Balkan countries struggle to decrease unemployment rates

11/12/2013

As high unemployment rates negatively affect almost all segments of society, regional officials are trying to find the way to reduce the numbers.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 11/12/13

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Serbia's unemployment rate stands at 27 percent. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

In Croatia, which has a 17 percent unemployment rate, almost 1,000 people lose their jobs daily. The rate is far above the EU average of 12 percent.

The government is launching a programme in January to combat the high rates.

Guarantee for Youth, which is funded by the EU, aims to secure jobs within six months for youths who register themselves with the state employment agency.

"Through this progammme, I found a job in a private marketing company. I am working for almost three months now, and I'm quite satisfied with the salary," Tonci Prkacin, a 25-year-old Dubrovnik resident who graduated from the Faculty of Political Science in Zagreb, told SETimes.

Officials said the EU will allocate 544 million euros for Croatia's employment projects through 2020.

''We are working on a strategy for social entrepreneurship for 2014-2020. The aim of the strategy is to create an environment for the development of social entrepreneurship in the following areas: institutional and legislative framework, the availability of financial capital, education and visibility. Special attention will be paid monitoring and scientific research sectors,'' Krunoslav Vidic, spokesman for the ministry of labour and pension system, told SETimes.

Croatia is not the only country in the region with a high unemployment rate.

In November, Montenegro's jobless rate stood at about 15 percent.

The economic crisis has generally brought lower economic growth, Montenegro officials said, but the state is trying to increase the employment rate. Supporting self-employment and increasing the quality of education are some of the measures outlined by the country's 2012-2015 strategy for employment.

Marko Nikolic received 7,000 euros from the state to expand his cherry production business.

"I now have over 600 trees of this fruit, which is almost double what it was two years ago. The government formed a state company that purchases products from us, farmers, and therefore I will not have a problem to sell the fruits. So, it's a pure earning. You just need to work," Nikolic told SETimes.

For next year, Montenegro allocated 1.5 million euros of subventions in this area, which is 30 percent more than last year.

Last year, the European Commission approved a 6.5 million euro loan to Montenegro for the Development of Human Resources project, which aims to reduce the country's unemployment rate.

''This will involve the development of an effective labour market policy, the improvement of skills, knowledge and competencies for employability and competitiveness and the improvement social inclusion. The government will also subsidise employers to hire vulnerable social groups," Arijana Nikolic Vucinic, director of the state directorate for labour market and employment, told SETimes.

In order to combat its 27 percent unemployment rate, Serbia also has turned to EU-funded strategies and programmes.

Officials adopted the National Employment Strategy for 2011-2020, among other action plans.

According to the strategy, Serbian authorities are focusing on the inclusion of young people with disabilities, Roma, persons with no or low education, people who lose their jobs as a result of privatisation or restructuring and long-term unemployed, into the labour market.

Serbia is currently implementing a project that aims to speed up labour market reforms in accordance with EU standards.

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"This includes training employees in institutions and preparing the administration for further co-operation with the EU, as well as the creation of an employment policy at the local level. When it comes to employment strategy, special emphasis is placed on a decentralisation policy. We are doing all this in order to prepare this sector for the process of accession of Serbia to the EU," Jasna Popovic Cosic, spokesperson of the ministry of labour and social policy of Serbia, told SETimes.

Of all the Balkan countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina has the highest unemployment rate, at nearly 50 percent, and the state faces criticism for ignoring the issue.

''All they do is talk. Very little of their efforts can be seen on the field. There are no concrete results. People get laid off every day. I know that in Western countries it is no better, but they need to work harder for us. That's why we elected them," Milija Janjic, a construction worker from Sarajevo, told SETimes.

What would you like to see your country do in order to reduce unemployment? Tell us your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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