Women-owned businesses in Serbia get five times less subsidies than men’s

Date: Tuesday, September 10, 2019

In Serbia, women own only 31.7 per cent of entrepreneurial companies. Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: Jakov Simovic/UN Women
In Serbia, women own only 31.7 per cent of entrepreneurial companies. Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: Jakov Simovic/UN Women

Share of women-owned firms in business subsidy recipients in terms of number of grantees and the volume of funds received is well below the level of their participation in the economy overall, shows a study supported by UN Women in Serbia.

In Serbia, women own only 31.7 per cent of entrepreneurial companies, and only one in five of these companies get subsidies on the country’s calls for proposals aimed for business development. This is one of the main findings of a study that is threatening to further reduce women's participation in the economy and their contribution to economic development.

Entitled "Gender analysis of economic programs and financial measures in Serbia", the study was conducted in spring 2019 by National Alliance for Local Economic Development in Serbia (NALED) with the support of UN Women under the EU funded project "Support to priority actions for gender equality". The main goal was to detect gender-based injustices and inequalities in the business field and thus promote greater equality and justice in this sector.

Stanka Pejanovic, a member of the NALED Board of Directors, conducted the gender analysis with the support of UN Women. Photo: NALED
Stanka Pejanovic, a member of the NALED Board of Directors, conducted the gender analysis with the support of UN Women. Photo: NALED

Stanka Pejanovic, a member of the NALED Board of Directors and executive vice president of the Gorenje Group, said that state institutions granted over one billion dinars (around 9.4 million dollars) through six calls for proposals at the national level in 2016-2018 and women got only 17. 9 per cent of the total fund. “Calls for proposals are equally open for both men and women, but there is a number of restrictions that indirectly discriminate against women, which is why men are more often supported,” Pejanovic noted.

Namely, the key drivers of this “indirect discrimination”, according to the study, are the focus of the subsidies programs on manufacturing, processing and export activities – sectors where women's participation is traditionally below the level registered for the other sectors of the economy – and exclusion of sole proprietors as potential grantees. The sole proprietors are a segment of the business community in which women are more frequently found as owners of companies.

Additionally, criteria for evaluation of applications can have adverse effects on chances of women-owned businesses. An example includes using productivity of a firm as a criterion since increased productivity implies a high level of capital intensity of businesses, which is also an area with below the average participation of women.

According to Aleksandra Miletic, project officer with UN Women in Serbia, the study results suggest that “it is necessary to monitor and create financing and support models in accordance with the needs of the whole market, with both male and female entrepreneurs included.” She concluded that empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to the country’s economic development but also to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.