Research: A Comparative Analysis of the Socioeconomic Dimensions of LGBTI Exclusion in Serbia

The World Bank has published the report: "A Comparative Analysis of the Socioeconomic Dimensions of LGBTI Exclusion in Serbia" which was conducted in cooperation with ERA, IPSOS and the Williams Institute.

The survey results allow policymakers and others to identify the key areas in need of urgent attention to improve the socio-economic status and inclusion of LGBTI people in Serbia: expanding the LGBTI evidence base; increasing LGBTI diversity in public sector employment; improving trust in government and institutions; and bolstering awarness and capacity to effectively address transgender issues. This is particularly relevant in the framework of Serbia's EU membership bid and the 2019 enlargement report ofr Serbia which highlights that the country "needs to step up measures to protect the rights of persons facing discrimination, including LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, persons with HIV/AIDS and other vulnerable individuals". 

This is the first known attempt to collect large-scale survey data comparing the outcomes of LGBTI people with the Serbian populatio at large and the data can be used for further analyses, including greater detail about different LGBTI subgroups. Over time, Serbia should conduct follow-up surveys to track results on reducing discrimination against, and the exclusion of, LGBTI people and on progress under Chapters 23 and 24. The Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia should align itself with statistical agencies in other countries and begin collecting LGBTI-disaggregated data that provide regular up-to-date evidence and allow comparisons between the LGBTI population and the general population. This is needed to build more inclusive policies and programs at the country level; it would also allow the measurement of any changes over time to ascertain whether policies and programs are addressing LGBTI exclusion and other concerns.

The report reveals the particular challenges faced by transgender people. There were also difficulties, when conducting this research, in reaching large number of transgender people through surveys. Special data collection efforts should be undertaken to ensure a full response from the transgender community. Furthermore, additional efforts are necessary to ensure that the most marginalized parts of the LGBTI community, for example, LGBTI people in rural areas, LGBTI Roma, and LGBTI persons with disabilities, are included in future data generation initiatives.

This research reveals that few LGBTI people are employed in the public sector. The existing legal protections against anti-discrimination do not appear to be working. State agencies set policies and run programs that serve the whole of society. With fewer LGBTI state employees, it is more likely that these policies and programs will overlook LGBTI Serbians. Furthermore, the public sector represents a source of stable employment. It is thus important that the public sector adopt active programs to increase the number of LGBTI employees through efforts to improve recruitment and workplace culture. To sensitize public servants, regular capacity building and awareness campaigns across all relevant government branches should be conducted in close consultation with Serbian LGBTI organizations.

LGBTI people's trust in Serbia's social, political and legal institutions is extremely low. As such, the Serbian government should consider using the survey findings to begin a consolidated outreach program to further understand the most critical factors underlying this lack of trust and take actions to address them. Beyond efforts to understand the lack of trust, the outreach program should be designed to better understand the broader concerns of the LGBTI community with a view to developing an action plan to address those issues also. Specifically, the action plan could include an outreach campaign targeting the general population to facilitate a change in attitudes and perceptions and promote more understanding and acceptance of the LGBTI community. The EU should support these actions through Chapters 23 and 24 of the accession process. Follow-up surveys should be conducted to track progress in improving trust.

More efforts need to be made to address the particular disadvantage faced by transgender people. The Government should review the legal code to ensure that gender identity protections are enhanced and are at least on par with those provided for sexual orientation. More importantly, the Government should put in place programs to ensure these protections are actually realized and enforced. Civil society groups that work with transgender populations should be supported to enhance the services they provide.

Overall, the data contained in this report provide a sobering view of the challenges experienced by LGBTI people in Serbia. There is increasing evidence that links exclusion with detrimental health, education and employment outcomes for LGBTI people, with broader impact on the overall economy of the country. Addressing these challenges will not only ensure that the rights of all Serbia’s citizens are protected, respected, and fulfilled, but will also bring benefits to the country’s society and economy.

The main objective of this research was to provide Serbian policy makers, civil society and development partners with evidence of the socio-economic status of LGBTI people in Serbia. It helps to address the significant lack of data on the lived reality of LGBTI people and to inform policies and programs to address LGBTI exclusion. The research suggests that some areas need further assessment from a policy-making perspective. These include: expanding the LGBTI evidence base; increasing LGBTI diversity in public sector employment; improving trust in government and institutions; and bolstering awareness and capacity to effectively address transgender issues.

The analysis is based on an adaptation of the EU's Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) instrument; a standardized household survey used regularly to collect data from the general Serbian population on income, poverty, social exclusion and living conditions. A total of 998 LGBTI people responded to the online survey and the data provide new insight on differences in the socio-economic outcomes of LGBTI people and a demographically similar subset of the general population.This is one of the first efforts globally to frame the challenges faced by LGBTI people in the context of the experiences of the general population. The SILC in Serbia was weighted to the target demographics in the LGBTI sample. Then, a sample matching procedure was conducted using a covariate balancing propensity score to allow a comparison between the two samples. The LGBTI SILC used key sections of the SILC questionnaire and complemented them with a set of additional questions to gain a better understanding of the life of LGBTI people in Serbia.

Read the report here.

Original source here.