Youth emigration could cost Serbia up to €1.2 billion per year and 4 out of 5 young Serbs think about emigrating. That’s according to new research which WFD and think tank the Institute for Development and Innovation have published.

Serbia has one of the highest youth emigration levels in the Balkan region. While the main reasons for leaving are economic, there is a definite correlation with political engagement as the same number which want to leave also expressed no interest in politics. Young people’s concerns are not being heard or addressed by those in power. That’s why we are encouraging politicians and the institutions they are part of to act in line with young people’s interests and address their concerns.

The cost of youth emigration

If levels of youth emigration are not addressed urgently then the economic impact will be felt across Serbia. Every citizen who is fit to work generates at least €19,500 each year in GDP which Serbia is missing out on – leading to a 2.1% reduction in GDP.

The economic impact is worsened by Serbia’s investment in education as the Serbian state provides up to 20 years of free education in some cases. This level of “brain drain” – when educated people leave a country for opportunities elsewhere – means destination countries gain an increasingly educated workforce at Serbia’s expense.

The cost to Serbia is estimated to between€1 billion and €1.2 billion. To put this in perspective, profits from exporting information communication services in 2018 were around €1.1 billion.

Making Serbian democracy work for young people

Young people do not see the situation improving any time soon and most revealing is the lack of hope in politics to change things. Among the 18-29-year olds surveyed with plans to leave Serbia, nearly three quarters do not trust politicians in the country.

Optimism is low when it comes to quality of life, economic security and political participation improving among young people. So, what can be done?

By including young people in the decisions that impact on their future, we hope to improve the economic opportunities available to them. Encouraging government, parliament and businesses to think about ways to actively include young people is a starting point.

The close link between the economic situation, levels of youth emigration and democratic participation shows that you can’t fix one without addressing the other. Having seen the impact of youth emigration on Serbia, at WFD we are committed to sharing this insight with decision-makers to motivate them to act.

WFD in Serbia is rallying government representatives, businesses, education and civil society actors to create alliances for change that will enable policies that provide a better life for young people. We believe that by doing this, we can raise the quality of life for young people – and that they might get more interested in politics too.

FULL REPORT: COST OF YOUTH EMIGRATION