With an estimated population of 950,000 between the age of 15 and 29, young people represent about a quarter of the total population in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH). With a youth unemployment rate above 57%, BH maintains one of the highest rates of unemployment for young people in all of Europe, meaning that this group in society continues to face incredible economic and social barriers as they try to integrate into the country’s job markets.
Current economic trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina are having a particularly negative impact on the country’s youth. Many young people who complete vocational or tertiary education in BH are not able to find a job in a relevant profession, while many others turn to low quality jobs in the informal – or shadow – economy. Less than half of all employed people below the age of 29 manage to find work in a field in which they were educated – leading to a high rate of youth migration out of the country.
Recognizing the negative economic impacts this situation can have on BH, the World Bank recently teamed up with the Italian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation to support a program of small grants to youth Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This Active Youth Program worked to foster the social and economic empowerment of young people aged 15-25 in Bosnia and Herzegovina by supporting grants for innovative activities which address key challenges and opportunities for young people and strengthen mechanisms for the participation and inclusion of vulnerable youth.
“It is very difficult to find a job nowadays, especially if you are young and have no work experience,” says Vedrana Puzovic, an Active Youth Program participant who worked with a jewelry workshop for children with disabilities, adding that “participating in this project as a volunteer gave me the opportunity to work directly with children and gain some work experience. This will help me in my future work after finishing college, and, hopefully, help me find a job.”
The Active Youth Program provided €175,000 in grants to 37 youth organizations throughout the country. These organizations were chosen through a competitive selection process which focused on four core themes: (i) Youth employment; (ii) Disability; (iii) Youth Volunteerism and (iv) Juvenile Justice. The Mozaik Foundation, a leading actor in the youth field in BH, was chosen to administer this program.