At the round table discussion “Young people in Serbia: how do they live, what do they believe in and what do they hope for?”, organized by SeConS development initiative group and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, results of the survey “Young People in Serbia 2015” were presented, with the intention of prompting their use in formulating public policies in Serbia.

Professor Smiljka Tomanović, PhD, coauthor of the survey and study “Young People in Serbia 2015 – situation, perceptions, beliefs and aspirations” said that educational inequality among young people in Serbia is evident, and that it is inherited from generation to generation. “A young person whose parents completed primary school education are 4.2 times less likely to graduate from secondary school, and 79 times less likely to complete college or university” Tomanovic explained.

The survey shows that every other young person in Serbia is jobless, and that young people who are employed experience various types of exploitation. According to Docent Dragana Stanojević, PhD, coauthor of the survey and study, a quarter of permanently employed young people, and a fifth of those who work and study at the same time work more than fifty hours a week, often without any compensation for overtime. Only 7.4% of young people in Serbia combine work and study, and the inflexibility of the education system makes two-thirds of young people largely financially dependent on their parents. “Young people who study believe in the significance education has on their employment, while those who have completed their studies and are coming out into the labor market consider personal and political connections to be the most important mobility channel”, says Stanojević.

The survey conducted by SeConS development initiative group in 2015 on a representative sample in Serbia indicates that the level of formal participation of youth in politics, primarily expressed through membership in political parties, is among the highest in Europe. It can, however, be assumed that membership is predominantly a means to an end – finding employment, as young people are mostly passive, and not active members of political parties.

Youth in Serbia is almost evenly positioned on the left-right wing scale. They trust military and religious organizations the most, but political institutions – the Parliament, the Government and political parties are less trusted.

Professor Slobodan Cvejić, PhD, Research Director at SeConS said that survey results show specific identity splits in young people, which should be resolved through education in schools. “Identity splits in young people are the result of three transitions which the youth go through. The first is the transition into adulthood, then the transition into capitalism, and the third is a transition to the global system.” Although, according to him, the young highly value tolerance, measuring the level of distance towards different groups shows that young people in Serbia express intolerance, most towards homosexuals and asylum seekers.

The survey discovered a high level of religious identification, but, as Tomanović said, religious practices do not correspond to belief in religious truths, which means that this is, in fact, an issue of ethnic identity, which indicates a high level of social exclusion. “On the one hand, you have personalized trust, as young people mostly trust members of their family. On the other hand, anyone who is different triggers a kind of mistrust. Young people find the local to be significant in terms of identity, and this has its dark side, pointing towards a trend of re-traditionalization of identity”, concluded Tomanović.

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