In the past, Serbia was a typical rural country, the population of which was mostly engaged in cattle breeding and farming. In the past decades, the population declined gradually, mostly to the detriment of villages. As many as 700 of the 4,512 villages in Serbia are vanishing gradually as there is no one left to live in them, it was said at gathering on the topic of village depopulation, held in Belgrade. More from Mirjana Nikolić.
Each year of the past decade in Serbia witnessed an average population reduction by 20,000. The latest population census has shown that far more people in Serbia live in town than in the country. At the conference in Belgrade, organized by the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, emphasis was laid on some major problems regarding life in the country: the young population outflow, the average age over 60, a considerable deficiency of good roads and communal infrastructure and a very low level of development. It is therefore necessary to define a rural development strategy in order that all the available resources be used and rural areas developed. Economic prosperity potentials may bring back young people to the country or at least stop them from leaving in mass numbers, the participants in the conference underlined.
The population outflow towards urban areas has reached a very high rate in some 60% of Serbian villages. 70% of village population have no profession, one fifth of village children do not go to primary school and the employment rate is very low, especially in villages in southern and eastern Serbia. These were the findings of students who, at the conference, presented their papers on the following topic: From Country to Town: Does Economic Development Inevitably Lead to Village Depopulation? The students emphasized that was not true and proposed various solutions for the development of rural areas. The solutions include investments in the development of agriculture – especially organic food production, the development of food industry and crafts, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources and the development of rural tourism and the formation of educational and cultural centres in villages.
We can only expect that someone will put those proposals into practice as they indicate the most logical guidelines for overcoming the crisis. It seems that people are gradually becoming aware of the fact that no urban states can be prosperous unless they have a very strong industry. And Serbia does not.