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“Now I earn a decent wage”

Support from DIMAK enabled Dejan to find employment as a seasonal worker.

“Now I earn a decent wage”

Because of its weak economy, many people in the area around the town of Vladičin Han in Serbia are troubled by the same question: where can I find a job? One of these is seasonal worker Dejan. Among other things, support from the German Information Centre on Migration, Training and Employment (DIMAK) helped him find the right path.

The step towards a working future

Since 2019, DIMAK has been working to place seasonal workers in Serbia in employment. Its objective is to enable returnees and other vulnerable people to earn an income so that they can feed themselves and their families.

Dejan at work.

Dejan is one of those returnees who DIMAK found seasonal work for. He and his family came back from Germany in 2017 after around six months living there. They had been living in social housing near Dortmund. Dejan thought that both he and his son, who had completed secondary school, would find a job in Germany to provide for themselves and their family. They couldn’t speak German though, so it was very difficult.

Dejan is now living with his wife, his two children and his grandchildren in a small house near Vladičin Han. There’s a lot of poverty there, and it’s difficult to find a full-time job. “I’m actually a drummer. The famous brass band Marković is part of my family. But it’s impossible to make a living from music in Serbia now”, relates the 49-year-old.

He had been working as a day labourer in construction after losing his job in the food industry a few years ago. “That was boring and poorly paid. Now I mainly work in the agricultural sector. That's hard work too, but at least I get a decent wage”, he says.

Doing well even in challenging times

Dejan picks apples or raspberries and harvests potatoes. One of his supervisors liked his work so much that he asked Dejan whether he could put a workforce together for the following year, Dejan explains. “Now I’ve got a group of up to 50 people who I can rely on to harvest apples or raspberries or to do other agricultural work. We look for work throughout Serbia, but mainly in the north and west.”

DIMAK usually works with agricultural businesses when finding work for people. This is how it managed to support Dejan and his group, by placing them with an agricultural business that was looking for workers. “We need that help around here, because so many people are unemployed”, says Dejan. One advantage of a DIMAK placement is that all workers who are employed with support from DIMAK are hired in accordance with the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Act. This means that they have health insurance for the duration of their employment, and a pension scheme paid by the employer.

The workers often spend several weeks on the respective farms. They get paid after they have finished the work. The agricultural business where DIMAK placed Dejan and his group provided them with accommodation and meals. The idea that workers will receive accommodation and meals from the employer is not a given.

The low season, when there are few job opportunities in agriculture, is a difficult time for seasonal workers. “I take any work that is offered to me at this time of year. I’m not above hard work, and I'm happy to tidy up a neighbour's yard, chop wood or clear snow. I’ll do anything as long as it’s honest. I’m proud that I'm an honest man, and so is my family”, Dejan declares.

One of Dejan's jobs as a seasonal worker involves picking apples.

How DIMAK supports people in Serbia

In its first season (June to October 2019), DIMAK helped 252 people find seasonal employment, including 100 returnees from Germany. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic it has continued its work, such as in 2021 when DIMAK supported 203 people to find seasonal employment in the agricultural sector and around 500 people benefited from the general advisory services it provided. A campaign held in 17 selected municipalities in Serbia also provided additional information about seasonal employment. It was organised by the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED).

DIMAK also plans to continue running the programme this coming year. It is currently advising and placing seasonal workers in the regions of East Serbia and Vojvodina. However, new regions could still be added. This is subject to signing agreements with potential new employers.

Making it easier for people like Dejan to find work is one of DIMAK's prime objectives. Yet placing people in seasonal work is only part of the picture. The services offered by the centre and its partners are intended both for potential migrants as well as for returnees. These services include training courses, on-the-job training and internships. DIMAK also supports those who are starting a business or moving towards becoming self-employed. It also offers mentoring, careers advice and job placements.

As of: 02/2022

The opportunities for advice and assistance described here are offered as part of “Returning to New Opportunities”.

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Now I mainly work in the agricultural sector. That's hard work too, but at least I get a decent wage.

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