· Features

A postcard from... Serbia

Our 'postcard from' series keeps you updated on key HR areas in different countries

Economic briefing

The largest sector of Serbian industry is the tertiary (service) sector, comprising 63.8% of GDP. After the democratic reforms in 2000 industry has been liberalised and experienced growth. Historic mismanagement of the economy, an extended period of international economic sanctions, civil war, and NATO airstrikes in 1999 are still felt, however.

Major economic problems are high unemployment and a high foreign trade deficit. However, this deficit has decreased drastically since 2008 and the coverage of imports by exports has increased significantly since 2004. Serbia offers favourable tax rates; including incentives for new investors. More than half of the total export-import exchange is conducted with the EU. Corn, sugar and raspberries are Serbia’s most exported items.


The main ethnic groups in Serbia are Serb (83.3%), Hungarian (3.5%), Romani (2.1%), Bosniak (2%), other (5.7%), and undeclared or unknown (3.4%). The Roma population is probably around 11% but births are often not reported. Serbian is the only European standard language with complete synchronic dysgraphia; it uses both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets and speakers read the two scripts equally well.

Legal lowdown

Serbia is in the process of joining the EU, therefore most laws are being adjusted. Employment law was reformed in 2015 but still has a lot of catching up to do with EU or US regulations.

“Serbia has seen a significant development in labour relations in the past 20 years,” says Ana Mari, a partner with MMD Associates in Serbia. “Like other countries of the SEE region, the Serbian labour market underwent a transition – from being one of the pillars of planned economy and protectionism of the so-called ‘working class,’ to being a flexible tool of development of a modernised Western society.”

All visitors to Serbia must register with the police within 48 hours of arriving in the country. If you don’t register you could be fined and/or detained.

From the HR frontline

“Serbia has become a hot market for the IT industry where companies compete for the best talent,” reports Ana Nikolic, people office manager of financial technology and services firm FIS. “The key drivers for the development of the IT industry are highly-skilled labour, schools with excellent primary and secondary education in maths and computer science, and public universities that produce professionals ready to jump into the IT industry right after graduating. In addition, English language proficiency is supported by English classes starting from the first grade in primary schools.”