In Kosovo: Helping Young People Join Society
August 15, 2013
Kosovo is the country with the youngest population in Europe. More than 70 percent of its people are under the age of 35, and economists estimate that nearly 30 percent of its people who are able to work live below the national poverty line. The highest rates of poverty are found among the unemployed – and the unemployment rate in Kosovo in 2012 was 30.9 percent.
Erëza Vela Berisha started her public relations business less than a year ago. Thanks to hard work and some financial support from the World Bank, she has managed to keep herself working in a country with an unemployment rate of over 60 percent among its young people.
“The award of this grant was a huge boost for me, as it helped me a lot in business,” says Berisha, referring to a Tools and Equipment Grant she got from the Kosovo Youth Development Project.
“When you open a business, any little help you can get at the beginning is a big contribution,” she adds pointing out to the still uneasy business environment of Kosovo. She also feels that being a woman does not make things any easier, as businesswomen are rare in Kosovo. According to the latest research, over 44 percent of working-age women in Kosovo are unemployed, that’s compared to 32 percent of the men.
When you open a business, any little help you can get at the beginning is a big contribution. It is an achievement to get employed at this age. I know many people who have completed their studies but could not find a job.
Berisha applied for an equipment grant for young business people and got a photocopier, a scanner, a printer, a laptop, and a desktop computer. She was able to avoid indebting herself at commercial banks for this basic office equipment.
Now, almost a year later, Berisha has five full-time staffers. Delvina Haxhijaha, a recent graduate, is one of them.
“It is an achievement to get employed at this age. I know many people who have completed their studies but could not find a job, although they have tried and applied for many jobs. I think this is a serious problem since we are a country with a lot of young people,” said Haxhijaha.
Berisha is one of the 93 young people who got a ‘Tools Grant’ from the Second Kosovo Youth Development Project, funded by the World Bank. These young entrepreneurs received equipment ranging from air compressors and sewing machines, to printers and scanners, to computers for web design and tools for welding. The project has also awarded 198 business startup grants to young entrepreneurs with bright ideas. ‘Tools Grant’ applicants were required to be young businesses with creative and realistic business ideas, and need to show proof that they have training or experience in using the tools or the equipment they have requested from the project.
29-year old Liridon Emini used his grant money for a professional painting air compressor and an air drier for his woodwork shop, where he makes furniture. The new machines have improved the quality of his work and the efficiency of his workplace. He and his partner are seeing a rise in demand for their furniture.
“We had a smaller compressor, and when we used to paint the furniture the paint would come out uneven. Now this is a bigger capacity professional compressor so you can paint nonstop,” said Emini.
He explains the shop needs two more workers besides him and his partner, but they have difficulty finding candidates with experience or with the willingness to listen and learn.
With this project we will reduce unemployment, and young people will be given new opportunities to open their businesses.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport oversees the grant project. The Project Coordinator says youth unemployment presents a big economic and social challenge for Kosovo. He points out that over 20,000 young people join the labor market every year. This makes the project very important.
Financial support for young entrepreneurs is only one of the components of the project, which is supported by the World Bank with US$2 million. Over 800 young people in Kosovo got vocational and entrepreneurship training as part of this project. In addition, over 300 young people got apprenticeships, some of whom also got a job as a result.
Ismet Jashari is one of those young people. He learned about the apprenticeship vacancy from a newspaper ad. He was selected to help with supply management and inventory in one of the largest supermarket chains in Pristina. After one month, he was offered a full-time job, moving from apprentice to employee.
“They liked my work and decided to employ me,” said Jashari, explaining he supports his law studies and his family with this salary.
The current project is the second World Bank-financed youth development project in Kosovo. It is scheduled to be completed in March 2014, but the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports is hoping to be able to continue providing financial support to young entrepreneurs.
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