The position of women in Serbia in 2014 – Facts that disconfirm the common picture

Gender equality in Serbia has not yet been reached and women continue to face a number of problems in attempting to exercise their guaranteed rights. To improve the process, a series of studies on women in Serbia has been conducted in 2014 by the Departments of Labor, Employment, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues of the Republic of Serbia within the framework of the Program for the implementation of the National Action Plan for improving the status of women and promoting gender equality for the period from 2010 to 2015.

The conference on “The situation of women in Serbia 2014” was held on 25.09.2014 in the great hall of the Media Center, Terazije 3, at 10:00 pm.  Speakers were Laslo Cikos, the State Secretary, of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Ex-Servicemen’s and Social Issues, Torgni Svenungson, adviser for policy development from the Embassy of Sweden in Serbia, Ana Delic and Predrag Kurcubic from IPSOS Strategic Marketing, and Marija Babovic from SeConS.

 The conference was opened by Mr. Laslo Cikos who emphasized the project that in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden conducted three separate investigations concerning the same area, the status of women: study on the situation of single parents, research on the position of women in business and research on the attitudes of citizens of Serbia on gender equality. He emphasized that it was the Ministry, which initiated this study because there are no statistics on these topics.

Studies have shown that 95% of women perform unpaid work 5 hours a day and 77% of men 3 hours per day, 85% of Serbia believes that domestic violence is present in a large (42%) and to a certain extent (43%). Furthermore studies reveal that (33%) of citizens know of at least one case of sexual harassment at work in their environment, and that the difference between the average earnings of men and women is 5.1% in favor of men.

As noted, though, technically speaking, men and women in Serbia enjoy equal rights, research shows that the overall socio-economic status of women is in a much worse position in relation to men, and that there is a deep gap between declared principles and specific practices in the implementation of policies.

Results of  the research on the attitudes of the citizens of Serbia on gender equality show that more than half of the citizens of Serbia shares the view that women and men are not equal in Serbia (55%), while women in greater numbers believe that there exists inequality (66% women, 44 % of men), 55% of men compared with 33% of women frequently stated that this is not the case.

A positive stance towards gender equality can be mainly found amongst women, which are middle-aged, highly educated, with higher incomes, who live in the urban areas of Belgrade or Vojvodna.

A large proportion of the population of Serbia states that on the basis of past experience they would say that women were more often rejected for vacant positions than men due to their sex (71%) or because of age (65%).  These numbers are significantly higher compared with the findings research in 2010.

Eight out of ten citizens in Serbia believe that the work of women is often compromised due to family commitments (2014: 81%, 2010: 78%), a quarter of the citizens agrees that female entrepreneurs are less successful than male entrepreneurs (2014 : 25%, 2010: 12.8%).

Men are consistently less believe in the vulnerability of women when it comes to the degree to which business is suffering due to family commitments (74%), as well as in the difficulties women face due to their gender or age (55%) when applying for a job.

Even 41% of Serbian residents state that they have heard of  “harassment” or “mobbing” at the workplace. Most people believe that the women are more often victims of such harassment (73%), while almost a fifth of them share the view that women and men are faced with harassment in the workplace to the same extent (18%). When it comes to discrimination against women in the case of maternity or parental leave, as much as 38% of the population stated that they were familiar with a case in which a woman was fired because she went on maternity or parental leave. Dismissal after maternity / parental leave are often reported by residents in central Serbia, and less by people living in Belgrade.

Given the huge difference in the distribution of liabilities in the private sphere, entering into marriage for most women is a turning point in which the traditional role dramatically reduces the space for professional recognition and career advancement. Moving the boundaries of entering into marriage, significantly increasing the number of highly educated women, which is one of the most important prerequisites for changing the status of women in the labor market. RIS (Republican Institute for Statistics) data show that education plays a crucial role in the progression of women´s access in the labor market, but does not constitute a guarantee for equal earnings. Specifically, for 100 male employees with higher education come 114 women; in the same category difference between the average earnings amounts to 5.1% in favor of men.

Research shows that gender inequality in the business sector is just a continuation or part of the overall gender inequality in Serbia. The data indicates a pronounced gender gap in the business sector. Women occupy only a quarter (25.8%) of the highest decision-making positions in companies (the position of General Manager and President of the Board), and account for less than a third of entrepreneurs (31.7). In addition, the findings indicate a tendency that it is harder for women to move to the highest leadership positions when they are not the sole owners of the company, or when there are multiple owners, or when there is increasing competition from colleagues for top management positions.

Most women present in entrepreneurship today are entrepreneurs out of necessity (66%), mostly without family tradition in this area and operate mainly in the local market within the service sector as Micro-entrepreneurs. On average they have more than 40 years, secondary education and are living in the household of medium size. More than half of the female entrepreneurs consider that they have successful or very successful companies, while 38% have business problems. Of those who did not succeed with their own business as much as 40% think about returning to entrepreneurship.

Regional differences are manifested in several aspects: Entrepreneurs outside Belgrade are less likely to realize their entrepreneurial ventures through the legal form of companies; women outside of Belgrade even harder due for leading positions in companies, and the sectorial structure of entrepreneurial ventures for woman significantly distinguishes between Belgrade and other regions, because the entrepreneurs outside of Belgrade are slightly more likely to do business in the industry, businesses are more concentrated in the areas of trade, while women from Belgrade inclined to do business in the field of information technology and quaternary services.

Results of research on single parents, alternative types of families, and informal employment, have shown that the formation of single-parent families in Serbia usually comes after a divorce. Single-parent families usually consist only of a parent and child / children. Only a third of single parents own real estate and those who do are mostly men.  The remainders live in rented apartments or in apartments of their parents. They live in 0.8 m2 space per member of the household and earn on average 48,000 Dinar per month, while the general population earns 53,000 Dinar (households in the general population count 2.9 members, and single-parent households 3.2 members).

A third of all Serbian single-parent families have a monthly income of below 10,000 Dinar per household- member. Among this low-income group significantly more young single parents (19-29 years old) can be found, parents of the lowest levels of education, those who are unemployed or inactive, those with more children and children born out of wedlock and those who live in rural areas and Vojvodina. Salary is the most important source of income in single-parent families and as other households in Serbia they spend most of the money – 44% – on food. In a somewhat better position are single fathers, highly educated parents, and people who live in Belgrade, because they obtain above-average income from their main job.

A single parent is actively involved in childcare 3.8 hours a day, while in traditional families the time is divided between the parents- the mother takes care of the child 2 hours during the day, and the father, for one hour.

What distinguishes single parents is their above average job involvement, but also unemployment, black work and poor working conditions, even at formal a formal job. Adverse conditions at work that particularly affect parents without partners and their family responsibilities are shift work, weekend work, unpaid overtime hours, and limited ability of taking time off and going on sick leave. All of these conditions are affecting a significant proportion of working single parents, and are particularly evident in the group of informally employed persons.

The causes of the overall difficult position of women in society lie in the institutional and structural discrimination of women, and furthermore the lack of recognition of the difficult position of women and the absence of adequate public policies and institutions responsible for their implementation. Future policies should be aimed at the redistribution of responsibility and power between men and women in the public and private spheres of society, rather than creating policies that help women hem to better realize “their” duties at home and in the labor market. Furthermore, the policies need to include men, either through incentives for going on parental leave, or by promoting equal responsibilities at home.


Report on the situation of women in Serbia in 2014 – Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs of the Republic of Serbia

Research on single parents, families and other types of informal employment

Gender equality in Serbia

The position of women in the business sector in Serbia

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