Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Future to bring decrease in unemployment or in youth rate?

EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

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Bosnia and Herzegovina as a country of bright future for all of its citizens may sound like utopia, but that does not have to be an imaginary society at all. The reforms that would lead the country and its citizens towards such positive future are clearly defined and await implementation by the authorities. Part of them has already been implemented. 

Author: Ajla Omerhodzic

According to Centers for Civic Initiatives (CCI), 67% of the Reform Agenda - an agenda for reforms on the European integration path - have been completed in BiH in the last four years. However, CCI assessed that, in practice, citizens’ standards of living have not significantly improved. The situation with what lies ahead of the country seems unclear at the moment - just after the end of a one-month general elections campaign, during which rhetoric tends to be harsher, ethnic-oriented or merely meaningless. Domestic NGOs and the academic community warned that the campaign generally lacked mentioning of issues that are of real importance for the citizens, i.e. issues that would actually secure a brighter future for them. At the moment, numerous citizens, predominantly youth and educated workforce, see their future outside BiH, since the country currently does not stand a chance in terms of job opportunities in comparison to the United States and the European Union member states. Youth just wants to graduate and leave. Some of them even want to continue their education somewhere out there, in the countries that offer them future. They face doubts and questions as to whether they have something worth staying in their homeland. With radical changes to the system, there is, but the changes require committed future authorities.

NOTICE: Due to current economic situation, light at the end of the tunnel is off?!?

According to the latest report of ‘Trading Economics’ on the unemployment rate, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks second on the global level and first in Europe based on the number of unemployed citizens. One of the reasons for such statistics lies in departure of capable workforce, moving away to live and work abroad. The European Commission’s 2018 report on BiH specified that the employment situation has in fact slightly improved, although the labor market participation is low in general. “During 2017, the labor market benefited from stable output growth, active labor market measures and steps to reduce the informal economy. Registered employment was on average 3.1 % higher in 2017 than a year before. The registered unemployment has dropped by 6.9 %, compared to a decline by 3.9 % the year before. This implies a decline in the labor force, but also a reduction in the registered unemployment rate to 38.7 %”, reads the report.

Social unrests were raging the country in February 2014, ahead of the previous general elections, and mostly older generations were fighting for what they said was ‘the future of this country’s youth’. According to this, some may conclude that young people do not want to fight. Nevertheless, most of them simply could not come to protests because they were too busy looking for a job or are somewhere doing their part-time jobs in the field that they are not formally educated in, for lower salaries compared to their university degrees’ potential. The problem is in the system. In spite of the anti-corruption measures that the international community constantly urges the authorities to implement into all fields in BiH, corruption is widely present in all aspects of the society, including jobs. As a matter of fact, BiH ranks 91st out of 180 countries on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Indexes for 2017. Tackling the issue of corruption would, as a result, have positive effects on increase in the employment rate. Nonetheless, the domestic political leaders were too busy with their pre-election campaign lately, yet substantial changes are absolutely necessary.

Is there a future after October?

The future authorities are expected to refrain from politicking and to focus on reforms that would ensure overall improvement of the socio-economic situation. It is up to the citizens to decide, the future of youth of BiH depends on it and future generations should be able to see themselves living their best life in this country, not elsewhere. Tackling youth unemployment is difficult, but it is not impossible, only with a little bit of more effort.  Creation of jobs and a secure environment does not go against anyone’s vital national interest, so the focus should be shifted to that instead of being set on dividing the citizens based on ethnicity. Discrimination, corruption and inefficient authorities in general are the cause of issues, and increased activities of monitoring, supervision and funds for enhancing employment - some of which are already available thanks to international funds - would do the trick. There is no perfect system, but the youth of BiH does not need a perfect one. A good one to work on in the future would be fine for a start. BiH should move in the direction of becoming prosperous instead of falling into the abyss of nothingness. The youth of this country needs future, and the country needs the youth in order to have the future at all.

Elections have just ended. It is not easy to predict at what pace unemployment rate will continue to decrease, because it is uncertain what the composition of future authorities, which are yet to be formed, will bring. In their election slogans, politicians were promising life, strength, progress, victory, future, responsibility, and growth once the elections are over. Brighter future might be somewhere around the corner and to actually seize the opportunities it offers and turn them into reality, the future authorities will be required to make efforts to tackle existing issues and efficiently cope with future challenges. As the French philosopher Albert Camus once wrote: “Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful”. Whether the use of votes as peaceful means of revolt against the regressive policies and meeting of the demand for progressive ones will push BiH towards moving forward? Time will tell. On October 7 as the Election Day, citizens may have already used their chance to make the next big step forward. Now it is up to the future authorities to show if they can live up to the citizens’ expectations.