Unemployment and poor pay are cited as the main reasons for leaving the country.
Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 12/08/2011
Students at a gathering at Belgrade University. [Reuters]
Serbia ranks second in the world in "brain drain", according to US Agency for International Development (USAID). About 150,000 young, educated people have emigrated to Western countries since 1991.
Experts say the difficulty of finding a job is the main reason educated people decide to leave.
"Data about youth unemployment in Serbia is alarming. Every two out of five young people aged 18 to 25 are jobless," USAID Assistant Director in Belgrade Marilyn Schmidt told SETimes.
Nearly 40% of students consider connections rather than skills to be the main factor in obtaining employment, according to a recent study by Belgrade University, while only a fifth feel their diploma is the main asset in landing a job.
"I graduated in law four years ago with a grade point average of 8.9 [out of 10]. Since, I have had seven job interviews, but somebody else who had friends or family at those firms or institutions always got the job," 27-yer-old Belgrade resident Srdjan Glishic told SETimes.
Consequently, a whopping 63% of the students would like to leave, according to the Belgrade University study, albeit this is a slight decline of 3% from last year.
The alarming trend is even more troublesome knowing that it costs 210,000 euro on average in Serbia to educate a person to be a specialist in a given area.
"Particularly disappointing is the data which shows that over half of the young people do not trust any public institution," sociologist Jasmina Miletic told SETimes.
Miletic argues that if the government does not urgently improve its image, there will be no one to work in EU-type institutions when they are established.
Students are unable to find work even while enrolled in universities, and parents are forced to finance students' education in over two-thirds of the cases.
"The jobs that student services offers are poorly paid. The yearly tuition at the electro-technical faculty I attend is 1,800 euro and my parents take out credit every summer to cover it, paying very high interest rates," third year student Milosh Petranovic told SETimes.
"We prepared a new Strategy for Employment for the 2010-20 period. An economic environment should be created to open new jobs and that is the most important for the youth to remain here," Minister of Labour Assistant Radmila Bukumiric-Katic told SETimes.
Experts agree that 15 years ago Serbia had an advantage relative to other regional countries, but has since invested little in education and the economy is in constant decline.
At present IT specialists can most easily get a job, but even they do so in 20 months on average with salaries between 450 and 700 euro per month -- far lower than in developed countries.
According to the National Employment Service, 686 people are listed as unemployed IT specialists with a university diploma. Since January 2011, only 208 of them found jobs.
"Foreign corporations here have a list of schools whose students they employ and another one for students which they do not. That is because our educational system is not good and does not produce specialists that can work in contemporary companies," Centre for Free Market Director Miroslav Prokopijevic told SETimes.