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Regional Programme Youth and Work


Unemployment in Southeastern Europe is a major issue, especially for young people.


After the breakdown of the socialist state in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, most companies had to undergo fundamental structural changes. Many employees lost their job and trade unions lost their members due to the new market orientation of their companies. International investments grew slower than expected, mainly due to the previous reforms and the hesitant democratisation processes in Southeastern Europe. Unemployment in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegowina and Kosovo is accordingly high and ranges between 17% and 40%. The education systems in Southeastern Europe are insufficiently geared towards the challenges of the labour market. The transition from school to the working life is difficult and the integration of young people in the labour market is a challenge.

Thus, unemployment amongst young people is clearly higher than average. Many youngsters have no other possibility than to work in insecure job within the shadow economy that formed during the transition phase and refuses to give workers even fundamental labour rights.


Governmental measures against the informal economy are sparse and trade unions are campaigning to advert to the deficits but can’t take any other measures. In general, improvements for workers are achieved where an employer, the government and trade unions aspire to a common solution. While in Serbia a social dialogue, assisted and supported by Solidar Suisse, has been now established on different administrative levels, such initiatives are less advanced in Bosnia and have yet to be launched in Kosovo yet. Generally, young people are rarely integrated in the process of the social dialogue. The trade unions, as the driving force of the social dialogue, don’t grant their youth sections the possibility of participation which impairs their enthusiasm and ideas. Hence, in a competition themed ‘Youth and Work’ which was carried out by Solidar Suisse at the end of 2009, only youth organisations but no youth section of a trade union took part.


Initiatives of young people against their difficult situation on the labour market are central to the Solidar Suisse regional programme in Southeastern Europe. The programme started with a project competition in Autumn 2009. Five projects from each region (Bosnia and Herzegowina, Serbia, Kosovo) where chosen out of 30 projects in total. Professional advice and support was given to elaborate a 10 paged project proposal. On December 5th 2009, the award for the six best projects took place in Pristina. Since then, the six winners are supported by Solidar Suisse, the projects intend to better integrate young potential employees (for example graduates) into the working world.


In 2010, the six organisations successfully implemented their projects with themes such as integration of unprivileged young people or employment agencies. In 2011 and 2012 these pilot projects will be further developed and put into practice in local institutions. To talk about their experience as well as to get professional inputs, the six organisations from Bosnia and Herzegowina, Serbia, Kosovo have regular meetings. During a study trip at the end of 2011, they visited vocational schools, governmental placement services and a job fair which gave them an insight into the dual education system in Switzerland and the available offers for Swiss jobseeking young people.



Cyrill Rogger is Solidar Switzerland's desk officer for Southeastern Europe.