A process of belated, though speeded up social modernisation, i.e., industrialisation and urbanisation, was under way in Serbia after the Second World War, together with intensive deagrarisation and village-to-town migrations of its population. Demographic development was characterised by continued demographic transition, which had begun at the beginning of the 20th century and was resulting in decreasing mortality rates, increasing life expectancy, decreasing birth rates and disintegration of the big family households, the so-called hearths.
Following the post-war compensatory period, the modern low-fertility reproduction model was adopted in Vojvodina and Serbia proper and the impact of low birth rates and replacement indices was apparent already as of mid-20th century. The too low birth rates paralleled by the declining death rates resulted in a continuously declining natural growth, which was manifest as of the middle of the 20th century in Vojvodina and as of 1989 in Serbia Proper, where also a negative natural growth has been registered from 1992 onwards. The ageing of the population has progressed a lot in both of these regions, so that the Serbian population, the average age of which is upwards of 40 years, now ranks among the oldest in the world.
Furthermore, the tumultuous social movements in the nineteen-nineties (disintegration of the SFR of Yugoslavia, civil wars in the neighbourhood, UN Security Council sanctions, hyperinflation, NATO bombing, poverty) were also paralleled by big demographic changes: diminishing number of marriages and fertility, postponement of marriage, increasing number of illegitimate childbearing and increasing number of one-parent households (mother and a child in most cases). Moreover, the demographic development of Serbia was also characterised by risen population mobility, migration of highly educated people to the West and, particularly, big immigration waves consisting of refugees and displaced persons that came in consequence of the armed clashes taking place in Serbia’s neighbourhood and in the province of Kosovo and Metohija.
The mentioned demographic changes also led to changes in the composition of households.
The latest population census, which was conducted in 2002, showed that according to the characteristics of its households and families, Serbia is drawing close to the Central and East European countries, which are in advanced phases of post-socialist transformation and European integration. What they have in common is the diminishing universality and popularity of marriage, postponement of childbearing, decreasing birth rates and continued ageing tendency. These processes have caused the number of one-person, old people’s and one-parent families to increase.
Furthermore, the “melting away” of the differences in demographic development between Vojvodina and Serbia Proper has occurred in the latest inter-censal period.
In 2002, there were more than 2.5 million households in Serbia (excluding Kosovo & Metohija), which is by about 85% more than in 1948. Their number has been almost doubled in Serbia Proper and it had gone up by about 55% in Vojvodina. The increase in the number of households was paralleled by a decrease in their average size, again at a higher rate in Serbia Proper than in Vojvodina, so that nowadays, the average size of households in Serbia Proper and Vojvodina is practically the same (3.0 and 2.9 members respectively). The number of households with a small number of members (up to four) has increased and that of the households with a large number of members (five or more) has decreased. As a rule, the farm-possessing households have a somewhat larger number of members.
Family households make up the prevailing form of living together in Serbia and they account for more than three quarters of the total number of households, even though their number has been showing a tendency to decline, particularly as of 1991.
Besides the household size, the biggest changes were made in the age structure of household members. In consequence of low birth rates, as well as of the declining number of marriages, as much as 85% households had no children of pre-school age (up to 6 years) in 2002. The only increase is that in the number of households having members over 65 years of age.
The share of households having no economically active members in the total number of households has been almost quadrupled (from 7.6% to 28.3%) in the last four decades (1961-2002). In the same period, the number of households with one economically active member decreased and the number of those with two economically active members increased (from 26% to 32%), in consequence of higher educational attainment, as well as the risen female employment rate.
The methodology-related explanations in this article are followed by a presentation of the number and size of households in Serbia without Kosovo & Metohija in the 1948-2002 period; family composition of households in the 1961-2002 period; age structure of family members in 1991 and 2002; old people’s households; and economic characteristics of households (according to economic activity of members, in the 1961-2002 period, and according to possession and non-possession of farms, in the 1971-2002 period).
 About refugees and displaced persons, see: Yugoslav Survey, 1994, No. 2; 1997, Nos. 2 and 4; and 2000, No, 2.
Dr MIRJANA BOBIĆ, Docent, University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy
Reviewed by: Dr MILENA SPASOVSKI, Full Professor, University of Belgrade Faculty of Geography
Translated by: Milutin Dovijanić