3.1 General context
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The youth unemployment rate in Slovenia has increased considerably over the past 15 years, especially during the economic crisis between 2007 and 2013. In 2008, when the crisis began, the Employment Service of Slovenia (ESS) registered 18,223 unemployed persons aged between 15 and 29. In the first year of the crisis, the number of unemployed youth increased by 50.5% to 27,424 persons. From 2008 to 2013, the number of employed young people decreased by 34.9%, from more than 161,000 to 105,000. In 2013, the unemployment rate among youth (15–24 years old) in Slovenia was 21.6%, which was below the EU average of 23.5%. However, the increase in the youth unemployment rate was greater in Slovenia than in the EU as a whole, suggesting that youth unemployment is a relatively more pressing issue in Slovenia.
Youth unemployment had been gradually declining from 2013 to 2016 and again from 2017 to 2019. According to the ESS, in September 2016, the number of registered unemployed persons was 41.8% lower (18,919) than at the end of 2013 (32,523), which delievered the highest number of registered unemployed youth. Similarly, the youth unemployment rate fell by almost 40% in the same period: from 33.8% in December 2013 to 19.7% in August 2016. The registered unemployment rate among young people aged 25–29 years in the same period decreased by 32%, from 19.9% to 13.5%. The percentage of unemployed youth in 2009 was 28%, decreasing to 23% in 2012 and 20% in August 2016. The statistics show an increase in the percentage of unemployed youth in 2017 when there was 26.9% of registered unemployed persons aged between 15 and 29 years. Statistics also indicate that since then young people’s employment situation had been again improving until 2019 when there were 22.9% of registered unemployed persons in this age group. In 2020 the unemployment of youth again increased to 27.9%, which is comparable to the percentage of registered unemployed persons in this age group in the year 2017. With currently more than one forth of young people in Slovenia being registered as unemployed, this group remains one of the most vulnerable groups in the labour market.
Obviously, the changes in youth unemployment are also reflected in youth employment. The number of employed youth has been decreasing over the last decade. According to Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (SURS), there were 110,126 economically active youth in 2016, which is 3.9% more than in the previous year. In 2017 there were 115,992 economically active youths, with this number increasing even more in 2018 (122,275) and in 2019 (127.922). From 2015 to 2019 the number of economically active youth increased for 20.7%. Young people in Slovenia usually enter the labour market after concluding their education, and thus the majority of young people actively start seeking a job after the age of 20, especially in the latter half of their 20s. In 2015 there were 51,000 employed youth aged between 15 and 24, with this number increasing to 63,000 in 2018 and then slightly decreasing to 60,000 in 2019. Much higher employment rate is evident in the age group 25-34 years. In 2015 there were 197,000 employed persons from this age group, which is also the highest number in the past five years. The number of employed persons that belong to this age group decreased to 189,000 in 2018 and then slightly increased again to 193,000 in 2019.
The number of young people employed part-time has also gradually risen since 2000. In Slovenia, traditional forms of permanent employment have increasingly been replaced by less secure and more flexible forms of employment. Compared to 2005, in order to increase their employment options, young people were significantly more prepared for geographical mobility and more willing to accept temporary employment in 2010. In 2013, the proportion of temporary employees aged 15–24 in Slovenia (58.5%) and those that were working part-time (42.5%) exceeded that of the same group in the EU as a whole (EU-27), where the percentage of temporary employed in this age group was 45.8% and those working part-time 30.0%. The percentage of temporary employed increased heavily in Slovenia by 2016 when there was 66.3% of such persons (EU-27 average: 47.8%) and then decreased to 56.6% in 2019 (EU-27 average: 46.9%). Part-time employment of this age group in Slovenia has been slightly decreasing since 2013, being 36.7% in 2016 (EU-27 average: 30.9%) and 31.1% in 2019 (EU-27 average for the first time being a bit higher than in Slovenia: 31.6%). Permanent employment is within reach only for a small minority, while the majority likely faces unemployment and career casualisation. Compared to the average of the Slovenian labour force, young people are still more flexible in terms of employment and more willing to accept short-term employment or jobs that did not fit their career goals. Because of this, young people are, on average, unemployed for shorter periods than the rest of the unemployed population.
Student labour is the most common form of flexible youth employment. In 2013, on average, students worked 26.3 hours per week, which is more than half the average number of hours per week (41.5) worked by formally employed youth. According to the Eurostudent VI (2016-2018) study a Slovenian student spends 14 hours per week working in paid jobs, which is 2 hours more than an average student from all 28 participating European countries. Together with the other two types of employment (part-time and self-employment), flexible forms of employment comprise the overwhelming majority of officially recognised work done by young people. As follow-ups to 2013 labour market reform, a number of measures were adopted in order to address the tendency to use other forms of work (author contract; the establishment of sole proprietor) when employment is terminated, such as the policy regulating student work that entered into force on 1 February 2015.
According to the study Slovenian Youth 2013 , ‘another dimension of workforce flexibility results from the level of preparedness and ability to work in different kinds of jobs’. In 2013, only 25% of employed young people worked within their desired field. Even if student workers are excluded, it appears that the majority of employed young people perform jobs that they were not formally educated to do. In 2013, approximately 58% of employed graduates worked within their profession; however, due to a lack of employment opportunities, many graduates were ready to take any job (‘anything’), similar to the way in which young people are willing to take various actions in order to reduce the risk of unemployment. According to the study Slovenian Youth 2018/2019, fear of unemployment among young people has almost doubled since 2000. In 2018/2019, 40% of young people believed it would be difficult or very difficult to find employment after finishing education. This percentage increased for almost 5% since 2013, in spite of steady decrease of unemployment among young people since then until 2019. Work possibilities in 2020 are again seriously limited, and even blocked, by the ever-increasing instability of employment which is currently also caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2014 and 2015, 36 instruments were used by the government in order to improve the transition from education to employment and reduce youth unemployment. For the period from 2016 to 2017, instruments developed by different ministries were combined into 15 main measures, some of which are new and some of which were used previously. In 2018 the government introduced new measures that were focused on promoting entrepreneurship among young people in order to reduce their unemployment. The measures had been continuing throughout 2019.
In Slovenia, many young people enrol in tertiary education and enter the labour market late; most do not start to actively search for employment until the second half of their 20s. In light of the recent developments in the labour market, one can argue that including people up to 29 years of age improved the situation of youth in the labour market since youth unemployment was rapidly increasing.
Slovenia is facing significant demographic changes. The proportion of young people (15–29 years) is decreasing, and the average age is increasing. Approximately half of all young people are in the education system, and about one third are employed. Future demographic changes and the ageing of the Slovene population will have a significant impact on the labour market.
The most important definitions of youth employment and entrepreneurship were introduced in the Labour Market Regulation Act (Zakon o urejanju trga dela). The Slovenian government decided to extend theYouth Guarantee (YG) to persons up to 29 years of age, although the EU YG still includes only 15–24 year olds, though the proposal of extending age limit to 29 years of age in all EU countries was presented by the EC in July 2020.
The main goal of the active employment policy (Aktivna politika zaposlovanja) is the “flexicurity” concept, which tries to enhance both flexibility and security in the labour market. The purpose of flexibility as a measure is to help improve the socio-economic situation of young people with enabling faster and easier transition of young people from the education system to the labor market.