Will Bartlett

Will Bartlett

Nationality: British

Lives in: London, UK and Belgrade, Serbia


Will Bartlett graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Economics in 1971 and from the University of London with a master’s degree in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 1972. He gained his PhD at the University of Liverpool in 1978 on the theme of unemployment and migration in the former Yugoslavia. From 1978 to 2009 he worked as a Lecturer, Reader, and Professor at the Universities of Southampton, Bath and Bristol where he taught Development Economics, Comparative Economic Systems, and the Economics of European Enlargement.

His research has focused on the social economics of labour markets, migration, education systems and skill mismatches, the performance of cooperatives and small firms, and the reform of health systems, all through the prism of institutional economics, theories of quasi-markets, and perspectives of political economy. He held a Research Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence from 1983-1986 where he carried out research on cooperative enterprises in southern Europe. From 1995 to 2004 he was Deputy Director of the Centre for Mediterranean Studies at the University of Bristol.

From 2009-2015 he was Senior Research Fellow at the LSEE Research Unit on South East Europe at LSE and Coordinator of the LSEE Research Network on Social Cohesion in South East Europe. He is the author of Europe’s Troubled Region: Economic Development, Institutional Reform and Social Welfare in the Western Balkans (Routledge, 2008), and numerous articles in refereed journals such as the Journal of Development Economics, Small Business Economics, Social Policy & Administration, International Journal of Health Planning & Management, European Journal of Education, European Planning Studies, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, and Southeast Europe and Black Sea Studies.

He has led or co-led four research projects funded by the UK ESRC, and has been involved in numerous other research projects funded by EU FP7, the Leverhulme Trust, the Rowntree Foundation, the King’s Fund, the British Academy and other funding bodies. He has carried out over forty consultancy projects for the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, European Training Foundation, OECD, UNDP, UNICEF and other international organisations.

He lives in London and Belgrade, and has in the past been a competitive swimmer. He is married and has five children.


Personal statement

I became interested in the issue of inequality after visiting Yugoslavia in the 1970s and observing a far more equal society than in the UK. As a student of development economics I was interested in the ways in which market systems could be combined with the social ownership of production to reconcile the potentially conflicting forces of efficiency and equity. The Yugoslav model of self-management socialism put this to the test. Indeed, international comparative research by development economists placed Yugoslavia among the group of middle-income countries with one of the most egalitarian income distributions.  Yet, critics suggested that the Yugoslav model had serious defects, including large intra-industry wage differentials (so one’s wage depended upon which firm one worked for rather than one’s performance or skill), and there were also high and persistent regional inequalities. Although Yugoslavia experienced rapid post-war industrialisation and growth, the 1980s saw a deterioration of macroeconomic performance, and tragically the regional income inequalities proved too great to enable the country to hold together. The wars of the 1990s led to the break-up of the state and the emergence of a handful of new countries, which began a programme of institutional reform designed to establish various forms of capitalism, each with different combinations of state and market elements. This evolution provides a fascinating laboratory for the study of the comparative economics of inequality in different varieties of capitalist economic systems. 


Broadly speaking, Slovenia has emerged as one of the most egalitarian countries in Europe, while Serbia has become one of the most unequal. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, as far as we can tell, have landed somewhere in between. A variety of factors may explain these differences. Firstly, the effects of war and conflict had differential effects on the pace and type of economic development, while differences in the process of privatisation also left their mark. Yugoslavia was a highly industrialised country, and the successor states experienced deindustrialisation and a rapid development of the services sectors as well as the grey economy. Relationships to global value chains have also differed, with Slovenia being far more integrated into global business networks than the other three countries. The countries have also experienced different degrees of integration into the European economic space (Slovenia became an EU member state in 2004, Croatia in 2013, Serbia is a candidate for EU membership while Bosnia and Herzegovina has lagged behind in this respect).


All these factors and others have led to a differences in the type of economic systems that have emerged since the break-up of Yugoslavia and despite a common heritage and the strength of path dependency, has led to a strong divergence in income inequalities among them. The aim of our team’s research project is to map these differences in income inequality among these four countries and to account for the factors that have led to them.