Children are the most important resource for future economic growth

Kopaonik, Serbia, 7 March 2018 – The number of children in Serbia has already decreased by almost 40,000 between 2011 and 2016, while it is estimated that the population in Serbia will drop to 5,5 million by 2041. This will be 23% less than it was observed after the 2011 census. Estimates further show that the labour force will decrease by 21% by 2041.

These are just some of the worrying data presented by Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, at the closing of the Kopaonik Business Forum.

“Serbia has for some time now been facing negative demographic trends. The workforce, which is a scarce resource, has been rapidly shrinking. No country will be able to compete in the global economy unless it invests much more and more effectively in its people, and most importantly in its children. The stock of human capital of the next generation is built through strategic investments in health, education, and protection,” stated Michel Saint-Lot at the plenary session: People in focus – healthy economy, in which he participated together with Vanja Udovicic, Minister of Youth and Sports.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in its 2017 analysis of Serbia, recognised youth employment and investments in youth education as one of 5 key drivers to increase private sector productivity, it was emphasized during the plenary session discussion.

“Although Serbia invests significant resources into education, 30% of pupils aged 15 are still functionally illiterate. Every child who drops-out of education without attaining a secondary school diploma costs Serbia between 40,000 and 70,000 euros through lower contributions through taxes and higher expenditures for social benefits. The cumulative annual GDP loss, resulting from the fact that 1,8 million people in Serbia have not completed secondary school education, amounts to 4.5-7.5% of GDP,” Michel Saint-Lot emphasised.

Per the Global Human Capital Report 2017, Serbia is ranked 60th out of 130 countries in terms of quality and efficiency in developing its human capital.

Investing in children can help promote equitable, inclusive societies, allowing more people to effectively participate in their economic development. Access to essential health, educational and nutritional requirements for every child, enables more equal access to better paying jobs later in life, as well as improved productivity, and can ultimately bolster a country’s economic prospects.

UNICEF calls on all actors to work together to create conditions that will enable children and young people to contribute to long-term sustainable development. The business sector has recognised the importance of strategic investment in children from the earliest age, and the Digital Serbia initiative is a good example of creating new opportunities.

“Through partnerships with Telenor, Nordeus, GSK, Vojvodjanska Bank, VodaVoda, Telekom, and the Electricity of Serbia, as well as with the support of more than 22,000 individual donors, UNICEF helps every child and his or her family have access to quality services. We are working together to ensure that every child can survive and thrive, is protected from violence and exploitation, goes to school, lives in a safe and clean environment, and has an equitable chance in life,” said Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.