During the last few years, the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in collaboration with its partners German Organisation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, achieved remarkable results with regard to the improvement of the status of young people – since 2013, the youth unemployment rate decreased 11%. During the conference dedicated to youth employment, held on 1 November in Madlenianum, Snežana Klašnja, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, stated that even though the youth unemployment rate had been lowered to 28.5%, that was still far from the targeted single digit number.
Despite the reduction of overall unemployment, the number of unemployed youth in Serbia is still high compared to the statistics from the EU Member States. According to the Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, 22.5% of the total number of unemployed persons are the ones aged between 15 and 29.
In order to improve the status of young people and create more diverse opportunities for their employment and self-employment in Serbia, the German Organisation for International Cooperation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, and the Government of the Republic of Serbia have been implementing projects for years. During the “National Dialogue for Youth Employment – New Approaches, New Challenges” conference held in Madlenianum, the participants had the opportunity to discuss different topics such as effects of received training, vocational retraining and additional training for occupations which are in high demand on the labour market, effects of the support to the development of entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, peer projects and initiatives, development of hubs and business incubators which provide a chance for young people to realise their business ideas, as well as system reforms, for example, introduction of elements of dual education into the education system.
During the opening ceremony, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, Mr. Zoran Đorđević, highlighted the importance of this topic for Serbian economy and society in general, adding that the Government of the Republic of Serbia is actively working on improving the employment and self-employment environment. “The largest number of unemployed youth has secondary or primary education, and insufficient skills and knowledge necessary for the modern economy. For this reason, we need to modernise our education system with the help of the economy for which we are preparing future employees. In addition, it is necessary to encourage the development of youth entrepreneurship which could become the pillar of our further development”, said Minister Đorđević on this occasion, and added that the IT sector was one of the fastest growing when it came to employment.
Nenad Popović, Minister for Innovation and Technological Development, also spoke about the importance of the IT sector and stated that one of the priorities for the future would be the development of female entrepreneurship.
Results of the Measures for Reducing Unemployment
Through the development cooperation with Germany, Serbia received over EUR 1.7 billion in investments, with one of the priority areas being youth employment. German Organisation for International Cooperation (GIZ), as the implementing partner of the German Development Cooperation, was engaged in the improvement of the status of young people through several projects: Professional Orientation, Vocational Education Reform, and Youth Employment Promotion.
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Serbia, H.E. Axel Dittmann, highlighted the importance of harmonising the economy with the needs of young people who are either in the process of education or in the transition between education and work. The Ambassador stated that the Government of the Republic of Serbia had been responsive to those ideas and that it approached the modernisation of the education system very seriously.
Ursula Läubli, the Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Serbia, agreed with previous speakers and added that the importance of the participation of the economy in projects such as these should not be forgotten.
Snežana Klašnja, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, presented the results which showed that mentioned projects and Government efforts had proven to be successful, for example, in 2013 youth unemployment rate in Serbia was 39.8%, and by 2016 it had dropped to 28.5%. “However, despite the 11% decrease, no one should be satisfied until the unemployment rate drops to a single digit number”, said Klašnja, and added that she hoped that future measures for reducing youth unemployment would be equally, if not more successful.
The documentary called “I choose to step up,” which followed the stories of young people, who succeeded in realising their professional potential, was played before the beginning of the first panel discussion, and it showed that young people are more than capable of taking advantage of the opportunities given to them.
One of the young professionals featured in the documentary was Maja Stojiljković. Even though she had a university law degree, in the absence of employment possibilities she decided to develop a beekeeping business. With the advisory and financial support of the Youth Employment Promotion project, she succeeded in developing her own business. During the “New models for youth employment: what works and how?” together with Zoja Kukić, who presented the development of the Startit Centre – organisation which provides support to start-up businesses, she encouraged young people to embrace entrepreneurial ventures. Dejan Mitić (Association for Local Development Kamenica) and experts Aleksandra Vladisavljević and Stanislava Vidović talked about the characteristics of young people which separate them for the senior representatives of the workforce who developed their skills in the age when there were no new technologies. They are technologically literate and devoted to their work, but there is still work to be done regarding the strengthening of the entrepreneurial spirit of this generation.
During the second panel called “Youth employability: from short-term to long-term solutions”, Bogdan Vasić (welding trainee), Goran Kostić (Alpha Plam), Vladimir Markinković (Sunce Marinković), Rajka Babić (Technical school Obrenovac), Marija Stojadinović (Business Development Centre Kragujevac), Bojana Mladenović, Head of Social Affairs, the City of Šabac (Local Action Plan for Employment) and Dragica Ivanović (Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs), everyone from their own point of view, explained the effects of the measures which have been implemented so far with regard to youth employment. Some of the measures referred to the collaboration of schools and businesses with the aim of providing practical knowledge to young people regarding professions which were in high demand on the labour market, and some of the measures presented the examples of good practice – how local self-government can do so much for the promotion of employment at the local level.
Two examples of good quality and well-implemented social initiatives were presented during the “National Dialogue for Youth Employment” conference. One is “LiceUlice” magazine which provides direct financial support to vulnerable groups, and the other example is the initiative for the employment of returnees from the asylum in the European Union. The overall conclusion of those who could be considered successful is generally the same – everything we imagine can be achieved with the adequate support and hard work.