Shahini: In Kosovo, the labor force is the cheapest in the region, but the cost of living is also minimal

Agim Šahini
Source: Kosovo Online

Kosovo still has the cheapest labor force in the region, but the cost of living is also minimal, says Agim Shahini, president of the Kosovo Business Alliance. He adds for Kosovo Online that this attracts foreign workers who, at least when it comes to experts, often have better conditions than local workers.

"Kosovo still has the cheapest labor force, and there is a constant search for new workers, but wages have started to increase in the private sector, which is good because it discourages workers from leaving Kosovo," says Shahini.

On the other hand, he notes, Kosovo is also the cheapest place to live in the Balkans.

"In Kosovo, one can live better with a decent salary than in some other countries in the Balkans because not everything has become more expensive. You can still eat as much as you want for two euros, and you can still drink coffee for less than 50 cents, which is something you can't find in other countries," he explains.

He cites the poor standard of living as a problem and notes that, according to UNDP statistics, poverty is still on the rise in Kosovo.

"Citizens still want to leave Kosovo because they don't have good salaries or good jobs, as the government of Kosovo does not have a strategy to fight poverty," he adds.

Shahini says that foreign workers come to Kosovo from all over – from Albania, Macedonia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and even the European Union.

"Recently, most of the workers have started coming from India and Bangladesh. They use Kosovo as a transit point, and according to our data, more than 5,000 foreign workers came here to work last year," he says.

The jobs they do vary, he explains, from construction, service industries, and gastronomy, especially kitchen work, and they generally have the same conditions as local workers, except for one category.

"When it comes to experts coming from abroad, they demand better conditions, better salaries, apartments... so they have better conditions than our workers," says Shahini.

He adds that foreigners mostly come alone, without families.

"If we look at the workers coming from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines... more than 50% intend to go to Europe. They come because Kosovo has obtained visa liberalization and with the intention that, after a few years, when they get a Kosovar passport, they will move somewhere else," says Shahini.