According to the latest official data for March, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages in Serbia rose by 15.7 percent.
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Serbia (SSSS) says that the minimum wage is no longer enough to cover the minimum consumer basket, since it was close to 42,000 dinars in January. The union also believes that due to rising food prices and other costs, the minimum should be reset twice a year.
They told Tanjug that they are also preparing a ‘union consumer basket’, which assumes that a family of three needs about 50,000 dinars a month in Serbia.
The world has seen record increases in food prices in recent months, and according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, food was 33.6 percent more expensive in March this year than in March last year.
The data for Serbia are somewhat better than globally because, as the Republic Bureau of Statistics announced, food and non-alcoholic beverages in our country rose by 15.7 percent in the same period. Vegetables rose in price the most, by 30.6 percent, coffee and tea by 23 percent, fats and oils by 20.8 percent, and meat by 17.3 percent.
Price increases also affected the consumer basket and the amount needed for food.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, in March last year the amount for food in the minimum basket for a family of three was 16,860 dinars, and for January this year, when this calculation was last published, it increased to 19,198 dinars, i.e. by 2,338 dinars.
The SSSS points out that price movements in the final months of last year and the first months of this year justify their proposals for a minimum wage this year to be over 40,000 dinars.
SSSS vice president Duško Vuković told Tanjug that the minimum wage is not enough to cover the minimum consumer basket, and the increase of the minimum for this year of about nine percent (which now amounts to 35,000 dinars) was canceled by price increases, primarily for food.
“Official data say that the minimum consumer basket reached close to 42,000 dinars in January 2022. At that time the new minimum wage for 2021 was paid, at 201 dinars per working hour, so workers on the minimum wage received about 33,000, which means that the shortfall compared to the minimum basket was almost 9,000 dinars”, says Vuković.
He points out that the minimum basket includes a minimum of groceries, which in some parts, he thinks, is difficult to accept or explain.
“For example, the basket envisages that a family of three can consume 200 grams of lemons per month, which is two grams per person per day. It is also difficult to understand how 500 grams of hake per month is enough for a family, because according to that calculation they could have fish on the menu just once a month, and then only hake”, Vuković explains.
He says that the trade union consumer basket prepared by the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions shows that about 50,000 dinars a month are needed to feed a family of three in Serbia.
Vuković thinks it would be logical to return to previous practice due to rising food prices and other costs, when the minimum wage was set twice a year and was valid for six months, or to set the minimum wage not in September but at the end of the year when all necessary price data are known.
“We set the current minimum price of labour in September 2021, but some will receive the amount set then until December 2022 when, if the current price increases continue, the consumer basket can go up to 45,000 dinars”, says Vuković.
The SSSS therefore thinks that the social partners, the government, trade unions and employers, should find a solution together to compensate for the increase in food prices and other costs of living.
The minimum consumer basket includes basic foodstuffs such as bread and pastries, vegetables and fruits, fresh and processed meat and cured meat products, fish, milk and dairy products, eggs, sugar, table salt, coffee, fruit juice, vinegar …