Low employment opportunities, discrimination related to employment, poor quality of employment and unsustainable and vulnerable employment emerged as the main problems related to this priority during the consultations. Recognizing the need to increase employment as a top-ranked priority clearly means that the people of Serbia need a framework that will enable them to actively participate in the economic sphere, to create economic gains and to provide decent lives for themselves and their families. Solutions for change proposed by the people include: job creation, promotion of social rights of employees, elimination of discrimination, and support services for the labor force.
Low living standards of the majority of the population, increasing economic inequalities, poverty and multidimensional social exclusion were all problems people perceived as extremely relevant in Serbia. Considering this in light of official data which suggests that people living in risk of poverty and social inclusion is very high, this data is not surprising. In 2010, 18% of the Serbian population was at risk of poverty according to the EU indicator of relative poverty, while 7.1% in urban and 14.9% in rural areas were under the absolute poverty rate according to WB indicators in 2012. Solutions for change proposed by people during the consultations include: increase in living standard, better support to the poor, and better access to and quality of services.
This priority stems from problems listed by the citizens of Serbia which included: corruption at all levels, incompetent and dishonest political elite, ineffective government, weak state institutions, weak law enforcement, ineffective combating of crime and violence, and ineffective policies. According to citizens and stakeholder, change can only be achieved by fighting corruption, reinforcement of good governance and reliable institutions, and implementation of effective law enforcement.
Having in mind that Serbia has been exposed to problems related to conflict and problematic transition for two decades, it is not surprising that the value system has evolved toward various anomic values. This is also something that was recognized during the Consultations. Irresponsibility, intolerance, lack of trust in others and lack of solidarity were all issues highlighted as problems. Ideas proposed as solutions to these problems were both aiming at individuals as well as wider social change. These included: promotion and fostering of responsibility of individuals at all levels, promotion of tolerance between individuals and groups, and promotion of solidarity.
The main problems related to education were identified as: low accessibility of schools and quality education in rural areas, low quality of education at the level of primary and secondary school, gaps between education programs and labor market needs, high costs of university education, lack of quality long life learning programs, and insufficiently successful implementation of inclusive education. People of Serbia want accessible and good quality education, but they also want to see the results – more educated people. Although access to education has improved significantly during the last decade, gaps between the majority of the population and certain vulnerable groups still exist and are more prominent at the higher levels of education.
Despite certain improvements, people are still very unsatisfied with health care in Serbia. Among the main problems people listed inaccessibility of diagnostic and hospital treatment, widespread corruption, low accessibility to quality services in remote areas, discrimination against vulnerable groups, and inefficiency of prevention programs. The fact that health care was not among the top five priorities can be attributed to the fact that the consultation engaged many groups of young people. Still, people stated that the shortcomings of the health care system could be minimized through improved coverage of health insurance for all, faster diagnostics and better quality treatment, improved reproductive health of mothers and health protection of women, more supportive programs for family planning, prevention programs for young people, and lastly, reform of services with respect to ageing population trends.
The state of the environment in Serbia is unsatisfactory, which applies equally to the state of water and water resources, air, biodiversity, forests and soil. The general finding from the consultation indicates that environmental issues are mostly in the focus of younger people, people from rural areas, experts and certain CSOs. Among the main problems identified by these groups are energy poverty, negligence for development of alternative and affordable energies, storage of industrial waste, waste disposal sites and solid waste removal, air, water and land pollution, and low awareness on environmental issues.
Gender inequalities are prominent in Serbia. They are present in all spheres of social participation, access to important resources and interpersonal relationships. As in the case of environmental protection, gender equality is not broadly perceived as a priority theme. This theme is mostly recognized by women, feminists, some experts and some CSOs. Key problems related to the gender inequalities that were mentioned during the consultation were: low participation of women in defining policies, vast inequalities in various spheres of social participation, large inequalities in the sphere of private life and reproductive role, and discrimination and stereotypes on the role of women.
Migrations were mentioned during the consultation as a cross-cutting issue, in the context of labor mobility, and also in the context of the loss of significant human resources, exit strategies of vulnerable groups and inclinations of young people who are missing the solid framework for the future. They were also mentioned in the context of the vulnerable position of certain groups of migrants. Key problems emphasized were: inadequate status and treatment of forced migrants, strong depopulation of rural areas due to the migration towards cities, brain drain and loss of highly educated people, lack of data on costs and gains from migration, and poor management of migration trends, particularly in the case of irregular migration.