The Minimum Wage Debate In Serbia

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Serbians have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of cabinet positions in the country in order for them to push the wage debate. This was due to the slash in salaries and wages in 2014, a move that was dictated by destabilising public finances that were being channelled towards recurrent expenditure rather than infrastructure.

The need for a rise in salaries and wages has been on the public sphere ever since the completion of the 2017 elections. Labour Unions believe that given the impressing fiscal results in the first half of 2017, it is important that the government reciprocate the same by raising the minimum wage.

War Between The Government, Employers And Workers

Workers in Serbia protests
Workers in Serbia have taken to the streets to defend their rights

According to labour unions, the current minimum wage is not enough to cover the cost of a basic consumer basket. They have therefore asked the government to raise it from the current 130 dinars to 154 dinars which translates to an 18% increase. However, the Association of Employers are instead thinking of raising the minimum wage by 8% which will translate to 140 dinars, a move that has been supported by the government as well.

Employers have argued that if they were to increase the minimum wage as per the Union’s demands then they would also demand the government to reduce the levies imposed on their businesses. However, the government of Serbia is not in a position to cut down on one of its main source of income given that they need to maintain a similar performance in the economy and initiate other public infrastructure projects come 2018.

Wage Agreement

Observers who have been following the wage debate are positive that talks between all three stakeholders are heading in the right direction. This is because of the fact that all three stakeholders were willing to raise the minimum wage. The only problem that was being faced was the amount by which the minimum wage would be increased by.

EU Candidate Country

As a country that wants to join the EU, Serbia has also been streamlining its labour sector in order to conform to the requirements put in place by the EU. While minimum wage is not a necessary condition, it does help in improving the livelihood of Serbians in general. Currently the minimum monthly wage of over 350,000 Serbians is less than €200. This means that a large majority of the working class can’t afford the basic bundle of commodities on a monthly basis.

Public Service Raise

Serbia has also outlined an increase in the wages of public service personnel. As from 2018, employees in the public sector are to expect wage increases ranging from 5% – 10%. Pensions would also be increased by 5% and before the end of December the government assured pensioners that they would receive a one off bundle of 5,000 dinars.

The wage debate is a hot topic in Serbia with the opposition and non-governmental organisations pushing for the labour bill to be streamlined. The recent wage increments are seen as a small win in the long run pursuit for proper wage remuneration by the Labour Unions.

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