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Feature 05 Feb 18

Graduates in Kosovo Face Years Waiting for Work

Widespread cronyism and students’ unsuitable qualifications are among the key factors keeping the unemployment rate worryingly high in Kosovo.

Die Morina
Workers at a factory in Suhareka/ Suva Reka, Kosovo | Photo: BIRN

Albulena Zyba-Gashi, 32, has struggled for six years to find a proper job in Kosovo, and, despite high professional qualifications, has failed to get anywhere so far.

“I graduated with a master's degree in Security Sciences in 2012 but could never find a job that fitted my profile,” the disappointed woman told BIRN.

In the meantime, she has become a housewife and has decided to spend her time taking care of her two sons, relying on the financial help of her husband who is in work.

But she still misses a career. “I wake up every morning hoping that I will finally be able to get a job,” Zyba-Gashi adds.

Many Kosovars are in the same boat – and the situation is getting worse, not better.

According a recent survey on the labour force, published by Kosovo’s Agency for Statistics, in the first nine months of 2017 the unemployment rate rose by 2.9 per cent compared to last year.

The average jobless rate for the January to September period last year was 30.4 per cent, one of the highest in the Balkans. It also went up by almost 3 per cent compared to 2016.

For women, the situation is even worse. Official data say that in the third quarter of last year, some 38 per cent of women were jobless, compared with “only” 27.8 per cent of men.

Albulena Zyba-Gashi’s plight is relevant. “For four years I have been seeking a job at the basic court in Prizren and Rahovec, but I always get a negative answer,” she says.

Even when she applied for a no-pay internship in these courts the answer was always the same: “There is no free place yet, but you can try next year.”

“When I saw how difficult it was to find a job with my master’s degree, I thought I should try in a clinic, as I also finished medical school. But I could not get a job there, either,” she continues.

Among women in Kosovo, the unemployment rate is worst among the young, aged 15 to 24; some 53 per cent of them are jobless, according to statistics.

Shaban Xhemajli, 25, who studied in the European University of Tirana, is one of the lucky ones. He has a job, although it took four years to get one, in a private company.

“I studied economic information, finances and banks, but I could not find any job for years,” Xhemajli told BIRN.

“The employers did not even send me an answer explaining why I was not good enough for the jobs I’d applied for,” he added.

In addition to the high jobless rate in Kosovo, 23 per cent of those who are in work are in unstable, almost unpaid, jobs, the survey says.

That means they are either self-employed or working virtually for free in family businesses.

Other problems on the job market are the culture of rampant nepotism, especially when it comes to sought-after positions in public institutions.

One 40-year-old TV producer in Pristina, who did not want to publicize his name, told BIRN that despite having an excellent CV, he twice failed to get a job at the public broadcaster, RTK.

“I finished a master’s degree in Audio Production in London in 2012 with high grades,” he said.

“I applied twice for a post at RTK and am sure I was the best candidate. I saw others not even knowing the basic concepts of the profession,” he added.

But while applying for a post for a second time, he said RTK suddenly canceled the entire selection procedure.

Later, he was told unofficially that “a man has been selected for the post already …we are in Kosovo, it’s not like London here”.

The producer said he would never apply again for a position in a public institution in Kosovo, and luckily now has his own business.

Bekim Kabashi, a journalist and political analyst in Pristina, told BIRN that nepotism is one of the main factors skewing the job market in Kosovo, especially in state and public institutions.

Data from Public Pulse Brief, a survey conducted by UNDP Kosovo in October, which measured people’s perceptions of the most important issues in the country, confirmed this.

It showed that more than 65 per cent of people in Kosovo consider unemployment, corruption, and poverty the country’s biggest problems.

Asked about merit-based employment possibilities, the majority of respondents – 79 per cent – said they believed that family connections, bribes, party alliances, and other non-merit based factors are the key factors in gaining positions in the public sector.

In addition, the central administration is perceived as the most corrupt arena of all.

However, corruption and nepotism are not the only factors affecting the jobs market in Kosovo.

Many analysts also blame the high unemployment rate on the discrepancies between what the market needs and what it gets.

A large number of graduates in Kosovo are not adequately prepared for the modern job market.

As a result, more and more young people with unsuitable university degrees are ending up jobless or in low-skilled, low-paid work.

However, the government still has an incentive to encourage as many people as possible to go to university.

This is because, under Kosovo's statistical rules, students are not counted in the official unemployment rate.

“In Kosovo, there is a lack of analysis of the market’s needs and its compatibility with current university profiles, and this has a negative impact [on employment],” Kabashi says.

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