47% of seasonal agricultural workers were introduced into legal channels

The simplified registration procedure through the website and application has introduced 47% of seasonal agricultural workers into legal channels. Within a year and a half of implementing the new system, employers have hired a total of 37,597 seasonal workers and thus contributed to realizing the right to retirement and healthcare in case of an injury at work. The result of the new procedure is even more important since until two years ago, only 5% of the estimated 80,000 seasonal workers in agriculture in Serbia had a contract.

An analysis of the application effects of the Law on Simplified Employment in Seasonal Jobs, which was jointly conducted by NALED and GIZ for the needs of the Ministry of Labor, showed that employers have accepted the new system. This can be seen especially in the number of electronic applications in relation to the number of concluded contracts on temporary and occasional jobs, which remained at an average of about 3,000 per year, primarily for workers hired for a longer period (from 90 to 95 days). The registration speed and the fixed amount of tax, which is paid through online registration, were pointed out in the analysis as a key advantage in relation to the more expensive and complicated procedure of signing a contract on paper.

- The website and the application were used by 413 employers, of which 127 were natural persons, i.e. farm owners, and so far they have replenished the national budget by 400 million dinars in the name of taxes and contributions. A new, simpler way of registering and deregistering in just a few minutes, which means paying taxes and contributions only for those days when the seasonal worker was actually working, has motivated employers to register them. Our desire is for the new system to become a successful regional story. That is why GIZ and NALED support the regional countries’ governments in introducing such a good practice example to Montenegro, Albania and Northern Macedonia - says Amira Omanović, Deputy Manager at GIZ Open Regional Fund for Modernization of Municipal Services in Southeast Europe.

Statistics show that agricultural farms hired seasonal workers for 15 days on average, and companies for 21. The average number of seasonal workers employed at farms was 46, while companies needed up to 3.5 times more workers on average (167). Most of the registered seasonal workers were between the ages of 46 and 60, as well as between 18 and 30.

For further introduction of seasonal workers into legal channels, it will be necessary for the competent authorities to additionally inform both employers and workers about the new procedure and its advantages. The analysis showed that lack of information about the benefits that are obtained, if they were reported, is the key reason why some seasonal workers still agree to work unreported. Half pointed out that they would like to be registered, and they see the realization of the right to a pension (37.5%), greater security (29%) and health care in case of an injury at work (20%) as the biggest benefits of the application.

Since the beginning of the "Increasing Employment Opportunities for Seasonal Workers" project, NALED and GIZ have been advocating for the expansion of the system to other activities with a large share of informal employment, such as domestic work, tourism and catering and construction. Extension of the existing law would help citizens, who are losing their jobs due to the effects of the COVID-19 epidemic, to find a new job more easily.

In early August, the Serbian Government responded positively to the proposal and a working group was formed that will work on expanding the scope. NALED's analysis shows that in construction, one third of hired workers work without a contract, in tourism and catering about 20%, and the biggest unknown is household chores. It is estimated that about 55,000 families in Serbia hire a person for some kind of help at home (babysitting, cleaning, geriatric nurses, etc.).

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