The latest economic trends in the region indicate that Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia - the EU11 - are making strong economic headway and, with the exception of Croatia, have exited the recession brought on by the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. According to the latest EU11 Regular Economic Report, economic growth in the region is expected to nearly double in 2014 - from 1.4% in 2013 to 2.6% in 2014 - and will likely continue to strengthen into 2015.
Despite this positive trend, however, vulnerable population across the region remains exposed to ongoing economic hardships - impacting individuals and families in the region and creating long-term economic challenges across the region. Tackling high levels of youth unemployment and inactivity remains a key challenge for policymakers - the average unemployment rate for youth in the EU11 is over 26% - with rates as high as 33.7% in Slovakia and 49.7% in Croatia. More than 5.5 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of work around Europe, with more than 1 million of them from EU11 countries.
“Youth unemployment is a particularly difficult hurdle for these economies to overcome as populations are aging rapidly and often declining,” says Theo Thomas, Lead Economist at the World Bank and co-author of the latest report. “Policymakers in these countries need to perform a difficult balancing act – designing policies to increase labor participation rates among young people without excluding other vulnerable populations, such as the older workers.”