If BiH Were Currently in EU, It Would Champion in Unemployment

During the last 10 years the number of unemployed in the Federation of BiH increased for over 90 thousand. From 368.922 unemployed persons in the Federation of BiH, almost half of them are still looking for their first job.   

“The unemployment rate of youth in Croatia approached 40 percent and according to the data of Eurostat, it is the second highest unemployment rate of youth in Europe, ” as was reported by the media in the last year. Spain is the only country that superceeds our neighbours. However, Spain had quite an easy task in winning this “flattering champion’s title”, since it did not face its true competitor, the one and only champion in youth unemployment: Bosnia and Herzegovina. the unemployment rate of youth in our country exceeded 50% a long time ago.   

An Old Topic with No Attempted Resolutions

According to the official data from 2008, the percentage of unemployed youth in BiH was 58%. Even though the topic was significantly covered in writing, it deserves constant attention, for numerous reasons. First of all, it is a problem that youth themselves identified and defined in all the researches conducted so far. Their requirement for employment is always ahead of all other needs they have and problems they have to face: a poor educational system, housing problems, lack of adequate culture and sports activities, etc. “First give us bread and then games!”, and youth agree on this. 

The next reason why the topic is unavoidable is the absolute lack of vision in solving this problem by the government, that brings youth in a long-term unfavorable economic position and a painful uncertainty with no end in sight. In the Federation, the employment programmes are awarded this year with less than 1 BAM per an unemployed person: 360,000 BAM for almost 370,000 unemployed. In the RS, the most common form of activity in the area are apprentice hiring programmes for a certain period of time. In addition to formally acquiring working experience that made them an administratively competitive when applying for work, there is no greater effect from apprentice programmes. The misuse of the programmes is a special topic that deserves to be particularly investigated. Economic experts suggested that the strategies of youth employment should include youth entrepreneurship support initiatives, support to small firms led by youth, improvement of their knowledge and abilities that are requested at the market, providing grants and credits for costs of addtional education, etc. But, according to the popular saying: “What do economists know about economy!” 

Breaking the Laws, Breaking the Charters

The topic should be mentioned as an indicator for breaking laws and charters that regulate youth issues. It is alarming for the government to break the laws and expect the citizens to obey them. The authorities in general do not take youth-related topics seriously, and follow the same principle when it comes to youth laws, which they demonstrate by not implementing them. The European Social Charter, the basic document of the Council of Europe on social rights, that BiH ratified in 2008, is a dead letter in biH: from Article 1 – Right to Employment, over Provisions on Rights of Youth to Social, Legal and Economic Protection, to equal salary, professional training, etc.  

This topic has to be mentioned due to the fact that unemployment of youth certainly leads the society in disaster, in every way. Long-term unemployed youth become poor, and poverty is the main cause for their passiveness and social exclusion. The caused passiveness of youth leads to our society gaining long-term unnecessary generations that will not be able to initiate positive changes, participate in economic development, will be unable to start families, that will not participate in life-long learning and constant self-improvement. What kind of fate is determined for a society in which youth do not generate changes, in which they do not educate themselves, or create offspring? That society is headed for an old fate of a withering creature. 

Budget and Administration Injustice 

As previously mentioned, our country lacks solid youth employment programs. With that, it is quite normal that there are no budget funds for the purpose since there are no grounds for their planning. The budgets are the mirror of actual intentions of the government and indicators of the government’s focus. The allocated 78 million of budget funds for agriculture in the Federation is a clear indicator that the government is truly focused on agriculture. The 200 thousand BAM of Transfer for youth is a clear indicator that the government thinks 390 times more on agriculture than it does on youth.  

It is recession period so one might “turn a blind eye” and partly acknowledge the excuses of the government that they are having a difficult time acquiring funds for anything. However, the administration discrimination has no justification. When applying for a job, youth are demanded experience that they cannot acquire: the education system fails to offer practice and apprenticeship is reserved for a very small number of youth. Volunteering is not acknowledged as working experience. The Law on Employment of FBiH lost its marbles and created some type of a mutant: a volunteering apprentice, that is practically a conglomerate of two opposites. Volunteering is a voluntary unpaid socially benefitial engagement, while apprenticeship is obligatory work for acquiring institutionally acknowledged working experience. According to this Federal law definition, to volunteer as an apprentice is in fact to obligatorily volunteer, or to graduate and work voluntarily for a year for free, in order to be acknowledged with working experience. The intention was probably to avoid paying the apprentice during the apprenticeship, so a “volunteering tag” was added on – to work for free voluntarily. The new Law on Labour in the Federation, soon to be adopted, should correct this mistake and rename volunteering to free apprenticeship, as recently stated by the Government of FBiH. What might solve the problem of acquiring work experience in long-term would by adopting a law on volunteering of FBiH, that has also ebntered the parliamentary procedure of adopting. It provides for acknowledging volunteering as working experience and its adoption would terminate a decade-long discrimination that disables youth who apply for a job for the first time from fulfilling the basic criteria of employment. The Government of FBiH has not stated ye on the law on volunteering, and the law should soon reach the Parliament for adoption. If the law is adopted, it will be a concrete support to creating a better surroundings for youth employment.  

I Will Grow Never Knowing…

Usually a lot of time passes by from completion of schooling to acquiring first employment, which leads to bad mental state of youth, lack of confidence and even a loss of knowledge and acquired skills. In Netherlands, for example, where this problem was obviously recognised, the authorities are obliged to find a job for the graduate no later than 6 months after graduation Knowing that you study for nothing because you’ll forget what you have learned is pretty frustrating. After they forget what they have learned, youth find peace with the fact that they will (if luck serves them and they find employment) work outside of the domain in which they graduated – which is a bad compromise with oneself, that cannot satisfy anyone, neither the individual, nor the society. According to the recent results of a research conducted by the web-portal posao.ba, 54% of unemployed youth stated that they “could work outside their profession”, which shows that they accept the unnatural state of the labour market and that they accept anything by necessity.   

Unemployment in Figures

And now for some statistics. According to the data available at the website of Federal Employment Agency, in November 2011, in the Federation the number of unemployed reached 368,922 and significantly approached the number of employed of 442,021 for the same period. If we turn back for 10 years, in 2002, we will see that the situation has significantly worsened. In December 2002, the number of unemployed was 277,281 and the figure of employment was 404,690. So, the number of unemployed increased for 91,641 persons, and the number of employed for merely 37,331. The difference between the number of employed and unemployed was 127,409, and today it is 73,099. With this dynamics of un/employment, there is a great chance that the wo figures will equalise. If we consider the employment trend in the public administration, that did not decrease, regardless of the recession (FBiH Budget demonstrates taht there is a trend of rise in salaries for administrative expenses), we can conclude that the situation in the economic sector, the one that feeds the state, did not improve – newly employed are public consumers and not earners. 

An interesting statistics in the context of unemployment is that on FBiH bureaus there are 169,473 of those who are searching for their first job.  

Fall of BiH Society on the Scale of Needs

Lately there has been a lot of discussion regarding the downfall of BiH culture. The problem that the institutions of BiH culture are currently facing is not only financial and legally-political, it is a consequence of the general lack of interest of BiH citizens in culture. The Maslow’s scale of the hierarchy of needs might explain the lack of interest: culture is no longer on the priority lis in this society, since its basic biological and psychological needs are not satisfied. Economic stability is a precondition for a more serious development of science and culture. One has to “overcome the necessities in life”, as explained by Ibn Haldun in 14th century. Recently, in an evening information show of a respected Sarajevian TV channel an anchorman stated a presumably happy news: “BiH has its first women’s hockey team.” With all and due respect to all young enthusiasts that are trying to make a positive change in the BiH community, the information instantly reminded me of a cult sentence from our Oscar awarded movie: “Ouuuu, you should see the crap in Ruanda!” 

Youth first and foremost need employment. So they have said. 


Rusmir Pobri?,

Institute for Youth Development KULT


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