Only one in five young people in the Western Balkans has a job: UN report

Oct 12, 2016

Urgent measures needed to stimulate job market and train workforce, says UNDP’s regional Human Development Report

Belgrade, Serbia, 12 October -- With less than 20 percent of all young women and men holding a job, countries and territories in the Western Balkans should take urgent measures to promote employment and build skills among the workforce, says a report released here today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

According to UNDP’s regional Human Development Report, called Progress at Risk: Inequalities and Human Development in Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia, 61 percent of the total workforce in Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo* is either unemployed or inactive.

“The employment crisis is the single most prominent issue in the Western Balkans. How can you build opportunities and stronger communities when there are no job prospects for young people?” asked Ben Slay, Senior Advisor at UNDP for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The report also shows that specific groups, such as women, people with disabilities, migrants and people with HIV and AIDS are more likely to be excluded from the job market or to be paid less. Roma wages in 2011 were found to be 45-80 percent of the wages earned by non-Roma.

“It’s unthinkable. There is so much talent and energy in the Western Balkans. It’s imperative that governments, together with partners, find creative solutions to transform economies and create job opportunities for all,” he added.

The report calls for “whole-of-government” approaches to employment, in which responsibilities for implementing national employment strategies are clearly assigned to all relevant government bodies.

By reducing taxes on labor, for instance, governments will make it easier to hire and give more people a chance to get a job in the formal sector.

There are also encouraging trends, the report shows. For instance, the countries of the Western Balkans score much better than the rest of the region with the Gender Inequality Index, reflecting better reproductive health outcomes and women’s greater political visibility.

In addition, women’s enrolment rates in post-secondary education institutions are almost one and a half times that of men. If the sub-region can capitalize on these advantages, it will be in a much better position to promote equality, stronger economies and more cohesive societies.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, such measures successfully reduced the national unemployment rate from over 37 percent in 2005 to 25.5 percent in the third quarter of 2015. Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken important steps to diversify its economy and has become a hub for assembling automotive parts for European car companies.

The report also calls for “leaving no one behind” as countries endeavor to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It argues for stepping up social protection measures targeting the most vulnerable, eliminating discrimination and facilitating legal representation for those who do not have access to justice.

Further, the report calls for improving the ability of statistical offices to gather reliable and independent data on inequalities, but also to respond to the needs of vulnerable groups more effectively. Such efforts would require more extensive public administration and civil service reforms, the authors say.

*References to Kosovo on this website shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)

Contact information

In Belgrade, Stevan Vujasinovic, Communications Officer, Office: +381 11 2040 406 Mobile: +381 69 5547 069 stevan.vujasinovic@undp.org

In New York, Nicolas Douillet, Communications Specialist, UNDP Europe and CIS Nicolas.douillet@Undp.org +1 646 288 1200

In Brussels, Nora Kushti, Communications Officer, nora.kushti@undp.org +355 692 090 253

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