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EACEA National Policies Platform
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market

Last update: 28 September 2022

Based on the Study of Youth Employment in BiH, in the second quarter of 2019, the youth population aged 15-24 was estimated to be 287,900, of whom 98,400 had only a “low” level of education having completed compulsory primary education or less, and 177,100 had a “medium” level of education having completed upper secondary school or post-secondary nontertiary education. Relatively few members of this age group, just 12,500, had completed tertiary education. In 2019, the labour force participation rate (the activity rate) of the 15-24 age group was 35.4% (higher for men at 39.8% than for women at 29.9%). This was an improvement over the position in 2018 when 32.3% of the age group were active in the labour market. Among them, the activity rate for those with a high education level was 59.6%, while for those with a medium education level it was 47.5% and for those with only a low education it was just 6.3%. Thus, while there are relatively many young people with only a low level of education, few of them participate in the labour market.

In the second quarter of 2019, the youth labour force, either in work or seeking work comprised 101,900 young population aged 15-24 years, of whom 63,300 were young men and 38,500 were young women. In 2019, 10.7% of the labour force were youth in the age group 15-24. The great majority, more than three quarters (86.4%) of the young people in the labour force had a medium level of education, having completed upper secondary schooling. Of the 90,000 youth in this category, two thirds were young men and one third were young women. The same gender imbalance can be seen among the low educated, although there are far fewer of them overall. This implies that many more medium and low educated young women are inactive compared to young men. For the 6,500 youth with a high education the situation is reversed with more young women than young men in this segment of the labour force. This situation may be partly explained by the prevalence of traditional views of gender roles in the family, with less educated young women feeling under pressure to stay at home and shun work on the labour market. It suggests also that improving women’s education could be a powerful driver of female labour force participation, especially when combined with greater opportunities for part-time employment contracts as a first step (Abaz and Hadzic, 2020). Another factor explaining the low share of women in the labour force is the lack of publicly funded childcare facilities.

Employment rates are low, at 35.5% (varying from as low as 22.9% in BD, to 31.9% in FBiH and 42.2% in RS). The employment rate for young people is far lower than for the labour force in general. In 2019, the youth employment rate was just 23.4% (varying from 17.9% in the Brčko District of BiH, to 21.3% in the FBiH and 27.5% in RS). The youth employment rate increased by more than three percentage points over the three years from 2017-2019, up from 18.0% in 2017, and far below the overall employment rate of 54.7%, itself a low number. Research by Pilav-Velic (2019) and Okicic (2020) demonstrated that the training programmes provided by the Public Employment Service (PES) as well as paid internships have a statistically significant positive effect on the employment rate of young people. The implication is that youth employment policy should focus more on training and work experience measures which could also include work-based vocational training, dual education involving vocational schools and businesses training on job search methods and training for self-employment. The overall unemployment rate is high at 15.7% in 2019 (varying from 24.1% in the Brčko District of BiH, to 18.4% in FBiH and 11.7% in RS). The youth unemployment rate is significantly higher than the overall unemployment rate. In 2019, the youth unemployment rate (from 15 to 24 years of age) was 33.8% in BiH (varying from 48.7% in the Brčko District of BiH, to 39.0% in the FBiH and 23.8% in RS). This was substantially lower than it had been three years previously (in 2017 the youth unemployment rate had been 45.8%). This remarkable twelve percentage points fall in youth unemployment over a period of three years was quite an achievement, and although still high, it should be recognised that substantial progress has been made. Nevertheless, with a youth unemployment rate of 33.8% and with 21.6% neither in employment, nor in education or training (NEET), a policy focus is required on active labour market policies for young people and on developing their relevant skills for future employment. As with the labour market in general, there is a large gender difference in employment rates, at 27.4% for young men and 18.6% for young women in BiH as a whole, as well as in unemployment rates, which are 31.3% for young men and 37.9% for young women.

Unlike the countries of the EU, where, in 2012 alone, eight billion euros were earmarked as an incentive for youth employment, in the budgets of BiH institutions, including both its entities (FBiH and RS) and all 10 cantons, and BD, in the period from 2007 to 2010, only 14 million convertible marks (seven million euros) were set aside to improve the position of young people. This amount makes up barely 0.05% of the total budget, although it refers to one quarter of the people in the total population of this country. More specifically, the allocations barely reached "two convertible marks per young man's head". Only 10% of municipalities in this country have a youth officer, and despite the adopted legal obligations regarding youth care, only 47% of local communities (municipalities) have any strategy related to youth, although these strategies are mostly not conduct.

In BiH, competencies related to youth issues are in most cases (youth policies, youth laws, etc.) divided into several framework areas, which under responsibility of different levels of government and departments. At the state level, there is no legislation that explicitly addresses youth issues. Although it was necessary to draft the BiH Youth Policy after the formation of the Commission for Coordination of Youth Issues at the BiH level, this document has not yet been adopted.

In accordance with the existing legal regulations in BiH, active employment policies are implemented by:

  1. In FBiH – FBiH Employment Institute and cantonal employment services;
  2. In RS – RS Employment Institute, and
  3. In BD – BD Employment Institute.

The activities related to the coordination of mediation in the employment of BiH citizens in other countries, initiating the necessary activities with the entity employment services and the BD Employment Institute to organize and implement vocational guidance and education programs together with employers, trade unions, educational institutions and other associations for the purpose of greater employment and other forms of active employment policy, jointly performed by the BiH Labour and Employment Agency, the FBiH Employment Institute and cantonal employment services, the RS Employment Institute and the BD Employment Institute.

In 2021, the active employment policies planned by the FBiH Employment Agency for young people were:

  1. Employment co-financing program 2021;
  2. Self-employment co-financing program - Start up 2021;
  3. Training/Preparation for Work Program 2021 (hereinafter: programs).

The programs relate to support for the unemployed in finding employment, training/preparation for work, incentives for employment and self-employment (start-up), and the creation of new temporary jobs (mainly in the public sector or through so-called public works).

With the support of the Youth Employment Project in BiH (YEP), which was completed in early 2020, improved working models have been established in a number of municipal employment offices in FBiH. In 2021, the FBiH Employment Institute continued to coordinate the mechanisms and good practices established so far and helped in introducing customized models of work in employment services, as well as supporting the development of counselling and mediation in employment.

Also, in 2021, employee training continued (directly and online), based on the results of the Training Needs Analysis (TNA), and in cooperation with the ILO, the development of a web portal for career guidance and an internal portal for employee education was planned by the Federal Employment Agency and cantonal employment services.

When it comes to RS, the RS Employment Action Plan 2020 defines 20 measures, six employment programs, stakeholders, target groups, performance indicators, time frame and amount of funds with sources of funding needed for each individual measure and activity. The value of the Employment Action Plan in 2020 amounted to 16,901,413.30 KM, and it was planned to employ about 3,322 people through the employment program. Considering that the first employments under the programs were mostly implemented in 2020, the activities on the implementation and monitoring of the programs continued in 2021 as well.

In 2020, the Program of Support to Employment of Youth with Higher Education and Secondary Education in the Status of Trainees was implemented in RS. The value of the Program is 6,035,816.00 KM. The expected effects of the Program were reflected in the training of 888 young people and professionals with higher education and secondary education for independent work in the profession. The required funds for 2021 amount to 4,818,648.12 KM.

Within the European Training Foundation Project (ETF) "Education System and Labour Market Reform", significant activities have been implemented so far to improve the survey methodology and tools for labour market analysis, and the acquisition of a license for statistical software STATAs was made to increase data quality. When it comes to this project, activities are focused on youth employment and, in this regard, a series of online events were organized on "Youth Entrepreneurship in Southeast Europe and Turkey", "Evidence-based policy making with a focus on young people's transition from school to work, skills development and social integration”, “Prioritizing Employment in BiH: Learning from the Case Studies of EU Member States”, and the continuation of these and similar activities is expected.

Activation and promotion of employability of job seekers through the development of skills for active job search continued in 2021 through the work of the Centers for Information, Counselling and Training (CISO) and Job Clubs.

The Centres for Information, Counselling and Training provide young unemployed persons and long-term unemployed persons with counselling, information and training services for active job search with the aim of finding employment faster, through individual and group work. The goal is to improve the employability of job seekers through the development of active job search skills.

In RS Youth Policy 2016-2020 the first strategic goals are defined in terms of this five operational objectives:

  1. Ensured greater connection of the education system with the labour market;
  2. Development of culture and ethics of the work;
  3. Provided a stimulating, professional and business environment for young people;
  4. Increased educational, professional and spatial mobility of young people;
  5. Assistance provided to young people when buying or building a housing unit with employment opportunities.

When it comes to the Brcko District of BiH, the Government of the Brcko District of BiH worked on the Employment Program of unemployed persons from the category of hard-to-employ with active evidence of the Employment Bureau of the Brcko District of BiH, in which, among other things, the target group was young. This program is generally expected to cover about 130 people from certain groups with incomplete records, and allocation of 1,000,000.00 KM is planned for this program.

In the field of youth employment at the level of BiH within the BiH Council of Ministers, the competent department is in the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs (Department of Labour, Employment, Social Welfare and Pensions). The BiH Labour and Employment Agency also plays an important role in formulating policies at the state level in the field of youth employment. The Agency, among other things, monitors the application of international standards and policies in the field of employment and in cooperation with the Entity Employment Institutes and the Employment Institute of BD participates in their implementation, and coordinates activities in domestic and international employment projects. The Commission for Coordination of Youth Issues in BiH, together with the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, performs a coordinating role in youth issues, in this case in the field of employment. The BiH Directorate for Economic Planning also has a significant role in the analysis, formation, coordination and monitoring of measures against unemployment, development policy and social inclusion policy of all social categories.

The basic legal norm that regulates youth issues at the FBiH level is the FBiH Youth Law, which addresses a number of key issues for young people, including employment issues. Competences in this domain in FBiH are primarily with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, within which the Department of Labour and Employment operates, as well as the Unit for the implementation of projects of socio-economic support, training and re-employment. Within its competencies and according to the provisions of the FBiH Youth Law, this Ministry deals with the challenges and issues of young people, especially when it comes to employment and social protection. In addition to the Ministry at the entity level, cantonal ministries of labour, as well as cantonal employment agencies and institutes play an important role in implementing employment policies. At the local level, the policy is implemented by employment services.

When it comes to measures and programs of youth employment in FBiH defined in the FBiH Youth Law, the FBiH Government undertakes to define and establish federal grants and transfers through the competent ministries to support youth employment and young entrepreneurs, and especially young people without work experience.

In the field of youth employment in RS, an important role is played by the RS Ministry of Education and Culture together with the RS Employment Bureau. The same ministry, in co-operation with the RS Youth Council and trade unions, aims to stimulate employers to hire pupils and students for traineeships. According to the RS Youth Policy 2010-2015, the RS Employment Service and the RS Ministry of Labour and Veterans' Affairs implement programs for financing and co-financing the employment of trainees and volunteers and financing the part-time employment of young people. The competence of these two institutions, in cooperation with the RS Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry, is also the implementation of training and additional training programs for unemployed young people in order to find employment and self-employment in agriculture. A very important institutional actor in the field of youth employment is the RS Investment and Development Bank (IRBRS). The IRBRS co-finances youth employment through loans or grants to start agricultural businesses. Within its activities, the RS Institute for Adult Education stimulates the enrolment of unqualified persons for additional training and further education according to the needs of the labour market.

The Employment Institute in BD is an institution that deals, among other things, with youth employment issues. According to the BD Youth Law, competent bodies, institutions and other legal entities, in cooperation with the Youth Council, develop and implement programs in the field of employment.

Flexicurity measures focusing on young people

Occupational safety and health issues are defined by the FBiH Law on Occupational Safety, the RS Law on Occupational Safety and Health and the BD Law on Occupational Safety. All laws apply to employed people in general and none puts a direct focus on young people.

Reconciliation of private and working life for young people

Reconciliation of private and working life for young people is not specifically mentioned in any law or legal act in BiH. As with the previous question, this section is more about employee rights in general than the focus specifically on young people. Among other things, this issue is defined by the FBiH Labour Law, the RS Labour Law and the BD Labour Law, through various measures of women's and family rights during employment.

Funding of existing schemes / initiatives

Sources of financing for employment activities are primarily approved budgets of institutions that implement these activities, with additional funds provided through projects financed from foreign loans and donations and funds from the budgets of the entity governments and the BD Government to support the implementation of active labour market programs.