When the unemployment of young people rises to a total of 71 million worldwide, one must look at the focal points. With an average unemployment rate of young people of 37,6 percent (2017), the Western Balkans are for sure one of them.
The percentage of teenagers, who are neither employed, nor currently undergo an education or training (Teenagers in NEETS – neither employed, nor in education or training) is alarmingly high in this area. While within the EU around 11 percent of teenagers are NEETS, in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia an average of around 27 percent of teenagers are in NEET. Such is a recurring situation in emerging countries where despite of economic growth, young people are being left behind.
Our goal is to enable the transition of teenagers and young adults from school into work life in order to provide them the opportunity to shape their future on their own, as well as open space for developing their abilities and skills. The programme focuses on the promotion of a so called “Social Economy”, a social and sustainable economy. To achieve our goals, we have developed a regional approach with local partners and experts, to tackle the problem of unemployment of young people from different perspectives.
Already starting at school, but as well afterwards, we are supporting children, teens and young adults with targeted career counselling, (social work) companionship, case management, further trainings, internships, and much more. Innovative solutions, which are adjusted for the individual teenager, enable a qualitative and therefor sustainable development of perspectives and an improvement of career opportunities. With core elements like internships and the support in youth and social entrepreneurship, access to the labour market is being created, which does not exist in this manner to date, in the afore mentioned countries on the Western Balkans.
Furthermore, with common advocacy messages, lobbying, and the development of transregional strategies through the transregional cooperation between Caritas organisations on the Western Balkans, the program creates additional value that provides long term and sustainable solutions for the youth on site.
Teenagers in the region rarely get the chance to shape their future with their own interests and talents. Many do not even know which opportunities exist and which topics they might be interested in. Caritas is supporting young adults in the developments of their own perspectives by giving them the opportunity to get to know different career paths and discover their own interests. The inclusion of family, among other things, is also decisive for their success or failure. It is necessary to know if a teenager gets support from home while searching for a job or if the family is placing obstacles in his or her way. Often it is essential to explain the advantages of education to parents in order to open new opportunities for their children. Caritas accompanies the young people in their familiar surrounding and besides vocational orientation also offers them social work support. Through counselling, clarification of areas of interests and trainings Caritas supports teenagers locally in developing their own perspectives.
Within the vocational orientation it is being clarified, which areas of interest does the individual have and which abilities potentially need to be learned and practiced in order to be able to start a job. In the course of counselling, it can for example become clear that the mathematical knowledge needs to be updated or that a computer course could help, or that a monthly bus ticket needs to be purchased to commute to training institutions or to work. To provide young people the opportunity to find a working place in their region, Caritas also offers suitable courses or trainings. All that supports teenagers in finding their own path to a self-determined future.
The biggest problem unemployed teenagers are facing in the region is the missing work experience. In order to offer young adults the opportunity to apply what they have learned in a practical manner and thereby increase their chances in the labour market, Caritas is working hand in hand with local businesses and companies. Teenagers receive the opportunity to get to know day-to-day work and apply their knowledge. In doing so, they gain valuable experience on the employment market. With some skills and motivation, internships can also result in permanent positions.
Caritas’ holistic approach – including social work companionship, clarification of own interests, the opportunity of an education and/or work experience going hand in hand with transregional exchange – enables a sustainable, solution-oriented development according to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) 4 “Quality Education”, SDG 8 “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, SDG 10 “Reduced Inequalities” and SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals”.
Youth Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship are approaches, which have big potential in emerging countries and are therefore one of the programme’s core elements. In the process, social needs take precedence over (financial) profit of individuals. Caritas promotes motivated and ambitious teenagers and invests in their capacities and creativity. Maybe a young woman perceives that no opportunities for childcare exist in her village and that young mothers do not go to work because of that. There could be the right place for a socioeconomic business, in which community representatives and women from socially advantaged families would also be interested in. Or a young man realises that, next to the school, no healthy snacks are being offered for students and teachers – a small kiosk could help him earn an income and simultaneously help the children to learn better and get better nutrition.
Caritas’s experts in the area of socioeconomic businesses can help transform ideas like this into reality. The mediation in networks of experienced entrepreneurs, the access to financial support and networking with important local decision makers is essential in order to secure such small businesses sustainably. Thereby, teenagers get empowered to shape their life on their own and reach social goals despite social, economic and ecological challenges.
Different factors, which form a big challenge for the region, are triggering this issue: education systems that are not adjusted to the labour market, lack of opportunities to gain work experience, prejudice against minorities, gender inequality, emigration, high rates of undeclared work and corruption, just to name a few.
On the governmental side, unfortunately only insufficient measures are being taken to prevent unemployment, or to (re-)integrate unemployed people into the labour market. Mechanisms offered by the state are often largely inefficient, and jobseekers have little hope in these institutions. A weak economic situation, high rate of corruption and recurrent social and cultural norms further negatively influence the situation.