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Poverty in Kosovo is widespread, but inroads can be made

News Release No. 2005/5

Contact: Kostas Bakoyannis (381-38) 249-459 ext/ 103


boy in KosovoPRISTINA, September 27, 2005 – The World Bank today launched its Poverty Assessment, examining the true extent and nature of poverty in Kosovo. The report aims to contribute to the policy dialogue on poverty and to support the formulation of a home-grown, donor-supported, comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, which will be a key component of the forthcoming Kosovo Development Plan.


The World Bank’s Poverty Assessment says 37 percent of the population is classified as “poor”, living on less than €1.42 per day. 15 percent are below the extreme (food) poverty line of €0.93 per day.

However, income poverty is not spread evenly across all households  and individuals. Children, the elderly, female-headed households, the disabled, non-Serb ethnic minorities, the unemployed and precarious job holders are the groups most at risk. In particular, joblessness is an important cause of income poverty, as labor is usually the only valuable asset of the poor. However, inroads into reducing income poverty can be achieved. Poverty in Kosovo is shallow, meaning that the poor are close to the thresholds that classify them as such. These findings are based on the 2002 Household Budget Survey from the Statistical Office of Kosovo.


Kosovo faces an important policy challenge in the coming years,” says Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Representative in Kosovo. “This requires a strong commitment by government policymakers and their international partners to work together and implement policy programs that sustain and accelerate broad-based growth and thereby contribute to poverty reduction”.


 Presentation of the report
by Neil R. Bush

 Interested in Full Poverty
Assessment Report?


  Also available in:


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Poverty is multidimensional. Alongside income poverty, education and health outcomes need to be improved. There have been some positive signs – gross primary enrollment rates were 95.4 percent in 2003 and illiteracy 0.5 percent among children and youth. This compares to an adult population where only half have completed primary education and 6 percent are illiterate. Yet more needs to be done. Early child care (pre-school) is extremely limited and enrolment rates drop substantially at secondary school – being 75.2 percent in 2003. Furthermore, there is a persistent gender gap in terms of education. Also, the quality of education still remains a problem.

With insufficient space and classrooms (particularly in urban areas), children do not have a full-day’s education. Instead many schools operate on 3-4 shifts per day. In health, outcomes are among the worse in South East Europe. Infant mortality rates (18-44 per 1,000) are the highest in the region, with inadequate nutrition a persistent problem. Tuberculosis and disability are both major issues. Since 1986, 60 HIV/AIDS patients have been recorded, although there is no systematic surveillance system. Although on a small-scale, there remains a threat of a rapid spread as the level of youth knowledge on HIV/AIDS and safe sex practices is extremely low. Qualitative data also indicate that mental health problems are widespread, especially for young people.


There are large unmet needs in human capital,” says Alexandre Kolev, Task Manager for the Poverty Report. “These need to be reconciled with prudent fiscal management. There is also a clear need to improve the quality and access of the poor to education and to raise secondary enrollment, particularly in rural areas and for women. In health, there needs to be a real drive to improve the efficiency and equity of public health expenditures. Clear efforts are needed to reduce out-of-pocket health expenditures that disproportionately affect the poorest”.  

Environmental pollution and contamination is widespread and represents a serious hazard to health. Contamination of soil and foodstuff by heavy metal, particularly in Northern Kosovo is a particular cause for concern. Environmental problems mainly come from outdated mining practices and industrial infrastructure that ignored the impact on the environment, poor housing conditions, a low quality of basic infrastructure services, and weak environmental management systems.


The report also makes the linkages between poverty and security and empowerment of citizens (with its various ethnic, spatial and age-group dimensions). Personal security is an important component of the Standards for Kosovo, which stipulate that “all people should be able to travel, work and live in safety and without fear of attack, harassment or intimidation”. However, inter-ethnic tensions still remain. The problems of domestic violence (particularly against women) and trafficking in women and girls are also highlighted.

There have been some positive developments in the empowerment of citizens, such as the establishment of a legal framework promoting a democratic society and the rule of law, and the promotion of gender equality in formal state institutions, which has enabled greater representation of women in public life. However, key challenges remain, including the need for ethnic minorities and the youth of Kosovo to feel they have a stake in the decisions that affect their lives. The influence of women in decision-making also remains at stake. Corruption also needs to be rooted out.


Reducing vulnerability and empowering disadvantaged groups is an essential component of alleviating poverty,” says Kolev. “More responsive growth, better environmental management and increased awareness are needed to reduce environmental risks. Conflict prevention and peaceful conflict resolution could be pursued by measures such as promoting tolerance in the school curriculum. And through improvements in the efficiency and equity of social assistance, extreme poverty could be eradicated without additional costs if the system is targeted towards the extremely poor”.


For more information on the World Bank’s current support to Kosovo, including its analytical work on poverty, please consult the Bank’s website –

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