2.8 Current debates and reforms
The definition of “volunteering” implies work, effort, and commitment without being paid. The current economic situation in Bosnia, with high unemployment and low growth, may be one factor that discourages young people from volunteering, as their lack of financial resources places greater importance on paid positions. Furthermore, a lack of information and institutional support regarding these opportunities are additional factors that contribute to Bosnia’s underdeveloped culture of volunteerism.
Unemployment among young people in Bosnia is the highest in the region. According to the BiH Directorate for Economic Planning newsletter from 2017, 54% of young people are unemployed.
It is important to emphasise that Bosnia’s cultural lack of volunteerism is due not only to insufficient support from institutions, but also to unawareness of the positive effects of volunteering on young people. Academic institutions are not providing enough information to potential volunteers, nor are they emphasizing the importance of volunteering with regard to the cultural benefits.
Volunteerism not only benefits those seeking hands-on experience but also the host institutions, as they can then employ volunteers who have gained the specific skills required by their institution, through their voluntary experience.
Volunteerism can therefore enable individuals to display an ability to work successfully within a team, provide practical experience of situations requiring critical and analytical thinking, show proven flexibility and organizational skills and foster potential for innovation. These attributes may prove beneficial to applicants looking to secure paid employment in a high unemployment job market, whilst providing host institutions with passionate, dedicated individuals that can enhance their work in many ways. Further developing and encouraging a culture of volunteerism in BiH therefore appears to be a win-win situation.
Establishing the legal regulation for volunteering across all BiH territory would be a key condition for the encouragement of the development of volunteering, which is important for the development of the society in BiH. The newly proposed Law on Voluntary Activities organized by associations and foundations, churches and religious communities and institutions of BiH is a current initiative at the state level.