A pensioner’s union estimates more than 250,000 Serbian seniors work low-paid seasonal jobs like street vending to make a living, while young people would rather quit the country than endure dismal conditions.
TV adverts for ice cream feature pop divas, happy families and youthful-looking models, but on the streets of Belgrade, this frozen delight is almost without exception sold by older, often retired people.
And it is no wonder that pensioners in Serbia work part-time jobs, as more than one million of them receive less than 200 Euros (25,000 dinars) per month, not even enough to scrape by.
Selling ice cream on the street is considered a suitable job for teenagers and students, but they are nowhere to be seen next to the fridges. One reason for this could be the low wages, experts say.
“In developed economies, where labour costs are high, it is very rare to see a person working behind popcorn machines or selling ice cream, as human work is too expensive there and this would not be profitable,” says economist Miroslav Prokopijević, principal fellow at the Institute for European Studies.
The fact that older and retired people sell ice cream mostly reflects thelow labour costs in Serbia, he believes.
Prokopijević says companies want to reduce their expenses and therefore hire pensioners, for whom they do not have to pay health insurance as it is covered by the state pension fund. Since most retired people are in need ofadditional income,they also agree to work for lower wages.