Kako novo oporezivanje rada afektira plate?

Tekst objavljen na Reforma.ba 9.10.2019.

Na današnoj sjednici Predstavničkog doma Parlamenta FBiH, zastupnici će se izjasniti o prijedlozima novog Zakona o doprinosima i novog Zakona o porezu na dohodak. Nominalni cilj promjene ovih zakona jeste rasterećenje privrede kroz smanjenje poreskog klina. Njihovo usvajanje bilo je planirano još za 2017. godinu, kao što je bilo definisano Programom ekonomskih reformi za period 2017-2019. Prijedlozi zakona, još od njihovog ranog nacrta u 2016. godini, nosili su sa sobom brojne polemike i neslaganja između vlade i socijalnih partnera, kao i u široj javnosti.

U ovom tekstu ukratko analiziramo efekat predloženih rješenja na poreski klin, te diskutujemo tri potencijalna scenarija u pogledu adaptacije plata na nova zakonska rješenja. Svi izračuni su bazirani na razredima plata koje je ranije, u okviru svoga inicijalnog izračuna, koristila i Vlada, te je shodno tome korišten i isti pretpostavljeni iznos toplog obroka (180 KM), kako bi se osigurala kolika-tolika konzistentnost u logici prezentiranih nalaza. Druge neoporezive naknade, kao što su naknada za prijevoz ili regres, nisu uzete u obzir, imajući u vidu da su ove naknade nešto rjeđe zastupljene u odnosu na topli obrok. Ipak, bitno je napomenuti da se ni topli obrok, pogotovo u korištenom iznosu, ne isplaćuje svim radnicima u FBiH. Za potrebe izračuna efekata po različitim scenarijima, korišten je kalkulator koji je objavio Centar za politike i upravljanje (CPU).

Potrebno je naglasiti da se u ovom tekstu prezentuju preliminarni i okvirni podaci, bazirani na osnovnim ulaznim informacijama iz tekstova predloženih zakonskih rješenja, te je, u tom smislu, cilj ovoga teksta da ponudi orijentacione uvide a ne finalnu analizu.

Poreski klin

Prijedlog Zakona o doprinosima predviđa smanjenje agregatne stope doprinosa sa 41.5% na 32.5%, dok prijedlog Zakona o porezu na dohodak povećava lični odbitak sa 300 KM (osnovni porezni razred) na 800 KM, bez diferenciranih poreznih razreda, odnosno koeficijenata. U isto vrijeme, novi Zakon o porezu na dohodak povećao bi poreznu stopu sa 10% na 13%, pri čemu neto plate do 800 KM ne bi bile oporezovane zahvaljujući ličnom odbitku.

Ove promjene bi značajno utjecale na poreski klin. Poreski klin predstavlja razliku između ukupnog troška rada i onoga što radnik primi „na ruke“, izraženu kao udio ukupnog troška rada. Trenutni poreski klin na plate u FBiH, za radnika koji je sam i prima prosječnu bruto platu, je 41.9% bez neoporezivih naknada (topli obrok, prevoz, regres, itd.), odnosno 37.7% sa uključenim toplim obrokom u iznosu od 180 KM. Novi zakoni bi, u ovom slučaju, doveli do smanjena poreskog klina na 34.2%, što je niže za 7.7 procentnih poena u odnosu na poreski klin bez uključenih neoporezivih naknada te 3.5 procentna poena u odnosu na trenutni poreski klin sa uključenih 180 KM toplog obroka. Do smanjenja poreskog klina dolazi za sve plate, do najvećeg smanjenja, među platama koje smo analizirali, dolazi za trenutnu bruto platu od 1159.4 KM, odnosno za platu od 750 KM „na ruke“ (bez toplog obroka). Razlika između trenutnog i potencijalno novog poreskog klina, izražena u procentnim poenima, se postepeno smanjuje za više i niže plate od ove, kao što je prikazano u Tabeli 1.

Tabela 1. Poreski klin za radnika koji je sam i prima prosječnu bruto platu bez neoporezivih naknada (topli obrok, prevoz, regres i sl.)

Isplata na ruke, bez toplog obroka Isplata na ruke sa toplim obrokom od 180 KM Trenutna bruto plata Trenutni poreski klin (%) Očekivani novi poreski klin (%) Razlika u poreskom klinu (pp)
400.0 580.0 595.8 39.2 32.5 6.7
450.0 630.0 676.3 39.8 32.5 7.3
470.1 650.1 708.7 40.0 32.5 7.5
650.0 830.0 998.4 41.1 32.5 8.6
750.0 930.0 1159.4 41.5 32.5 9.0
850.0 1030.0 1320.5 41.7 33.6 8.1
928.6 1108.6 1447.0 41.9 34.2 7.7
1000.0 1180.0 1562.0 42.1 34.8 7.3
1300.0 1480.0 2045.1 42.5 36.3 6.2
1500.0 1680.0 2367.2 42.7 37.0 5.7
1700.0 1880.0 2689.2 42.8 37.5 5.3
2000.0 2180.0 3172.3 42.9 38.1 4.8
2500.0 2680.0 3977.5 43.1 38.7 4.4
3000.0 3180.0 4782.6 43.2 39.2 4.0
4000.0 4180.0 6392.92 43.4 39.7 3.7

U nastavku teksta razmatramo tri hipotetička scenarija adaptacije plata u skladu sa novim zakonskim rješenjima. Bitno je naglasiti da svaki od ovih scenarija može imati svoju primjenu parcijalno, među određenim poslodavcima, ali da je nemoguće očekivati za bilo koji od scenarija da bude konzistentno korišten među svim subjektima na tržištu. Niz faktora, počevši od sektora pa do pregovaračke moći radnika, odnosno poslodavaca, u pojedinim sektorima će značajno utjecati na to kojim od ovih scenarija će rješenja biti bliža. Prvi prezentirani scenarij ima najmanje izgleda da se u većoj mjeri realizira u praksi, obzirom da se bazira na pukom poštivanju minimuma zakonske obaveze te donekle artificijelnoj pretpostavci da bi poslodavci u novu bruto platu uključili iznos koji su ranije isplaćivali u vidu toplog obroka. Ipak, prezentiramo i ovaj scenarij indikativno, kako bismo se ukratko osvrnuli na njegove efekte.

Prvi scenarij: poslodavci adaptiraju bruto plate (minimum zakonske obaveze) te uključuju u osnovicu i ranije neoporezovani topli obrok

Prijedlog Zakona o doprinosima, sa amandmanima Vlade, članom 56 predviđa obavezu izvršenja preračuna plate – tj. njenog bruto iznosa – na način da se ranije definisana bruto plata množi sa koeficijentom 1.0222. U tom smislu, poštivanje ove zakonske odredbe podrazumijeva da poslodavci, u najmanju ruku, povećaju bruto plate za 2.22%. Osim toga, ovim hipotetičkim scenarijem predviđamo i volju poslodavaca da zadrže isplaćivani iznos toplog obroka (180 KM), kojeg uključuju u osnovicu, tj. koji novim zakonskim rješenjem biva oporezovan po utvrđenim stopama doprinosa, odnosno kumulativnom stopom od 32.5%.

Prema ovom scenariju, svi radnici su negativno afektirani, u smislu smanjenja iznosa koji dobijaju „na ruke“; najmanje su afektirani radnici koji, isključivši topli obrok, na ruke primaju platu u iznosu od 650 KM (bruto plata u iznosu od 998.4 KM). Plate više ili niže od ove, shodno njihovom iznosu, su više afektirane, kao što je prikazano u Tabeli 2.

Sa druge strane, za poslodavce je na svim platama smanjen ukupni trošak rada: što je trenutna plata veća, veća bi bila i „ušteda“ u slučaju ovog scenarija.

Tabela 2. Efekti novih zakonskih rješenja prema prvom scenariju

Trenutni zakoni Nova zakonska rješenja
Trenutna bruto plata Porezni razred Isplata na ruke (sa maksimalnim neoporezivim toplim obrokom) Ukupni trošak rada Nova bruto plata / ukupni trošak rada Isplata na ruke Efekat na primanja “na ruke” Efekat na ukupni trošak rada
595.8 400.0 580.0 838.4 789.0 540.5 -39.5 -49.3
676.3 450.0 630.0 927.3 871.3 596.9 -33.1 -56.0
708.7 470.1 650.1 963.1 913.4 625.7 -24.4 -49.7
998.4 650.0 830.0 1283.2 1200.6 819.47 -10.5 -82.7
1159.4 750.0 930.0 1461.2 1365.2 917.6 -12.4 -96.0
1320.5 850.0 1030.0 1639.1 1529.8 1015.7 -14.3 -109.3
1447.0 928.6 1108.6 1778.9 1659.1 1092.8 -15.8 -119.8
1562.0 1000.0 1180.0 1906.0 1776.7 1162.8 -17.2 -129.3
2045.1 1300.0 1480.0 2439.8 2270.5 1457.1 -22.9 -169.3
2367.2 1500.0 1680.0 2795.7 2599.7 1653.3 -26.7 -196.0
2689.2 1700.0 1880.0 3151.6 2928.9 1849.5 -30.5 -222.7
3172.3 2000.0 2180.0 3685.4 3422.7 2143.8 -36.2 -262.7
3977.5 2500.0 2680.0 4575.1 4245.7 2634.3 -45.7 -329.3
4782.6 3000.0 3180.0 5464.8 5068.8 3124.7 -55.3 -396.0
6392.9 4000.0 4180.0 7244.2 6714.8 4105.7 -74.3 -529.3

Ipak, kako je spomenuto ranije, ovaj scenarij, kao i scenarij u kome poslodavci samo prilagođavaju bruto platu i isključuju sve, trenutno neoporezive, naknade koje nemaju karakter plate, nije realistično očekivati. Ipak, tamo gdje je pregovaračka moć radnika manja, moguće je pretpostaviti iskorištavanje tranzicije na nove zakone na način da se plata adaptira tek u mjeri u kojoj zakon nalaže, a što bi, u konačnici, negativno afektiralo primanja radnika.

Drugi scenarij: zadržavaju se iznosi koje radnici primaju „na ruke“ te se, shodno tome, adaptiraju bruto plate / ukupni troškovi rada

Imajući u vidu kulturu pregovaranja plata u BiH, gdje se, u biti, u većini slučajeva pregovara ne bruto iznos plate, pa čak ni neto plata, nego prosto iznos koji će radnik/radnica imati na raspolaganju po isplati plate, ovaj je scenarij izvjestan. Naime, kako poslodavci i radnici uglavnom dogovaraju visinu iznosa primanja „na ruke“, onda je moguće pretpostaviti da će radnici očekivati barem zadržavanje visine ovih primanja nakon što novi zakoni budu u primjeni.

Da bi se radniku, nakon usvajanja novih zakona, zadržala ista plata koju prima na ruke, poslodavac potencijalno mora prilagoditi bruto platu, odnosno ukupne troškove rada. Prema okvirnim proračunima koje smo napravili, poslodavac bi, u ovom scenariju, iskusio povećanje troškova rada ukoliko bi htio zadržati jednaku isplatu za radnike koji trenutno „na ruke“ primaju plate manje od 650 KM. Neutralan efekat se postiže na ovoj plati (650 KM, uključujući topli obrok od 180 KM) – što znači da radnik ima ista primanja bez povećanja troškova za poslodavca – a u slučaju svih plata viših od ove, poslodavac bi bio u mogućnosti napraviti uštede, odnosno smanjiti troškove, ukoliko bi odlučio da ne povećava primanja radnika. Što je iznos koji radnik prima na ruke viši od 650 KM, to je veća i ušteda koju je poslodavac, zadržavajući status quo, u mogućnosti napraviti (vidjeti Tabelu 3). Drugim riječima, uposlenici koji primaju manje od 650 KM „na ruke“ postaju skuplji za poslodavca, želi li održati ovaj prihod za radnika, dok uposlenici koji primaju više od 650 KM postaju „isplativiji“ promjenama zakona.

Tabela 3. Efekti novih zakonskih rješenja prema drugom scenariju

Trenutni zakoni Nova zakonska rješenja
Trenutna bruto plata Isplata na ruke bez toplog obroka Isplata na ruke sa toplim obrokom od 180 KM Ukupni trošak rada Nova bruto plata / ukupni trošak rada Isplata na ruke Razlika u trošku rada
595.8 400.0 580.0 838.4 859.3 580.0 20.9
676.3 450.0 630.0 927.3 933.3 630.0 6.0
708.7 470.1 650.1 963.1 963.1 650.1 0.0
998.4 650.0 830.0 1283.2 1236.3 830.0 -46.9
1159.4 750.0 930.0 1461.2 1406.6 930.0 -54.6
1320.5 850.0 1030.0 1639.1 1576.8 1030.0 -62.3
1447.0 928.6 1108.6 1778.9 1710.7 1108.6 -68.3
1562.0 1000.0 1180.0 1906.0 1832.3 1180.0 -73.7
2045.1 1300.0 1480.0 2439.8 2343.1 1480.0 -96.7
2367.2 1500.0 1680.0 2795.7 2683.7 1680.0 -112.0
2689.2 1700.0 1880.0 3151.6 3024.3 1880.0 -127.3
3172.3 2000.0 2180.0 3685.4 3535.1 2180.0 -150.3
3977.5 2500.0 2680.0 4575.1 4386.5 2680.0 -188.5
4782.6 3000.0 3180.0 5464.8 5238.0 3180.0 -226.8
6392.9 4000.0 4180.0 7244.2 6940.8 4180.0 -303.3

Ipak, ukoliko radnici znaju da poslodavci sada imaju uštede po osnovu smanjenja ukupnih troškova rada, to im otvara mogućnost da pregovaraju za povećanje plata (odnosno jača njihovu pregovaračku poziciju).

Treći scenarij: poslodavci ne povećavaju utrošak za rad (ukupni troškovi rada), što teret izmjena zakona prebacuje na primanja radnika

Prema ovom scenariju, poslodavac odlučuje da ne pravi nikakve izmjene vezane za ukupne troškove rada, nego odlučuje da primanja radnika budu umanjena ili uvećana shodno poreskim izmjenama. Drugim riječima, ukupna suma koju poslodavac alocira na plate je, u slučaju ovog scenarija, konstantna.

Kao što je vidljivo iz Tabele 4, radnici koji trenutno primaju manje od 650 KM na ruke (uključujući 180 KM toplog obroka u ovaj iznos), dobijali bi manje „na ruke“ nakon izmjena zakona, dok bi oni koji trenutno zarađuju više od ovog iznosa imali nešto veća primanja od trenutnih po primjeni novih zakona. Ipak, ovo sugerira i da bi poslodavci mogli, znajući da radnici, na koncu, primaju više, težiti ka smanjenju bruto plata za one radnike koji trenutno imaju 709 KM ili više bruto.

Tabela 4. Efekti novih zakonskih rješenja prema trećem scenariju

Trenutni zakoni Nova zakonska rješenja
Trenutna bruto plata Isplata na ruke bez toplog obroka Isplata na ruke sa toplim obrokom od 180 KM Ukupni trošak rada Nova bruto plata / ukupni trošak rada Isplata na ruke Razlika u isplati “na ruke”
595.8 400.0 580.0 838.4 838.4 565.9 -14.1
676.3 450.0 630.0 927.3 927.3 626.0 -4.0
708.7 470.1 650.1 963.1 963.1 650.1 0.0
998.4 650.0 830.0 1283.2 1283.2 857.57 27.6
1159.4 750.0 930.0 1461.2 1461.2 962.1 32.1
1320.5 850.0 1030.0 1639.1 1639.1 1066.6 36.6
1447.0 928.6 1108.6 1778.9 1778.9 1148.7 40.1
1562.0 1000.0 1180.0 1906.0 1906.0 1223.3 43.3
2045.1 1300.0 1480.0 2439.8 2439.8 1536.8 56.8
2367.2 1500.0 1680.0 2795.7 2795.7 1745.8 65.8
2689.2 1700.0 1880.0 3151.6 3151.6 1954.8 74.8
3172.3 2000.0 2180.0 3685.4 3685.4 2268.2 88.2
3977.5 2500.0 2680.0 4575.1 4575.1 2790.7 110.7
4782.6 3000.0 3180.0 5464.8 5464.8 3313.2 133.2
6392.9 4000.0 4180.0 7244.2 7244.2 4358.1 178.1

Zaključak

Novi zakoni predstavljaju dobar korak u nastojanju da se smanji poresko opterećenje na rad, odnosno smanji poreski klin. Predložena rješenja umanjuju poreski klin za 7.7 procentnih poena za radnika koji je sam i prima prosječnu bruto platu.

Predloženi zakoni poreski rasterećuju prosječnu i više plate, odnosno sve one bruto plate koje su trenutno više od 709 KM. Imajući u vidu „uštede“ koje poslodavac, novim zakonskim rješenjima, pravi na višim platama, kao što je prikazano u drugom scenariju, otvara se prostor za radnike da pregovaraju za povećanja plata. Sa druge strane, negativno su afektirane najniže plate, gdje rad postoje skuplji za poslodavca ukoliko se želi održati nivo primanja za radnike. To je naročito relevantno u onim slučajevima kada je veći dio trenutnih primanja „na ruke“ sačinjen od neoporezivih naknada (topli obrok, naknada za prevoz). Ipak, ne radi se o značajnijem povećanju troškova rada, dok bi sa druge strane potencijalno smanjenje primanja koje bi radnici osjetili ukoliko poslodavci ne bi bili spremni da povećaju bruto plate bilo donekle osjetno obzirom na mali iznos dohotka.

Ipak, efekti na ekonomiju, u smislu agregatnog efekta na biznise te agregatnog efekta na strani dohotka ostaju nepoznati. Ove efekte nismo mogli adekvatno procijeniti obzirom na nedostatak iscrpnih i pouzdanih disagregiranih podataka o plata u FBIH. Neki raniji podaci sugerišu da platu do 450 KM prima oko 23% radnika u FBiH, dok platu veću od 1500 KM prima tek 12% radnika. Ipak, nedovoljan nivo disagregirianosti ovih podataka ne omogućava pouzdaniju analizu efekata promjena oporezivanja plata na nivou agregata.

Rizik koji ova promjena nosi sa sobom jeste da bi poslodavci, u nekim slučajevima, mogli platu adaptirati minimalno, odnosno tek onoliko koliko je zakonska obaveza, što bi dovelo do drastičnijeg pada primanja za radnike a, istovremeno, napravilo uštede za poslodavca. Ovaj problem se mogao amortizirati nešto većim koeficijentom za obavezno uvećanje bruto plate.

Tekst nije dozvoljeno prenositi bez saglasnosti autora.

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Tax exemptions for the IT sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A not-so-good policy proposal but interesting policy debate

It became quite exciting to follow the recent policy debate triggered by Bit Alliance’s initiative for introducing exemptions in tax policy for the software industry. 

Namely, Government of FBiH initiated a process of adopting new Law on Personal Income Tax and Law on Contributions in this entity. Initially, it was planned by the Economic Reform Programme 2017-209 for these laws to be adopted in 2017. One of the aims of this policy change is to lower the aggregate contribution rate from 41.5% to 33% and introduce (effectively) two tax rates (0% for salaries up to BAM 800 – by increasing the personal allowance – and 13% for net salaries that exceed that amount), instead of the existing flat tax rate of 10%. I will not go into details or analysis here. You can take a look at the TV debate that includes representatives of government, a trade union and employers to get a sense of the current policy debate and familiarise yourself with different points of view. 

To make the whole debate even hotter, Bit Alliance, an organisation that represents almost 60 IT companies, articulated a request for introducing exemptions in labour taxation for employees of IT (software) industry and submitted an amendment to the law (see the link for more details about the proposal). In a quick response, FBiH Tax Administration listed a few arguments against the proposal (including unequal treatment of sectors, employees – e.g. IT professionals in different sectors – and complexity of administering such policy solution), advocating for equal treatment of industries (sectors). However, the debate continued and, in the meantime, Bit Alliance released a statement, trying to defend their case, and AmCham BiH supported Bit Alliance’s proposal. In my opinion, none of the two sides defended their case strongly. 

This is my humble contribution to the debate.

State Aid System in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the policy course: Should we promote vertical industrial policy?

Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the state-level Law on State Aid System in 2012 (Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina 10/12), which is compatible with the EU acquis and it was articulated in cooperation with the European Commission. This Law regulates the conditions under which the government can support businesses or industries/sectors. The Law prohibits any kind of State’s support (subsidies, tax exemptions, grants, etc., see Article 2) to specific companies or industries/sector that could harm competition or competitive behaviour (Article 5), except for (1) agriculture and fishing, (2) military industry and (3) infrastructure. In that sense, this Law prevents so-called vertical industrial policy to some extent, but also signalises commitment of the country not to promote vertical support. Of course, the rationale behind this policy course is something that could and should be critically reviewed and discussed and there is a pretty vital debate among scholars and policymakers on vertical industrial policy in the EU and broader. 

To learn more about the State Aid System in BiH, please take a look at the following:

  • Law on State Aid System: https://bit.ly/2neENYY
  • Foreign Policy Initiative’s (VPI) analysis of the State Aid System in Bosnia and Herzegovina: https://bit.ly/2o4mk1x
  • Centres for Civic Initiatives’ (CCI) analysis of the State Aid System in Bosnia and Herzegovina: https://bit.ly/2o8fQ1J 
  • Commission Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application for membership of the European Union, 2019 (assesses and discusses the State Aid System): https://bit.ly/2o4kD4b 

Boosting informalities: Misuses of the proposed policy

As FBiH Tax Administration properly noticed – but poorly explained – the introduction of exemptions in labour taxation for IT sector would create a fruitful ground for misuses and informalities. A case of Romania is a good case to illustrate this assumption, as explained later in the text. It would require investing additional efforts and resources in monitoring and enhancing deterrence. Finally, it would be more complex to administer the measure. In that sense, along with a reduction in public revenues due to tax exemptions, it bears the risk of inducing additional losses as a result of increased informalities.

Unequal treatment of sectors: From injustice to market distortion

The proposed amendment is s sector-specific one and, therefore, tends to put a sector in a (more) favourable position rather than particular profession(s) or products (goods or services). Therefore, for instance, IT professionals in other industries would not be treated (in a legal sense) in the same way as their peers in the IT industry. However, there is a bigger potential problem than the issue of unequal treatment of sectors or employees in different sectors: it could create a market distortion by policy-induced widening of a gap between working conditions for IT professionals in the IT industry and other industries, meaning that it can boost “migration” of IT professionals from other sectors to IT sectors, at the cost of first ones. 

Finding a justification in the wider economic benefits?

The IT/software industry is one of the fastest growing industries in BiH and deserves special attention of policymakers. It has a huge potential to advance other sectors and the economy as a whole through knowledge and technology spill-over effects. Also, it plays an important – if not crucial – role in the transition toward the 4.0 economy. However, these effects should not be overestimated. First of all, it is questionable if other sectors have a sufficient absorptive capacity to benefit from spillovers. Second, the IT sector in BiH is predominantly export-oriented and due to high demand on overseas market (which inflate prices), the services are usually not affordable or accessible to a large portion of domestic businesses. Third, existing analyses suggest that major portion of the IT sector in BiH is comprised of ITO (IT outsourcing) companies, which provide programming services to the overseas companies but do not invest in developing and trading their own products (software solutions). Finally, the IT sector is rapidly growing but it is still not among the top contributors to the domestic economy, whether it be measured as a contribution to GDP or job creation.

Romania as a role model: Behind the fairytale

Bit Alliance refers to the Romanian case as a good example: a simplistic narrative says that Romania has introduced a personal income tax exemption for IT employees, thus boosting the industry’s outcomes. Partially yes, but things are way more complicated than they seem. This policy created numerous challenges and enabled various misuses. For instance, companies were declaring a wider spectrum of jobs as IT jobs to take advantage of the measure. Therefore, the Romanian government has introduced some changes in 2016, by shifting focus toward start-ups and by adding:

the phrase ”final product” for the companies to prove that they have a software product at the end of the line and therefore receive the incentive for the employees. The phrase meant that companies that were making software by command for global markets could no longer get the incentive, just like many other from the outsourcing business. Also, the companies were eligible for the incentive after overtaking a level of EUR 10,000 in revenues from each programmer that worked for the software, including the start-ups for which there was no way of reaching the number very fast.

In other words, the rearranged policy applied for companies that are on the higher end of the value chain, i.e. this measure could be understood as a measure that promotes R&D-driven software (product) development and innovation and, therefore, has less of a “vertical” character (although it kept some degree of verticality), compared to pre-2016 approach. Having in mind that the software industry in BiH is dominated by ITO (IT outsourcing) companies, which deliver services at the lower end of the value chain, i.e. with lower added value, such a measure would not be applicable for the larger portion of the industry. 

However, due to negative impact on the industry, the Romanian government decided to eliminate the phrase, lower barriers for start-ups, and expand the eligibility for the measure to IT professionals that work in non-software companies (making it profession-specific rather than sector-specific). In that sense, there is a list of job positions that are entitled to tax exemptions. Further reforms in fiscal policy, that occurred soon after this change, negatively affected the income of IT professionals – more details can be found HERE.

Conclusion: Instead of exclusivity

It is actually great news that the industry is trying to influence policy-making processes and ensure better conditions for doing business. Bit Alliance is a particularly successful player in this domain and already achieved to induce important policy changes. However, I consider the latest proposal as a not-so-well shaped initiative.

The software industry should definitely seek and advocate for a better policy framework and more favourable conditions for business development. Although the industry is the best in recognising its own interests and policy obstacles/bottlenecks that undermine the growth, I suggest considering and focusing on:

  • Further reducing tax wedge, but without looking for any sectoral exclusivity in that domain. It should be a contribution to overall efforts oriented toward reducing taxation of labour (personal income tax and contributions) and gradually shifting toward higher taxation of consumption (value-added tax) to ensure the stability of public revenues. 
  • Enhancing horizontal industrial policy in a way to ensure better policy instruments and measures for promotion of innovation, including tax incentives for R&D that could encompass deductions in labour taxation for the R&D staff. This policy, which would apply for all high-tech sectors, promotes technology advancement and could substantially contribute to moving up the value chain, i.e. ITO sector to move toward more sophisticated economic activities and own product development. See my blog post on this topic

* Post reflects my own opinions and cannot be associated with institutions and organisations I am affiliated with.

BiH Labour Force Survey’s preliminary findings for 2019: A brief overview

Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina has published preliminary results of the 2019 Labour Force Survey. Published report provides an overview of the main labour market indicators and, therefore, an in-depth analysis of the labour market trends is not possible before the final report is published.

Hereby I am providing a very brief and basic descriptive analysis of the findings in bullet-points:

  • Trend of moderate improvements in labour market performance has continued in 2019.
  • The unemployment rate has been falling since 2016, dropping to 15.7% in 2019. Thus unemployment rate is lower by 2.7 percentage points compared to the previous year and by 12 percentage points compared to 2015 when unemployment reached its peak point. Since 2017, unemployment rate is below pre-crisis level.

Unemployment rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

unemployment rate

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • Similarly, youth unemployment rate further decreased – by 5 percentage points compared to 2018 – amounting to 33.8% in 2019. However, youth unemployment rate is still much above the EU-28 average (16.8% in 2018).
  • It is interesting to see that, after the decade where the share of long-term unemployment in total unemployment was fluctuating between 81% and 85%, this share notably decreased. In that sense, the share of unemployed people who were looking for a job for 12 months or longer is 75.7% in 2019. However, it is not clear at the moment what was driving this notable change. I will provide more detailed analysis once the final LFS report is published. Until then, I would be skeptical about this finding.
  • Employment rate is 35.5%, by 1.2 percentage points higher than in 2018 and by 3.9 percentage points compared to 2013 when employment reached its lowest point of the past decade. However, data on absolute number of new (additional) employed people in y-o-y perspective is still not available.
  • The gender employment gap slightly decreased (by 1.2 percentage points), being 17.9 pp in 2019, slightly below the ten-year average of 18.5 pp. This is a result of higher increase in employment rate among women (1.7 pp) than among men (0.5) in the y-o-y perspective. However, the gap is still substantially bigger compared to the EU-28 average of 11.5 pp (2017).

Employment rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

employment rate 2

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • Finally, it seems that the trend of continuous decrease in activity rate has stopped in 2019: activity rate is the same as it was in 2018 (42.1%). Gender gap in activity narrowed a bit (18.8 pp in 2019 compared to 21.8 in 2018), but primarily due to constant fall in male activity rate.

Activity rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

activity rate

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • It is important to notice that drop in unemployment rate was followed by increased employment rate and, for the first time, stagnant activity rate; therefore, it can be assumed that drop in unemployment rate was mainly translated to new employments, but more detailed data is needed to assess how potential shrinking of working age population has affected particular indicators.

It is important to mention that LFS data for 2017-2019 is not fully comparable to previous data due to methodological changes that took place in 2017, as stated by the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, it is impossible to assess to what extent this change affected the results of the survey and time series due to lack of more detailed information provided by the Agency for Statistics. In other words, it is not possible to establish methodologically consistent time series over the period of the last decade. This break in time series is indicated in all figures with “(b)”.

Active labour market measures in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Solving instead of amortising the unemployment issue

Article published by CPU think tank (ENG & BHS) and Reforma.ba (BHS)

Verzija na bosanskom jeziku dostupna OVDJE.

Finding a job is anything but easy for a person in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Sluggish economic growth results in a slow pace of jobs creation, thus offering very limited opportunities for job-seekers. On the other side, tectonic changes in the economic setup that occurred during 1990s and 2000s – including deindustrialisation and the collapse of many giant state-owned enterprises, which were employing large amounts of low-to-medium skilled workers in ex-Yugoslavia – ended in massive redundancies of hard-to-employ workforce. It created harsh structural imbalances on the labour market, considering that many of these workers could not find job that matches their skills and abilities, thus slipping in long-term unemployment.

Furthermore, education system, which should, more or less, follow the market dynamics and meet economic demands for relevant and up-to-date skills, often plays a quite opposite role, widening gap and perpetuating skills-related discrepancies on the labour market. In such environment, picture of the labour market, as captured by the Labour Force Survey, is pretty discouraging: despite some slight recent improvements, unemployment is persistently high, at the rate of 18.4% in 2018, while this rate is much higher for youth, 38.8%. Around 82% of unemployed people are looking for a job 12 months or more. Majority of recent university graduates experience unemployment spells, being unemployed in average, as some recent findings presented by Bartlett, Branković and Oruč suggest, for the period of 8 months after the graduation.

Inadequate support from the public employment services in the job seeking process

However, an unemployed person in BiH would receive a little support from the public employment services (PES). Once a person enters the employment bureau, an officer would ask him/her for the basic information and finish necessary paperwork – maybe giving a few high-level advice. After that, relationship of unemployed person with PES comes down to periodical reporting to the bureau. For the sake of illustration, research conducted by Bartlett, Branković and Oruč in 2016 suggests that almost 88% of recent graduates receive none or a very little support from PES during the unemployment period.

If the same unemployed person was lucky enough to live in Denmark, support received by the employment services would look quite different: in addition to registration, he or she would receive extensive support in terms of counselling and guidance through the job-seeking process. Employment bureau officer would create an individual employment plan to adapt job-seeking path to the specific profile of the job-seeker in terms of skills, previous experience, and educational background, i.e. to his/her already established career path and potentials. As the part of employment support, officer would enrol an unemployed person in best-fitting programmes of the so-called active labour market policies (hereinafter: ALMPs).

Continue reading Active labour market measures in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Solving instead of amortising the unemployment issue

A brief reflection on the Stakeholder Conference on employment and social affairs in the Western Balkans

I was honoured by the invitation of the European Commission, its Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, to contribute, as a speaker, to the Stakeholder Conference held in Luxembourg yesterday. The conference was in connection with the EU-Western Balkans Ministerial meeting on employment and social affairs, which was organized for the first time ever.

I contributed to the discussion from the perspective of my cooperation with the European Centre of Expertise in recent years and my overall research experience in this domain.

 

 

During my speech, I put a focus on the main labour market challenges that Bosnia and Herzegovina faces, in particular to constraints that lead to slow pace of jobs creation and, thus, to cyclical unemployment, but also to skills gap and labour market imbalances, which is becoming more and more important issue, with all the more notable impact on industries. I stressed out the importance of putting more focus on education policy, but also emphasized a potential of active labour market policy in tackling this issue if active policy is properly designed, managed and conceptually perceived as a piece of the broader human capital development policy. Besides, I mentioned the need for more comprehensive and substantial approach to socio-economic reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially insisting on the better involvement of social partners and civil society in all phases of the implementation of the reform (from designing to monitoring phase) as well as on the evidence-based approach to policy making.

Although the range of topics covered and challenges identified during the event was pretty wide, it is important to notice that the issue of skills gap has dominated the discussion, being mentioned by all stakeholders, from governments’ representatives, via social partners (trade unions and employers’ associations) to representatives of the civil society and labour market experts. It clearly indicates that Western Balkan countries have to put more focus and invest more efforts in addressing this issue, devoting special attention to formulating viable and effective measures by their respective Economic Reform Programmes.

The event was inspiring and I was happy to hear different opinions, examples and proposals shaped by my colleagues from the region and the European Union. A good step forward regarding the policy dialogue.

See more HERE.

A quick update on ALMPs in FBiH

I am happy to see that the Federal Employment Institute has introduced a new active labour market policy’s (ALMP) programme, named “Obuka i rad” (Training and Employment), which combines on-the-job training (3 months) and hiring subsidies (6 to 12 months). Around EUR 1 million is allocated for the implementation of the programme in 2019.

Together with my colleagues, I have been advocating for putting more focus on training measures – at the cost of simple wage subsidies, which are still predominant ALMP measure in BiH – since 2015. There is a pretty decent regional evidence that measures that combine training and hiring subsidies are among most effective ones in mid-to-long term perspective. “Obuka i rad” indicates that decision-makers have recognised potential of this design and, hopefully, will continue to develop training measures in the near future.

I am posting here links to two of my research which discuss this topic, both published by Analitika think tank in 2016:

  • Weak Labour Markets, Weak Policy Responses: https://bit.ly/2W81LMH
  • Active Labour Market Policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina: From direct employment to strengthening the employability of Jobseekers: https://bit.ly/2rpjFLS

R&D Tax Incentives in BiH: Is it time for tech industry to put them on the advocacy agenda?

This article was originally published on my Medium page (March 16, 2019).

I read the IT Manifesto published by Bit Alliance recently. I am incredibly happy to see how the software industry is progressing in organizing itself and articulating its interests and needs in a structured and policy-relevant manner.

A number of set strategic goals is related to human capital development (education and skills development), what is expected having in mind that lack of talent (i.e. skilled workforce supply) and poor education outcomes are main obstacles and concerns that the industry is facing. It is a stumbling stone for the industry and immediate and extensive policy reaction is necessary for the industry to release its full potential and prevent/reduce financial losses and opportunity costs associated with the lack of talent. The second reason why this is one of the main concerns for the industry is the setup of the industry itself: as said in the document, but also recognized in earlier research reports, majority of the industry is concentrated in the niche of outsourcing where the supply of workforce is the main and almost only pillar of the growth.

I am also happy to see that one of the strategic goals is to put an accent on R&D in IT industry. However, my general impression is that innovation is being a neglected topic in the discourse on BiH software industry (and high-tech industry in general) and a little research effort was put to explore and mainstream innovation-related topic(s) among policy makers and professionals. Even if discussed, it is usually concentrated around establishing links between academia and the industry, and strengthening capacities of public universities and research organizations to deliver R&D. Some other policy solutions and measures remain unexplored and unthematized.

Innovation, along with talent nurturing, in my opinion should be a backbone of tech industries in BiH — these two combined will make the industry more sophisticated, resilient, agile and diversified. That is a part of the discussion on what is the long-term vision of the industry beyond satisfying current demand for workforce and lowering wage-pressure? Should the industry put all (or majority of) eggs in the basket of the outsourcing niche?

Continue reading R&D Tax Incentives in BiH: Is it time for tech industry to put them on the advocacy agenda?

Nepodnošljiva lakoća prosperiteta: Šta zaboravljaju reći o trendovima tržišta rada u BiH?

U posljednje se vrijeme sve češće može čuti i vidjeti kako se u javnosti prezentiraju pojedine statistike o ključnim indikatorima tržišta rada – pretežno o zaposlenosti i nezaposlenosti – koje bi trebale pokazati kako se Bosna i Hercegovina našla na tračnicama nezaustavljivog ekonomskog prosperiteta. Nastoji se kreirati svojevrsna euforija u pogledu navodnih pozitivnih trendova na tržištu rada i, uglavnom, ovakav oporavak pripisati implementiranim ekonomskim politikama u okviru Reformske agende. Nastoji se, drugim riječima, ukrasti nešto od trenutnog ekonomskog oporavka za političku promociju i ubiranje poena. Iako su se isprva u ove svrhe koristili podaci o registrovanoj nezaposlenosti zavoda za zapošljavanje, kao i podaci entitetskih zavoda za statistiku – podaci koji umnogome daju izvitoperenu sliku tržišta rada i koji ne mogu validno reflektovati čak ni neke od osnovnih pokazatelja kao što su stopa aktivnosti ili neformalni rad – primjećujem da se u posljednje vrijeme sve češće referira i na podatke Ankete o radnoj snazi kako bi se potkrijepile ovakve tvrdnje. Uglavnom se spomene „drastičan“ pad nezaposlenosti koji pokazuje Anketa.

Continue reading Nepodnošljiva lakoća prosperiteta: Šta zaboravljaju reći o trendovima tržišta rada u BiH?

Why policy advocates should pay more attention to data visualization?

This article was originally published on PolicyHub (September 12, 2017). 
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Digital age is characterized by growing challenge: how to ensure that the produced information reach intended audience, considering immense amount of information that are daily disseminated and circulating on the web? How to ensure that the information is properly decoded having in mind that information overload is narrowing our time for information processing and reducing our commitment to particular content? Decentralization (and democratization) of information and knowledge production, due to emergence of contemporary information and communication technologies (ICT), especially of the so-called new media — i.e. media that supports interactive, two-way and networked communication, such as social networks, blogs etc. — has resulted in ‘content explosion’. Every person with access to internet has the opportunity to create and share information. In that sense, contemporary ICT allows relatively simple, quick and cheap content creation.

Continue reading Why policy advocates should pay more attention to data visualization?

The challenge of telling good stories: how helpful is “data visualisation” for development practitioners?

Zenebe Uraguchi and I on the challenge of telling good stories:

In this blog post, we ask to what extent innovative communication forms and channels can help development practitioners to present content in a simple, easy-to-digest and time-saving manner. We discuss how data visualization, which is a form of communication that draws particular attention by representing data in a visual context, like a chart or a map, can enhance data-driven messages.

See more HERE.