Many couples in Serbia are postponing parenthood, citing unemployment or fear about an uncertain future as the major reasons.
It was October 2016 when Sanja Gogic, then 23, got engaged to her boyfriend Dimitrije, advertising designer. It was a proposal to remember. Dimitrije rode up to Gogic on a horse through the pedestrian area of their town, Smedervo, got down on his knees and asked her to marry him.
The wedding is set for next year, but the couple has no thoughts about planning for a family.
“One of the main reasons for that is the fact I don’t have a job,” explained Gogic, a physical therapist. “I keep thinking that these are the years when I’m supposed to build a career and to become independent. But for two years now, I haven’t moved on from where I am.”
Ever since she graduated from university in 2016, Gogic has been struggling to find a job. All she has found are unpaid internships.
“Honestly speaking, I don’t want to depend financially on my husband,” she said. “I would like to contribute to our family.”
Her case is not unique.
According to Serbia’s Statistical Office (RZS), 20.5 per cent of young people between the ages of 15 and 34 do not have a job. They account for almost half of the 428,200 Serbs unemployed. Overall unemployment stands at 12.9 per cent.
On average, these individuals must wait around two years for a job.
That makes finding a job the priority for young couples.
Twenty-seven-year-old Irena from Belgrade and her boyfriend have been together for seven years, but Irena says that financial instability makes them hesitate to start a family. Both of the couple’s jobs are unstable, she claimed, without elaborating.
The average monthly salary in Serbia is 47,247 dinars (€400.49), but that falls far short of the 69,897 dinars (€593) the government estimates are needed for basic consumer goods.
Before having children, “basic existential needs have to be fulfilled first,” stressed Irena, who asked to be identified only by her first name.
“Unfortunately, [being able to meet those needs] is not the case with a lot of people in Serbia, which is why many decide to leave the country for a country that provides them with the financial stability required to start a family,” said Irena, who studied abroad for a master’s degree in psychology.