By Olivera Popović
While the global economic crisis in 2008 affected many countries worldwide, the shock to Serbia’s society and economy was magnified due to the ongoing transition processes there. For the past fifty years, women in Serbia were most often employed in the public sector as part of Yugoslavia’s socialist planned economy. In the past two decades, the transition from socialism to liberal capitalism and an open market economy has initiated changes in approaches to work and ultimately led to a greater presence of women in business.
In making this transition, women face an uphill battle – in gaining greater access to capital, technology, networks, and acquiring the knowledge to start and grow their businesses. On top of those challenges, the social and economic landscape is characterized by poor labor market outcomes, a high youth unemployment rate, and large long-term unemployment. According to the Regional Cooperation Council (2013), the country’s per capita GDP is currently only 38 percent of the EU average.
Data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that the overall unemployment rate in Serbia is 23.9 percent, with almost 25 of women unemployed. Youth unemployment is remarkably high (51 percent) and even more astonishing, 57 percent of young women are out of work. Equally important, universities in Serbia do not foster enough entrepreneurial spirit among students. Consequentially, students fail to fully consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
Recognizing this need for support to aspiring and established women entrepreneurs in a complex economic situation, the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) created “Inspiring Women Entrepreneurship,” a project to strengthen the leadership and entrepreneurial capacity of young women in Serbia.