3.1 General context
According to the data of the International Labour Organization, employment rates remain low (40% for age 15-64, 2020) and unemployment is high (16% in Q3 2021), despite a downward trend in recent years, especially affecting youth (23% for age 15-24, 2020). The share of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) is equally high (22%, 2020). The country has one of the lowest female employment rates in the Balkans (37% in Q3 2021, age 15-64). The share of informal employment in total employment is relatively high (30%).
The outward migration coupled with a rapidly aging population put a strain on the social security systems, challenging their sustainability over the long-term. While the economy recovered faster than expected from the Covid-19 pandemic (GDP growth rate in 2020: -3.2%, in 2021: +4.5%, est.), the much-needed recovery of labour markets is lagging. According to ILO calculations, the country saw a decline in working hours of 7.4% in 2020 which is equivalent to 85,000 full time jobs. In 2021, the loss of working hours decreased but was still at 3.3% (equivalent to the loss of 37,000 full-time jobs).