Sezonskiradnici: Seasonal Labor – Finally registered

Apples, beetroot, or peaches – we enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets. Depending on the season we are being greeted with various sorts. However, the different harvesting seasons also lead to a situation where the labor of the people that cut the asparagus from the ground is not required the whole year round. They are being hired on a daily basis and a few weeks later they would already work on a completely different field elsewhere. Around 80.000 people work as seasonal laborers in Serbia which supplies many countries with fruits and vegetables.

Since they are only hired on a short-term basis, employers would oftentimes not even register them. Instead of going through the lengths of complying with bureaucratic standards, 95% of them is employed as undocumented workers. Employers deem the existing system not flexible enough. They need to react quickly to sudden changes in the weather or only require workers at certain points in time. The victims of this are mostly the seasonal laborers as they are left without any protection, labor rights or pension schemes.

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A Win-Win Situation for Employers and Employees

The Serbian-German project Sezonskiradnici proves that these obstacles can be overcome. The online platform replaces the old, overly bureaucratic and lengthy procedure: Sezonskiradnici (the Serbian word for seasonal laborer) allows it to register workers with just a couple of clicks and this is possible on a computer as well as through an app on a smartphone. A seasonal worker that is being registered through the platform automatically contributes payments towards the social security system and is insured against accidents for the course of the days that they are working in the fields. The participating agricultural businesses benefit too: They receive automated tax filings and unlike in the legacy system they reduce their spending for health care and taxes by 30%. An improved employment service lets the businesses find the exact number of seasonal workers they require

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“Being an employer of seasonal workers in agriculture”, a Serbian farmer explains, “I had two options for hiring workers for short-term engagements before the new system was put in place. I either hired them in a traditional way (temporary engagement) which was administratively complicated, inflexible and expensive or I simply engaged them without any registration so I would be able to call off the engagement when weather conditions worsened.” With the new system, he continues, it becomes very simple to register workers on the PC or smartphone within just a couple of minutes and the costs for pension and health insurance are significantly lower. “Talking to my employees”, the farmer adds, “I learned that the pension insurance is the most important feature of the new system for them. Most of the employees work in different seasons. […] Considering that workers need at least 9 months of employment to collect pension rights, being formally registered as seasonal workers and benefiting from improved working conditions is of great importance.”

Success Stories that generate a Buzz in the Region

There have been a number of accomplishments already over the course of the first 12 months: More than 300 businesses have registered 26.000 seasonal workers on the platform. The public authorities generated tax revenue of more than two million Euros. Sezonskiradnici not only helps combat a clandestine economy but at the same time stimulates Serbia's economic growth. Most likely, seasonal labor is only the beginning because the approach can be extended to all other sectors of work that require flexibility in terms of employment, such as the construction industry and tourism. Neighboring countries like Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia have already signaled interest in testing the system.

Sector: Agriculture
Region: South East Europe
Technology: Platform / App
Partners: National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED)