Sunday, 26 June 2011

POVERTY: 700,000 Serbs Below Poverty Line

 21 June 2011
About 700,000 people in Serbia are living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of less than 80 euros, according to a new database on the socially vulnerable. Results of the project were released in April.
Ljubomir Pejakovic, the assistant minister for Labour and Social Policy, says the findings "are cause for great concern".
"We will organise special programmes to aid rural households," he told SETimes.
About 730,000 Serbs are unemployed and around 50,000 frequent soup kitchens, courtesy of the Red Cross, the database showed. With some of the highest levels of poverty found in rural areas, migration to towns has become increasingly heavy, resulting in 42,000 single-member village households.
Many of Serbia's elderly are struggling to make ends meet, even as age and declining strength make them less able to cope. More than 300,000 pensioners live off of about 110 euros per month.
"My pension is [around] 120 euros, just enough to cover my bills. I would starve if it were not for my daughter," Biljana Stosic, 63, a pensioner from Belgrade, told SETimes.
Even for younger people, finding or keeping a job in Serbia is a challenge. For those over 55, it can become nearly impossible. As many as 95% of the unemployed in that age bracket have been unable to locate work after their former employers shut down or cut back on personnel.
"The most vulnerable are those left jobless after the privatisation of companies, the ones laid off, and those that have not met the retirement requirement. That is the group that needs help," Pejakovic says.
Out of all population segments, the Roma are the most endangered. According to ministry officials, many have no ID and therefore cannot obtain services.
"The state is trying to facilitate and simplify the document-issuing procedure for them, but many are still unregistered, which is why they cannot exercise the right to health care or other aid," Pejakovic said.
Even if they did have the documents, scarce funding poses an obstacle. The cash-strapped Serbian state is already having trouble drumming up enough revenue to help the approximately 180,000 who are currently entitled to aid.
Despite the tight budget, a new welfare law came into effect in April, easing the criteria and providing for a 50% to 60% increase in the number of state welfare recipients.
Officials say the database of the socially vulnerable will be updated monthly, and monitored to provide assistance to the most needy.
"We'll always have people on welfare. Our goal is not to keep people on welfare or increase the number of those who currently use state welfare, but provide jobs for those capable of work and those qualified for certain jobs," Pejakovic said.

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