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Life in Transition: Serbia

Key findings (%, weighted)

Serbia Average Transition region Average Western Europe
Satisfied with life 30 43 72
Trust in others 37 34 42
Perceive less corruption than four years ago 10 21 9
Concerned about climate change 57 54 54
Support both market economy and democracy 20 34 42
Households affected by the crisis 72 49 31

Impact of the crisis

  • The economic crisis has had a strong impact on Serbian households. More than 70 per cent of respondents say that they have been affected adversely, despite the fact that the crisis was more moderate than in most transition countries. There is little variation in its effects on age or income levels, although older people and upper-income groups appear to have been slightly more insulated.

Life satisfaction

  • Around 30 per cent of Serbian respondents are satisfied with life, up from 27 per cent in 2006. However, the overall degree of satisfaction is still well below the transition region average, ranking Serbia among the least satisfied countries. Life satisfaction is lowest among middle-aged people (40-59) and those on lower incomes.


    Optimism for future generations is limited. Only 30 per cent of respondents think that the next generation will have a better life, which is well below the transition region average of 50 per cent. Middle-aged people are generally the least optimistic, as are the lower-income group.

Attitudes towards democracy and market economy

  • Support for democracy and a market economy has weakened significantly. Less than 20 per cent of respondents favour a combination of the two over other alternatives. In contrast, close to 30 per cent of respondents express indifference to what type of socio-economic system exists. However, less than 10 per cent would, under some circumstances, favour a return to authoritarianism and a planned economy.


    Belief in the presence of some basic democratic institutions is lacking. Around 80 per cent of respondents believe that there is freedom to travel abroad (the high figure reflecting the recent granting of visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen zone). More than one-half also believe there is freedom of speech and protection of minority rights. However, belief in law and order and a court system that defends individual rights is low.

Generalised and institutional trust

  • The overall level of trust has risen since 2006. About 37 per cent of respondents think that people in general can be trusted, which is slightly higher than the transition region average of 34 per cent but lower than the western European comparator average of 42 per cent. The level of trust is fairly constant across age groups and highest among those on higher incomes.


    Trust in institutions has dropped since 2006. The highest level of trust is in religious institutions, followed by the armed forces and the police. Trust in banks and the financial system has gone down but is comparable to western European levels, which may reflect Serbia’s strong supervisory regime and good management by local banks, many of which have received assistance from parent banks abroad and international financial institutions. Political parties, parliament and the courts generally attract low levels of trust.

Corruption perception

  • Perceived levels of corruption are relatively low and stable. In most instances, few respondents report having made irregular payments to public officials in return for services.


    As in most other transition countries, the exception is the health care sector where about 25 per cent of respondents say that they had to make such payments (compared with 20 per cent in 2006). Overall, less than 10 per cent of respondents believe that corruption has fallen since 2006.

Priorities for government spending

  • Helping the poor is considered the main priority for extra government spending. Serbia stands out in this respect as only one of two countries (along with Azerbaijan) where more people favour directing additional focus on the poor rather than health care or education. More than 10 per cent of respondents would also like to see extra expenditure on pensions as the top priority.

Full report

  • The Life in Transition Survey provides vivid evidence of precisely how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath.

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