In an effort to stem the growing unemployment problem in the Balkans, several countries are implementing initiatives to help people find jobs.
By Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 05/02/13
Many initiatives aim to help those older than 50 gain employment. [AFP]
Although predictions are not positive for the future of the labour market opening up in the region, countries are adopting new laws and programmes to help put up a barrier against growing unemployment rates.
Serbia is facing a record-breaking unemployment rate of 28 percent. Estimates say that during the economic crisis, during the past three years, Serbia has lost 400,000 jobs and created about 200,000 new ones.
Brankica Jankovic, state secretary at the ministry of labour, employment and social policy, announced the adoption of a law on social entrepreneurship as one of the measures aimed at reducing unemployment. The draft law is being reviewed by parliament.
"The draft law envisages 80 percent of people employed in social companies being from the category of citizens difficult to employ," Jankovic told SETimes.
The law will give a chance to the citizens who have the most difficulty in getting a job -- those older than 50, long-time welfare users, single parents and those who are victims of prejudice due to addictions.
"The goal is to connect the National Employment Service and social centres, which would send users to train for social entrepreneurship and open their own companies," Jankovic said.
She said that the purpose of those companies is not to profit, but to provide a fund to open new social companies.
In Macedonia, where the unemployment rate hovers around 30 percent, a similar initiative is in place. Recently the government adopted a plan aimed at employment stimulation.
"The plan contains six measures for employment support which will be implemented through direct payments of the state budget. The budget for this programme is 7 million euros and the plan [will open] more than 2,000 new posts," Aleksandar Georgiev, a government spokesman, told SETimes.
The plan also envisages self-employment, or funding to establish a new business, and employment help for welfare recipients, addicts and those who need extra help.
Employers will receive 200 euros in financial support from the government for each newly employed person, and will be obligated to keep the persons employed for at least 18 months.
The unemployment rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was 44.1 percent in December 2012, and authorities are taking steps to reduce it.
"Through the programme First Work Experience, 500 people with a university degree and 500 people with secondary education will be employed in the Federation of BiH (FBiH), for the period of one year. This programme is planned for 2013," Kenan Reso, director of the Unemployment Service of FBiH, told SETimes.
BiH government agencies and NGOs initiated the Youth Employability and Retention Programme, which lasted from 2011 to 2012, and have since opened 16 centres throughout the country offering free courses in English and computer science, in addition to employment counseling.
"Thousands of young people have attended the programme, and more than 400 of them found a job after the training," Alma Sunje, one of the programme co-leaders from the International Office of Migration, told SETimes.
Although the initiatives and plans are in place, many regional citizens still feel that gaining employment is like winning the lottery.
Milica Dubic is 24 years old and is waiting for a job as a Serbian language teacher in an elementary school.
"One can only work at a school as a substitute or while one of the colleagues is on sick leave. It's sad that we have to wait in line for a colleague to fall ill so that we can work at least for a little while. Everything is uncertain," Milica told SETimes.
Correspondents Marina Stojanovska in Skopje and Drazen Remikovic in Banja Luka contributed to this report.