Regional countries are subsidising temporary employment and paid internships to help young people find jobs.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 03/03/14
Enterprising young people, such as this pair in Sarajevo (above), used billboards in the past to attract employers' attention. The sign reads: "I am looking for a job!" [AFP]
Balkan countries are using a variety of methods to stimulate the job market for young people in hopes of providing long-term economic stability.
In Serbia, where youth unemployment exceeds 51 percent and the majority of those have no work experience, employers in 32 municipalities are encouraged to hire people younger than 30 for a period of two months.
The measure is part of USAID's youth employment programme in which the employees receive a salary that is 60 percent of the country's minimum gross salary.
After two months at the job, company owners decide whether they will offer the youth permanent employment.
"[It] offers us the opportunity to see whether the young worker is suitable for us after two months, while it also offers the youth the opportunity to obtain work experience," Radivoj Milisavljevic, a hotel owner in Soko Banja, told SETimes.
Milisavljevic hired a tourist guide and two waiters through the programme.
"This experience means a lot to me because I know I will remain at this job and in the future find another one more easily," Teodora Vlatkovic, who is working at the Soko Banja hotel as a tourist guide, told SETimes.
In Macedonia, the government subsidises training, internships and temporary employment.
Its First Chance programme aims to provide university educated people younger than 30 with work experience and an opportunity to get hired.
Officials said they expect nearly 200 people to secure jobs and about 320 to engage in paid internships this year.
"We encourage all unemployed young people to respond to the announcement," Dime Spasov, labour and social policy minister of Macedonia, told SETimes.
The measures are limited in scope but send a positive signal the government is serious in tackling youth unemployment more systematically, said Trajko Slaveski, a professor at the Economics Faculty in Skopje.
"Until recently, it seems youth unemployment was not recognised as a separate yet delicate problem in the context of the health of the economy," Slavevski told SETimes.
Similarly, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) government is implementing the First Work Experience programme.
The programme aims to enable people younger than 35 who have never been employed to get a chance to work in their profession.
As part of the programme, FBiH's employment agency teams up with interested employers, and they jointly subsidise jobs.
Employers, not the unemployed, apply in this programme, said Kenan Reso, director of the FBiH employment agency.
"The government co-finances employment for a period of six months for those with a high school diploma and for 12 months for those with a university degree. We can hire up to 2,400 people," Reso told SETimes.
The Croatian Employment Service began implementing the Guarantee for Youth programme last July, providing support to any person younger than 25 if unemployed four months after obtaining a university degree.
"Twenty-three different measures were created aimed to raise their competences and prepare young people for employment -- especially to strengthen the youth's involvement in entrepreneurship as well as civil society," the Croatian Employment Service told SETimes in a statement.
It extended support to those ages 25 to 29 because youths in that age group face significant problems finding employment in Croatia.
The measures that provide a greater inclusion of educated youth will reduce the pressure on households and increase financial stability in the region, said Saso Kozuharov, a professor at the University of Tourism and Management in Skopje.
"Guidance from significant actors from the profit and non-profit sectors will enable interaction of the youth's productive capacities, which are an impetus for a harmonised economic growth," Kozuharov told SETimes.
Correspondents Biljana Pekusic in Belgrade, Drazen Remikovic in Sarajevo and Kruno Kartus in Zagreb contributed to this report.
What additional measures can the Balkan countries undertake to reduce youth unemployment? Share your opinion in the comments section.