Unrest brews among young, educated Yugoslavs who can't find steady jobs
Malina and and her husband Nesha live in a cramped weekendica, a one-room vacation hut in Belgrade that they have made a year-round home. They have no running water, no indoor plumbing, and only a wood-burning stove. The couple, in their mid-20s, lives there because they can find no permanent jobs - and thus no government-provided apartment, since housing is tied to employment in Yugoslavia. Instead, they make jewelry which they sell on the streets, and scavenge for wood, wild fruits, and vegetables from the nearby forests.Skip to next paragraph
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''Our existence is marginal but we survive,'' Nesha says. He and his wife came to Belgrade from the provinces for a better life but gave up their university studies. ''What good is a diploma,'' Nesha asks, ''when there are no jobs?''
Their weekendica is in a cluster of shacks on Belgrade's outskirts that has become a kind of camp for the unemployed. This is just one of the hidden places around the Yugoslav capital where an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 such ''marginal'' people live in conditions reminiscent of the ''Hoovervilles'' of the 1930s in the United States.
There is no help from the communist government, except free health care. Unemployment compensation is only available to those who have worked one year or more.
Official figures are difficult to obtain, but Yugoslavia's army of unemployed has grown to an estimated 1 million, or 16 percent of the 6.2 million work force. Most of the unemployed, like Malina and Nesha, are young, educated, and looking for their first jobs. In Belgrade, the figure is believed to be 100,000, with 20,000 of them highly qualified university graduates.
In the words of a young Yugoslav sociologist, the unemployed represent ''a time bomb that could explode at any moment.'' So far, there has been little social unrest. But lately the government has clamped down on youth clubs and publishing houses that have begun to present plays and writings critical of the system.
The crackdown in April on 28 intellectuals arrested during a meeting with noted Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas may have been one indication that the government is aware of the problem and concerned that it might ignite social protest.
Srdja Popovic, a prominent Belgrade civil rights attorney who was arrested after the crackdown on intellectuals, said the party is too weak to clamp down on every opposition voice. But, he said, ''they choose their targets - they have priorities.''
Those targets right now are the youth organizations. The student center has been holding weekly forums on the crisis in Yugoslavia, inviting outspoken and critical intellectuals to speak. But the word is out now to keep a lower profile , though the forums continue.
A reform, called the Kraigher Commission Report, has been proposed to help ease the unemployment situation. The report envisions development of small private enterprises. But local officials, ''afraid that independent income will mean independent political stands,'' oppose any such development, the Yugoslav sociologist said.
Only 2 percent of the economy is based on private holdings. One young hairdreser said he spent two years getting the necessary paperwork in order to begin to take over his own private shop. ''It takes bribes and incredible patience,'' he said.
In the past, Yugoslavia exported its unemployed. There are 650,000 Yugoslavs working in Western Europe as guest workers, but they have been slowly returning, under pressure from their host contries.