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dokumenti > a decade under sanctions [< nazad | napred >]

Predrag Jovanovic, Ph.D.
Danilo Sukovic, Ph.D.


On July 5th, 1991 European Community terminated a trade agreement with the Federal Republic Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montengero) and froze all EC financial aid to FRY. In addition, on November 8th, the EC imposed trade sanctions on ex Yugoslavia republics. On December 2nd, the EC lifted its trade sanctions and restored economic aid to all the republics, except Serbia and Montenegro.

After an uprising on October 5th, 2000 when the head of the state changed from Milosevic to Kostunica and the opposition won majority in the Federal Parliament, sanctions started to be withdrawn. Majority of them was eliminated by the January 19th, 2001.


Per capita income in Serbia started to decline from 1989 when it was 3,240 US$. In 1993, it reached the bottom with 1,390 US$ recovering slightly after that to 1,450 in 1999. Experts estimated that 10 years of war and sanctions accounted for loss in Serbia's GDP of 165 billion US$.

Until the 1990s, income distribution in Serbia was highly equitable. The income of the top 20% of earners was 4-5 times that of the 20% of lowest earners and income of the top 10% was only 7 times greater than that of the bottom 10%. The gap between the highest and lowest income groups grew during 1990s, but left Serbia still with relatively small differences. More important than changing distribution of income was an overall downtrend shift in income, denoting declining incomes among most groups.

The portion of total household revenue from salaries dropped from 55% in 1990 to 42% in 1999. Pensions provided 12% of income, remittances from abroad 2%, social welfare payments 1% and informal and subsistence activities remaining 43%.

The total labor force comprised about 3.2 million people during the most of the 1990s. Unemployment grew rapidly in the period 1991-93 from 14 to 39% of the labor force. In 2000, 27% of labor force was unemployed and additional 10% were "on leave". The unemployed predominantly came from industrial sector. Even employed persons received insufficient income - 60% of all employees in the state sector received their salaries 6 months late in 2000.

It was estimated that only about 10% of the total labor force were employed in substantive jobs in government or industry by the end of the 1990s. Loss of employment hit women especially hard, as they had fewer re-employment or gray economy options. Though women comprise around 30% of all workers, they were 56% of the unemployed in 1998.


The combined effect of low salaries among those employed, high unemployment and impediments to normal trade during the sanctions created both the need and opportunities for informal economic activity. Between 20 to 30% of the total population became involved in petty trades and services or small-scale agriculture. In 1997, about 1.2 million people were engaged in informal sector activity and 35% of them had formal jobs as well. It was projected that the informal sector provided around 50% supplement to the recorded GDP. However, the distribution of the supplement was highly unequal. While majority subsisted with small-scale earnings and food production, others made fortunes through smuggling. In both petty and grand ways, sanctions led virtually everyone to be involved in illegal activities through hiding income, misappropriating public resources, smuggling or accepting smuggled goods.

Due to high risks and insecurities, young and middle-aged men were more than twice as likely as women or older adults to be involved in the informal sector.


Poverty was highest in 1993 and after 1998. Those receiving less than 2 US$ per day are considered "poor" while those receiving under 1 US$ are considered "very poor". The proportion of citizens living with less than 2 US$ per day rose from 14% in 1990 to 39% in 1993. In 1999 the proportion was 33% or 2.2 million people. About a half of a million was living with less than 1 US$ per day, i.e. were considered "very poor". While in the 1980s, the poor were predominantly rural residents, in 1990s they were mainly urban, unemployed, pensioners and internally displaced persons from Kosovo.

The percent of income used to purchase food varied between 30 and 40% during 1980-91. In 1993, it rose to a 50%, signaling nutrition emergency. For low income people the rate was even higher - around 60%. In 1999, those with 1 child spent 40% of the income on the food, while those with 3 children spent 51% on food. It was estimated that 60% of children were poor.

In 1991, the average salary bought one food basket for a family of four. In 1993, it bought only 1/5 of the food basket. In 2000, with an average salary a man could buy 0.4 of the food basket.


The total population of Serbia (without Kosovo) was estimated to be 7.8 million in 1999. The population declined by 132,000 over a decade. The main reason was reduced and delayed marriage during the extended period of economic decline, resulting in a decrease in the already low fertility rate (fertility rate dropped from 1.74 in 1990 to 1.48 in 1999).

One of the characteristics of demographic structure of population in Serbia was high proportion of over 65-year-old (10%). The high rate of mortality among older adults and low fertility have resulted in a death rate exceeded the birth rate since 1992. In 1998, 95% of the municipalities had such negative growth.

Another reason for population's decline and low birth rate is emigration. It is estimated that somewhere between 300,000 and 600,000 people have emigrated in the period 1990-99. The emigrants were mainly young adults, especially mails. The major demographic trend during the last ten years was a rapid aging of the population.


The total population would have fallen even more if Serbia had not received large number of refugees from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia. There were 503,300 registered refugees in Serbia during 90-ies. Most of them integrated into society by the end of 90-ies, while 165,000 of them still received assistance in 1999.

However, there are 230,000 registered internally displaced persons that came in 1999 from Kosovo. In sum, approximately 395,000 IDPs and refugees were in need of assistance in 2000.


In 1998, 1.5 million pensioners were 19% of the total population of Serbia (increase of 30% from 1989). In 1990 average monthly pension was 100 US$, while in 1998 average pension dropped to 34 US$. Moreover, they were paid with significant delay of six months or they were paid "in kind" with, for example, electricity credits.

By the late 1990-ies only about 1 in 40 unemployed persons received unemployment benefits. There had been 130,000 beneficiary families in the early 1990s and the number declined in the late 1990s despite a rapid increase in need. Child allowance payments were up to 2 years late. By 2000 no "social cases" in Belgrade received government support in cash or in kind.


With the decline of GDP in the period 1990-99, its portion devoted to the health care was increasing from 6.5% to 9%, while the health budget per capita dropped from 200 US$ to 40 US$. In 2000, almost 50% of all health care expenses were born privately. Residents of Serbia reported that 6% of their cash was used for medical sector purchase.

In the 1980s, 57% of funds in the health services went to salaries, 15% for medicines, 10% for medical equipment and supplies and 18% for food and utilities. With the great shortfall in funds during the 1990s, the proportion of budget for salaries was reduced to 50%, medicines had risen to 30%, leaving almost nothing for food or fuel. Thus, hospitals had heating crisis and often served only potatoes or rice to patients. In 2000, the ability to pay for medicines further declined, leaving about 70% of the health budget for salaries.

Social security funds covered about a half of the expense of hospital services in Belgrade in 2000. The general shortfall in funds was particularly hard in the regions with high unemployment rates, more refugees and IDPs. Surveys in 2000, showed that around 2/3 of refugees and IDPs received medicines from private pharmacies, 6% got them from relatives and friends, 8% from international humanitarian organizations and 20% got them from the local Red Cross.

Public education system, with its 1.1 million students, 1500 primary schools and 600 secondary schools, functioned during the 1990s, but the quality and coverage of educational services deteriorated markedly. Schools with large influx of refugees and IDPs could not attract more teachers or build sufficient rooms. Therefore, in the most crowded areas there are three shifts of students per day, each lasting 3 hours and containing double the normal number of students per teacher. Under these conditions it was hard to enforce compulsory education rules. A rising number of children were misclassify as "mildly retarded" because they got little attention in schools.

The rate of illiteracy among women was about 4 times higher than among men during the 1990s.

Like in hospitals, a high proportion of budget went for salaries - about 95%. Less than 50% of all schools were considered in good physical condition. A 1/3 of all schools is not connected to public water systems, depending on local wells or left with no water. Those affected most were students in rural areas and those with low educated parents. However, more affluent families purchased the services of tutors, schoolbooks, etc, increasing the differences in educational opportunity.


Under deteriorated educational conditions and in a context of loosened social norms and the criminalisation of many aspects of daily life, delinquency rose among youth from 11/1000 in the mid-1980s to 15/1000 in the early 1990s.

In 1991, 26% of young people reported experiencing a psychological or emotionally traumatic experience while in 1999 that proportion increased to 51%. During the 1990s, Serbia became a "society of individual survivors". It is believed that the impact of these experiences will retard recovery and distort development for years to come.


  • Economic Sanctions, Health and Welfare in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1990-2000, UNICEF, 2001
  • Human Development Report, UNDP, 1997
  • Suspended Transition, "0" edition of the Early Warning System for FRY, UNDP, January 2001

dokumenti > a decade under sanctions [< nazad | napred >]

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