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FEATURE STORY

My Generation’s View: A Look at Youth Unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 2, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Unemployment among youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina hovered above 63% in 2012, leaving many young people to wonder about their future.
  • The Tackling Youth Unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Essay Contest, sponsored by IFC and the World Bank, and supported by the “Let’s Work” global partnership, asked participants to share their views on this challenge and offer potential solutions.
  • The six winners wrote about the problems they and their peers face and proposed possible solutions to the main drivers of youth unemployment – from educational reform to targeted advocacy.

Ajka Baručić is 25 years old and lives in Tuzla, a town 75 miles south of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital, Sarajevo. In May 2014, Ajka joined the team of a new Prime Minister for the Government of the Tuzla Canton where she works as an Advisor. Ajka, who holds a degree in economics and a Masters in Business, now has the opportunity to apply her knowledge in this new position.

In a country where unemployment approached 28% by the end of 2013 and youth unemployment topped 62% in 2012, getting a job is no small feat.

Getting a job in one’s actual field is almost miraculous.

“The problem of unemployment is a big challenge for my generation,” says Ajka, one of the co-authors - along with Lejla Ahmetagic - of a winning essay in a recent contest looking at youth unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “There are not so many opportunities for young people to get a job and the education system does not provide us with practical experience, so when we get to the labor market we only know the theory and not the practice.”

Marina Andrijević, one of the top five finalists in the contest, agrees.

“We can’t all expect to get jobs in [the areas] we were educated in. We have to face that. There is no way that 7,000 economists will find jobs in the next three years or so.”

Marina, 21, lives in Sarajevo and is about to graduate from university with a degree in economics. Marina has been able to secure an internship to help pave the transition from student to employee, but worries about what the future might hold.

“I’m not too optimistic about the future,” admits Marina, “this is one of the most important structural problems that is not easy to solve – especially in the short term.” 

Ajka Baručić reads from her winning essay at a park in Tuzla. "The education system does not provide us with practical experience, so when we get to the labor market we only know the theory and not the practice,” notes the 25 year old.

Open Quotes

Our generation knows how to fight and we deserve to be involved in making decisions for this country Close Quotes

Lejla Ahmetagic
1st place winner, Youth Essay Contest

The winners of the youth unemployment essay contest (left to right): Nera Herceglić(3rd place), Marina Andrijević (3rd place), Damir Kurtagić  (3rd place), Ajka Baručić (1st place), Lejla Ahmetagic (1st place) Enes Tinjić (2nd place).

Ajka and Marina are united in their concerns about the future. Both see their generation as being in a unique predicament – reared in a post-war country and struggling to thrive in a new economic reality unknown to their parents, teachers, and mentors. Both of them also decided to transform their ideas into action, joining more than 100 young people around the country in entering the Tackling Youth Unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina: My Generation’s View Youth Essay Contest.

The contest, which was jointly sponsored by IFC and the World Bank, and supported by the “Let’s Work” global partnership, asked interested participants to write an original 2,000 word essay that offered their perspective, focusing on the drivers of youth unemployment as well as specific recommendations on how to address these challenges. Recognizing that these young people are instrumental for the country’s future, this contest represented an opportunity to hear new ideas on policy reform and potential solutions to problems many of these young people will be addressing head on as the future leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On May 9, both Ajka and Marina joined Lejla AhmetagicEnes TinjićDamir Kurtagić, and Nera Herceglić in Sarajevo as the authors of the winning essays of the contest. Although each author presented their own, unique angle on the challenges of youth unemployment and proposed different solutions, many common themes emerged from all of the essays.  Each winner highlighted, in one way or another, a need to reform the country’s education system – particularly improving linkages between education and the skills needed to enter the labor market. Stimulating entrepreneurship and creating an economic environment conducive to growth and investment were also key actions recommended by the young authors.

Beyond the strong analysis of the country’s problems and the innovative solutions posed by these representatives of their generation, the common message that also emerges from their words is one of hope – hope for a better future, hope that some of their ideas take hold, and, above all, hope for a job to match their skills and education.

“I have optimism for the future,” says Lejla Ahmetagic, “but it involves hard work. Our generation knows how to fight and we deserve to be involved in making decisions for this country.”

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INFOGRAPHIC: Youth Unemployment in South East Europe

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