By Danijel Kovacevic
In the light of worries that within a few decades the Bosnian Serb entity could be left without many able-bodied citizens, the RS Employers’ Union has asked for an emergency session of the Republika Srpska government and assembly on population policies.
The union says one measure to stimulate demography could be to tax unmarried men and women, which would encourage more people to marry and so increase the birth rate.
The union said it needs to figure it out who would be taxed and at what rate, and whether the tax would be the same for all age groups, but it said they were working on the details.
“This is the biggest national problem of Republika Srpska. This requires broader social action and so we expect an urgent response from the highest institutions of the RS,” Sasa Acic, union president, told BIRN.
“We will initiate our conclusions, which will be forwarded to the government of the RS, the National Assembly and the President of the Republic, and that, ultimately, will solve the problem,” he added.
According to the union, the RS stands to lose some 100,000 able-bodied citizens – almost 10 per cent of its overall population – in the next five years.
Unemployment will fall as the remaining labour force ages. The downside is that there will be fewer people left to work.
“Ten years from now, the RS will be forced to import labour,” demographer Stevo Pasalic told BIRN.
The negative birth rate is another reason for the reduced size of the working-age population. According to statistics, in less than two years, the RS population fell by 10,761 people, which is the difference between the number of newborn babies and deceased people.
Most economists dismiss the idea of a tax on singles but agree that the outward emigration of young workers is a big issue.
“Unfortunately, economic parameters indicate that Bosnian citizens will only live a better life if they leave the country,” economist Zoran Pavlovic told BIRN.
The RS government has not yet responded to the Employers’ Union request.
“We will say more when we receive their official request but I don’t think that taxing singles or couples without children is a plausible option,” a source from the government told BIRN.
The “singles tax” idea is not new. Some two years ago, RS president Milorad Dodik proposed the same thing, but it never got much support.
Many of those who would be affected by this proposal find it deeply disturbing.
“I find it very insulting – what if somebody can’t have a child?” Banja Luka resident Goran, who has been trying to have a baby with his wife for years, told BIRN.
“This entire concept is wrong. If they are worried that workers are leaving for abroad, why not raise salaries and keep them here?” Goran asked.
Another Banja Luka resident, Dragan said: “I am divorced – twice. So I think I have paid enough already.
“If they insist on a tax, I will marry for the third time. My friends already call me ‘Lord of the rings’, so why not buy another wedding ring?” Dragan added with a smile.
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