies through a combination of learning theory in school and ‘learning by doing’ at an employer’s premises. The employers involved are expected to fulfil formal preconditions verifiable by the Chamber of Commerce. The content of the contracts between the school and the employer and between the employer and the student (or their parents) is also stipulated by this law. Students are entitled to net remuneration of at least 70% of the minimum wage and have access to a set of other rights, but not to full social security insurance coverage.

    In 2018, the Law on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) was adopted. Apart from the standardised NQF Levels 1–8, the law introduces an institutional framework for its implementation, consisting of an NQF council, an agency for qualifications and sectoral councils. The law establishes a new classification system compatible with the International Standard Classification of Education: Fields of Education and Training 2013 (ISCED-F 2013). However, the work of the inter-ministerial working group for the establishment and implementation of the long-overdue NQF does not appear to be completed yet. Serbia remains perhaps the only European country without its own NQF.


    The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is in charge of regulating and developing training in Serbia. The Law on Adult Education distinguishes between formal and informal adult education. Activities classified as informal education include:

    • acquiring competencies and qualifications for performing, improving or changing one’s occupation, work, work function or work operation
    • activities that enhance:
      • knowledge
      • skills
      • personal and professional development and socially responsible behaviour
      • quality of life
      • general education and culture
    • the recognition of previous learning achieved through assessment of knowledge, skills and abilities acquired through education, life or work experience and which enable further learning and increased competitiveness in the labour market
    • career guidance and counselling for personal and professional development and employment

    According to the labour law, employers are obliged to provide conditions for education, vocational training and advanced training for their employees when the job requires it or when new work or organisation methods are to be introduced. Employees are expected to develop the necessary skills and competences for the job. The cost of such training should be covered by the funds of the employer and other sources. If an employee drops out of training, they must compensate the employer for the cost of such training, except where there are justifiable reasons.

    Training: Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?

    In the figure, we see a comparison between Serbia and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Have you had on-the-job training in the last 12 months?'. For the 'No' answer, Serbia's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Serbia's score is lower than the European Union score.

    Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015. More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s European Working conditions survey.

    Work organisation

    Work organisation

    Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

    More information on:

    Work organisation: Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?

    In the figure, we see a comparison between Serbia and European Union for the workers with 'Age : All' when asked 'Are you able to choose or change your methods of work?'. For the 'No' answer, Serbia's score is higher than the European Union score. For the 'Yes' answer, Serbia's score is lower than the European Union score.

    Source: Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey 2015. More detailed figures are available from Eurofound’s  European Working conditions survey.

    Equality and non-discrimination at work

    Equality and non-discrimination at work

    The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, disability, nationality, race and religion.

    The Constitution of Serbia (enacted in 2006) endorses equality for women and men and the policy of equal opportunities (Article 15). The Law on Gender Equality and the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination were subsequently adopted in 2009. They are currently operationalised alongside the National Strategy for Gender Equality for the period 2016–2020, which has its own action plan. A new Law on Gender Equality has also been drafted, and these three documents will make up the basic framework for gender equality policies until 2020.

    Equal pay and gender pay gap

    Both the labour law and the Law on Gender Equality are explicit in requiring employers to abide by anti-discrimination practices, including their obligation to ensure equal pay for equal work for women and men.

    There are no comparable data on the unadjusted gender pay gap. The estimates for the adjusted and unadjusted pay gaps vary significantly across the years. The unadjusted gender pay gap during the 2000s has been estimated to be between 5% and 12%. However, when the better labour market characteristics of employed women are taken into account, the adjusted pay gap becomes higher than the unadjusted one. Avlijaš et al (2013) use hourly wages from the 2011 LFS and estimate the unadjusted and adjusted wage gap in Serbia to be 4.0% and 8.5%, respectively. Similarly, Žarković-Rakić and Vladisavljević (2015) use hourly wages from the 2013 EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) and estimate the unadjusted wage gap at 4.5% and the adjusted wage gap at 13.8%. On the other hand, statistics based on administrative data sources suggest that inequality in earnings has increased in recent years, from 3.7% in 2007 to 11.5% in 2014.

    Quota regulations

    There is a legal requirement that the share of women in the national parliament should be at least one-third of all MPs. The law is respected and the share of women in parliament hovers around the legal minimum.



    Aleksić, D., Arandarenko, M., Bajec, J. and Lađevac, B. (2017), Analiza kapaciteta i organizacione strukture učesnika socijalnog dijaloga u okviru projekta ‘Analitička podrška pregovorima sa EU’ , Foundation for the Advancement of Economics, Belgrade.

    Avlijaš, S., Ivanović, N., Vladisavljević, M. and Vujić, S. (2013), Gender pay gap in the Western Balkan countries: Evidence from Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia , Foundation for the Advancement of Economics, Belgrade.

    Arandarenko, M. (2011), Trziste rada u Srbiji: T rendovi, institucije, politike, University of Belgrade, Belgrade.

    Žarković-Rakić, J. and Vladisavljević, M. (2015), Women’s access to economic opportunities in Serbia , World Bank, Washington, D. C.

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