Analysis – no confidence in the future: 1.3 million citizens left BiH, in spite of growing employment

Date Publish: 
Monday, April 16, 2018


Analysis – no confidence in the future: 1.3 million citizens left BiH, in spite of growing employment


The most recent analysis of the World Bank and the Vienna Institute for Economic Studies have shown that Bosnia and Herzegovina is an Balkan country with most emigrants, while that number is expected to increase in the coming period for variety of factors.

The study emphasized that the mentioned trend would continue, especially because Germany as migrants’ main destination have eased the procedures for the citizens who are looking for a job in that country. Also, aging population and negative natality, combined with the fact that many BiH citizens bear Croatian passports, a country that is an EU member, are also the factors that are causing the BiH citizens to leave. The study also claims in general figures that since the breakup of Yugoslavia, 1.3 million persons left BiH, which is a third of its population, while the next country is Albania with million emigrants, i.e. Serbia with 900.000.

If viewed in accordance to destination countries, BiH emigrants were mostly leaving to Germany, United States of America, Switzerland and Austria, while most frequently stated reason for emigration was bad economic situation.

“It is clear from anecdotal evidence that the main reason for people is a lack of hope for the future – this is certainly the difficult economic situation and lack of employment opportunities that people face but also a broader sense that the future will not necessarily be better. We are now also seeing people with jobs in BiH leaving the country, often to ensure a better future for their children. This indicates that it is not only the bad economic situation that is the driver here. Issues related to governance, rule of law and broader political renewal also play a role. This leads to a widespread dissatisfaction with life in BiH, leading according to some surveys up to 50 percent of the current population considering to leave the country. “, explained for Radio Sarajevo IOM Representative in BiH and Western Balkans Sub-regional Coordinator, Mr. Peter Van der Auweraert.

He too confirmed the data about preferred destination countries, saying it is clear that Austria and Germany, even Slovenia are popular, although there are no official information due to the fact there is no statutory obligation to report such information. All this surely influences numerous problems that BiH will face in the future, but also a large “brain drain”.

“According to official figures from the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees an estimated 2 million Bosnians are living abroad, and the number continues to rise each year. Combined with an aging population, most projections foresee a strongly reduced total population in the country by 2050, down to 3 million. The fact that nationals who normally would form part of the workforce depart in great numbers has clearly negative effects on the economy here – labour shortages and a reduced talent pool for start-ups and enterprises are two negative factors that come to mind. Similarly, the country also loses talent that could contribute to political and cultural renewal, and, through their taxes, the funding of the social welfare system – which in turn is increasingly needed to fund care for the elderly. Another adverse consequence is the breakdown in family structures that would normally take care of the elderly, and that can already be observed in some communities around BiH. While partially offset by remittances, some anecdotal evidence suggest that more recent departures are less likely to invest for example in construction of (holiday) homes in BiH. Clearly, the outward migration poses challenges that will require creative solutions – an interesting discussion is also what the eventual joining of BiH to the EU would have on the migration picture, both positive and negative”, added Mr. Van der Auweraert.

Nevertheless, BiH has problems with people emigrating, especially youth, therefore it is interesting that the World Bank and Vienna Institute for Economic Relations studies are stating that economies of the countries from the whole region are slowly recovering. This fact can be highlighted for BiH, which is marking ever better situation in the employment sector. “Although the salary amount vary from country to country, measured by their purchasing power, the best situation is in Montenegro and BiH, while Albania is significantly lagging behind the countries of the region. All regional countries, except Albania, have better salaries than in Bulgaria”, states the study.

It is additionally explained that during 2017, there has been significant fall in unemployment and that BiH is regional record holder with almost 5%. “With the figure of 20.5% of unemployed, BiH has marked the lowest unemployment in history”, analysts added.

“The World Bank report confirms the same trends as marked by local statistics. They are mainly mirrored in the statement that we are marking an increase of employment and fall of unemployment after longer period of time. By analysing the key indicators, we can conclude that economic growth was followed with the growth of employment, which was rare in the past. Also, we could conclude that there has been an increase in employment and salary levels in our economy, while at the same time those factors have fallen in public sector. Those are encouraging events, while the key statistical data for 2017 indicate sustainability of positive trends”, said economic analyst, Mr. Zlatko Hurtic for Radio Sarajevo.

He added that mentioned analysis also indicated the growth of export and continuous expansion of metal and services sector, especially services within tourism sector, have become important generator of the economic growth, employment and the growth of salaries in the private sector.

“Nevertheless, we are marking ever larger work force migration from BiH to the EU countries. While this still can be one of the causes for the fall of unemployment, there is no precise information on how the emigrating work force influences the fall of unemployment, i.e. employment with regards that we are noting the departure of the work force which was employed in BiH, mostly in the health sector” Hurtic concludes.