November 28, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 15 days ago

Bosnian region raises public sector wages in bid to stop workers emigrating

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic on Thursday approved a rise in public sector wages of up to 20% as they scramble to stop workers departing the country en masse.

The governments of Bosnia’s two entities, like those in neighboring Balkan countries, are trying to address an exodus of skilled workers seeking better opportunities abroad, with most heading to the European Union.

The salaries of teachers at schools and universities, as well as of police officers, judges and public servants will be increased between 5% and 20%, said Finance Minister Zora Vidovic in an emergency session of parliament to approve the move.

Individual increases will depend on so called job payment coefficients, which are allocated to each role and multiplied against a base payment to give a total salary. Employees in roles with higher pay coefficients will not get a pay rise, Vidovic added.

Vidovic said the government had decided to increase wages and pensions after recording a budget surplus of 67.6 million marka ($38 million) this year. It expects revenues to rise in 2020 and will allocate 110 million marka in next year’s budget, which is set to be approved in December, to cover the additional payments.

The Serb Republic’s parliament in October approved a revised budget for 2019, increasing it by 1.9% to 3.3 billion Bosnian marka, to cover higher pensions and wages for police officers.

About a half million people have left Bosnia since 2013 to work abroad, according to data from the state statistics agency and some non-government organizations.

(1$=1.776 Bosnian marka)

Reporting by Gordana Katana, writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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