The portal is a platform for employers who do business in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors to electronically register their seasonal workers. It is directly linked to the services of the Tax Administration which enables automated generation of tax calculations which are then electronically forwarded to the employer. Seasonal workers can be registered through a mobile phone application which represents the first-ever mobile phone application of any Serbian Government Agency.
In the Republic of Serbia, as of January 2019, the portal www.sezonskiradnici.gov.rs has become available for employers who do business in the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors to electronically register their seasonal workers. As of April 2019, seasonal workers can be registered by following the same principle through an Android mobile phone application, the first mobile phone application of any Serbian government agency. Before January 2019, employers could only register their seasonal farm workers based on the Labour Law and in practice, over 95% of the approximately 80,000 seasonal workers engaged in the agricultural sector were employed without registration, working in the informal economy, without any labour-related rights.
The portal and application for e-registration of seasonal workers in agriculture are completely owned by Tax Administration of the Republic of Serbia. In the process of the creation of the portal and the mobile application, Serbian government agencies were financially supported by GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation). In accordance with the Law on Simplified Work Engagement on Seasonal Jobs in Certain Activities, seasonal jobs may be registered electronically by both legal and natural persons. The newly created system is directly linked to the system of the Central Registry of Compulsory Social Insurance, which allows workers registered through this system to automatically obtain the right to pension insurance for each day of employment, as well as health insurance in case of injury at work.
The portal is directly linked to the services of the Tax Administration which enables automated generation of tax calculation, which are then electronically forwarded to the employer. National Employment Service is connected to the portal which enables seasonal workers register to be created in accordance with the Law. The register should enable easier and more efficient connections between employers and workers. Additionally, workers registered through this system do not lose their entitlement to previously acquired social security benefits and remain on the list of the unemployed. At the local level, a support system composed of 97 service centres in local government units was set up to implement the new methods and help primarily employers. The service centres acting as “ambassadors” of the system provide basic information about the benefits and functioning of the system and allow individuals to register as employers.
In the three and a half years of the implementation of the system, a total of 72,300 seasonal workers who worked over 3,6 milion working days were registered and 9,6 million Euros was paid in the taxes and contributions. The portal and the application were accessed by 660 employers. The reform of seasonal employment system was presented in the region of South-East Europe and a legal and economic analysis of the state of affairs in the region was made. Challenges for the implementation of the reform were identified for each of the six economies in the Western Balkans region and recommendations were made to overcome them to share best practices and implement similar reforms in the agricultural sector as well as in the other sectors.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The portal represents an innovative way for registration of seasonal workers in agriculture. It is very easy to use, represents one-stop-shop and takes several minutes to register worker(s).
Right before the launch of the portal in 2018, Serbia had approximately 80,000 seasonal workers in agriculture and the only way to register them was on the basis of the Labour Law in practice, which was a challenging administrative procedure for employers. This was the main reason why most of the seasonal employers in agriculture were not registered and about 95% of them worked in the grey zone without social, healthcare and labour rights.
Since the start of 2019, the portal became available for general use and a few months later, in April 2019 it became available as a cell phone application. Application for seasonal employment is the first cell phone application of any Serbian government agency.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The current status of Serbian innovation in e-registration of seasonal workers is the dissemination of lesson learned in the region. The portal has been available for users since January 2019 and since it has already been successfully accepted by users, while countries in the region have shown interest on replicating the Serbian model.
Communication is already established with the governments of North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro with the aim of providing support in every stage of reform, if necessary, especially in policy regulations.
The portal has shown great success within the first three years with a number of more than 70,000 registered seasonal workers. These results greatly exceeded expectations and communication and promotion contributed to the result.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Government officials from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Social and Veterans Affairs established the working group, tasked with drafting the Law. The Ministry drafted bylaws and supervised the implementation.
Tax Administration participated in the drafting of laws and bylaws, supported software development, and provided hosting within its IT system. NALED was responsible for the coordination of working groups and stakeholders. GIZ provided financial help to the reform.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Employers of seasonal workers are the main beneficiaries and users of the e-registration system. Benefits for seasonal workers are social, healthcare and labour rights which are provided by the registration.
Local Self-Governments established service centres to support employers in the implementation of the new system. National Employment Service participated in the drafting of the Law, and linked its own IT system with the software for e-registration of seasonal workers.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
The first year of the implementation of the reform was very successful. In 2019, the number of 28,407 seasonal workers were registered through the portal by their employers. In 2020, more than 32,000 seasonal workers were registered. The more successful year was 2021 with 38,000 seasonal workers. The total number of people registered until September 2022 has reached 70,000 seasonal workers. The number of workdays since 2019 is 3,600,000.
The amount of taxes and contributions reached exceeds 9 million euros. It is important to mention that foreign citizens can be also registered for seasonal work in agriculture. More than 2,000 people from foreign countries were registered through the portal. The results have been measured by the statistics enabled by the portal.
In the future, we expect to promote e-registration of seasonal workers in new sectors such as housework and tourism and to enable regional disbursement of knowledge and experience of the Serbian system.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge encountered was coordination between the stakeholders and their different positions during the reform process. For the success of the digital reform in the agricultural sector in Serbia, it was important to maintain regular communication between every interested party involved in the process.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome was developing a user-friendly solution for the software. From the interface of the portal to its functions, it was a high priority that employers and farmers who engage seasonal workers need to have a simple solution that won’t take them a lot of time to use. The portal https://www.sezonskiradnici.gov.rs/ is easy to use, which is demonstrated by the number of users and workers registered.
Conditions for Success
First of all, to make a successful way to innovation like this, it is important to have a new flexible legal framework. At the initiative of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, an inter-sectoral working group was formed to draft a law intended to regulate seasonal employment in agriculture.
This working group prepared the final draft law on seasonal work engagement and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Simplified Work Engagement on Seasonal Jobs in Certain Activities. Strong policy and rules with the leadership and guidance of the Government of Serbia made this reform into success.
Communication and coordination with interested stakeholders and users were a huge part of making a simple software solution, user-friendly and approachable to employers and farmers.
The innovation has been replicated to address similar problems in three regional countries. We established communication with relevant stakeholders in North Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro with the aim of providing support to their reforms in engaging seasonal workers.
A study tour to Belgrade with members of government institutions of North Macedonia was already organised in April 2022. It was a successful visit, and representatives from North Macedonia had a chance to learn everything about the Serbian system for e-registration of seasonal workers. Decision makers in North Macedonia will implement Serbian good practices and adapt the model to their possibilities. We expect to organise additional study tours with Albania and Montenegro to disseminate gained knowledge.
Also, we expect to disseminate this system to other sectors in Serbia which require engagement in seasonal work such as housework and tourism. The draft of that law is in the process of adoption.
Based on Serbian experience, it is crucial to cooperate with all stakeholders, partners, and potential users of the system, because that is the only way to make a significant innovation and implement such a big reform, especially in a traditional sector such as agriculture. Frequent communication between all stakeholders and beneficiaries is also one of the keys to success.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
26 January 2023