Migration, Skills and The Labour Market

Mihail Arandarenko

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. Migration is crucially influenced by the characteristics of the Serbian labour market, which is dual, with a considerable part of the labour force stuck in precarious, relatively low-paid jobs. While the rise in employment is significant, the quality of newly created jobs is low. Finally, the pay gap between Serbia and EU countries is large, especially for low- and medium-skilled workers in the private sector, which is an incentive for migration. Therefore, various interventions in the labour market and in education and migration will be a condition for balanced demographic development. Despite the catastrophic discourse about the departure of the “best and youngest”, there is still hope. With economic growth, job creation and by closing the wage gap with the EU, emigration will not accelerate and become a major bottleneck for future economic growth and demographic stabilisation.