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News 09 Jun 17

Balkan Youngsters Demand Action on Jobs

With youth unemployment topping 50 per cent in some Balkan states, young delegates call for EU action on job creation at a regional conference.

Fatjona Mejdini
Illustrative picture by Ivana Dervishi/BIRN

Young people from the Western Balkans see the high level of unemployment as one of the most important challenges the region faces.

Gathered on Friday in Durres, western Albania, for a regional conference organised by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, they demanded more support from the European Union on creating jobs within Balkan countries and intensifying pressure on local officials to do so.

Natasa Celevska, a representative of the Youth Section of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, said the lack of jobs is forcing young Macedonians to leave for countries with stronger economies, such as Germany.

"High unemployment rates are a real problem and youngsters have started to look for them [jobs] elsewhere," she said.

According to 2016 statistics from the International Labour Organization, the youth unemployment rate topped 50 per cent in some Balkan states.

Bosnia-Hercegovina has the highest youth unemployment rate at a staggering 57.5 per cent, followed by Macedonia at 50.8 per cent and Serbia at 49.5 per cent. Albania’s youth unemployment rate of 29.2 is still high when compared to countries like Germany, where seven per cent of young people are without jobs.

Amer Osmic from the Faculty of Political Sciences in the University of Sarajevo told the conference that the education system in the Western Balkan needs root and branch reform to prepare young people for the job market.

He advocated for a dual education system that would allow for vocational training.

"We should, without losing any time, implement the dual education system that is very common in European countries with a lower rate of unemployment and which is focused more on practice and less on theory," he said.

Kejdi Mehmetaj, vice-chair of the Albanian Socialist Movement for Integration, also said that reforming the educational system is at the core of efforts to tackle unemployment in Albania.

Ajka Barucic from the Bosnian Institute for Youth Development, KULT, said other solutions to youth unemployment should include support for youth entrepreneurship, investment in education and science, raising social awareness and activism.

Knut Fleckenstein, a German politician, MEP and rapporteur for Albania said EU programmes often focus more on stability in the Western Balkan than on democratic reforms.

"We have to balance this component in order to play a successful role," he said.

However, Fleckenstein also advised the young people present at the conference that they should constantly challenge the system - and the older politicians in their countries - in order for demand and secure change for the better.


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