UNDP Human Development Blogs
Risky business: The emigration game
Exodus by night: Crowds swarm the Pristina bus station (Photo: Burbuqe Dobranja)
In Kosovo*, 35 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 35. More than half of them are unemployed. For women, that percentage jumps to nearly 70. The problem of unemployment has turned into desperation, as evidenced by young Kosovars’ increasingly active participation in a phenomenon known as people smuggling. Kosovars are paying up to 2,000-3,000 Euro to be smuggled into European Union countries where they often have family or friends. Due to Albania’s Schengen Visa exemption, smugglers are increasingly trying to pass people across the Serbian-Hungarian border. In 2010 alone, IOM estimates that irregular migrants taken into custody at this border increased by 20 percent. Statistics on this Western Balkans smuggling route reveal that around 20,000 migrants illegally crossed the border before applying for asylum upon reaching Hungary. So, what can UNDP in Kosovo do to increase young Kosovars’ willingness to stay home?
1. Evidence-based Policy making
Three previous Kosovo Human Development Reports on social inclusion, the private sector and unemployment, and migration already tackled the pressing issues within the country, whereby the latter also identified positive aspects of migration, such as transfer of skills and knowledge.
Generally speaking, these reports champion improvements and reforms in education and social inclusion.
2. Concrete project implementation in the field
Here we’re talking about women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability, democratic governance, and inclusive growth.
Our own Active Labour Market Programmes for Youth directly contributes to solving the core issues underlying the problem of unemployment.
Human smuggling is a global phenomenon. 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked globally each year
Strengthening institutions and empowering the people by working to resolve these problems are imperative, especially in light of the progress that Kosovo has made in the EU’s visa liberalization process.
What about the role of the state?
As is, one in four Kosovars resides abroad, and the rate of young people willing to risk their lives and well-being to illegally migrate is on the rise.
When the visa liberalization process reaches completion in the near future, Kosovars will be able to freely travel throughout the European Union.
Kosovo institutions will need to compete with the attractive opportunities and lifestyles offered by other European countries and provide incentives such as well-remunerated jobs and a strong welfare system that will make it appealing for Kosovars to stay home.
Nevertheless, in order to stop the brain drain, Kosovo has to ensure an environment replete with new opportunities and a strong institutional support system.
If Kosovo does not work towards providing its youth with concrete prospects for a prosperous future, it risks losing the invaluable contributions they can make to society.
What are some other ways we can support young Kosovars to stay home?
*Hereafter referred to in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244/1999
Migration as a force for development
Human development is about the expanding people’s freedom and opportunities.
Mobility and the ability to migrate are fundamental elements of human freedom and development.
Unfortunately, this freedom is not applicable to Kosovo* and all its citizens.
For those Kosovans who do succeed in migrating, their remittances contribute to their families’ wellbeing and the economy at large.
It has become a key factor in reducing income poverty in Kosovo.
As the 2014 Human Development Report for Kosovo released last month reveals, one out of every four Kosovans currently lives abroad; their remittances and travel expenditures account for roughly 15 percent of Kosovo’s GDP.
Migration and close economic linkages are an everyday reality for most people in Kosovo.
Migrants remain extremely linked with Kosovo, and this is evinced not only by the money they send back – but also by the frequency of their visits home.
Those who migrate tend to also have a better education and job skills. They are thus better equipped to find work, either in their host country or upon return to Kosovo.
The Diaspora also contributes in investments such as housing, shopping, dining, healthcare, and business – all of which work to boost Kosovo’s economy.
Migration and remittances alone cannot guarantee sustainable growth and human development. But, with an active Diaspora, we have the ability to contribute to the development of Kosovo and look at migration from a winning perspective.
This is known as the “brain gain” approach.
As the Diaspora aims to make Kosovo a better place to live in, it should and will continue to be engaged in Kosovo’s future. This can be strengthened by furthering its public participation, such as with voting rights for central elections.
More than one third of Kosovans says they plan to migrate.
Some leave to pursue better employment and educational opportunities, others for better and more advanced healthcare, and others still to unite with those already gone.
The main reason though is to improve their living conditions.
Although with the desire to migrate, Kosovans still have one setback: the visa. Currently, Kosovo is moving towards visa liberalization in the European Union, thus placing it one step closer towards normalization. However, the one million dollar question is:
How do we get Kosovans to stay and improve their life at home?
As we know, sustainable development cannot rely on remittances alone.
Kosovo needs to offer a favorable climate for investment, the ability to produce exportable goods, better educational opportunities, job opportunities, student programmes, decent social assistance, and healthcare.
Only then will Kosovo be on the path to a sustainable future.
In order to encourage Kosovan youth to improve their living standards at home, we are working to deliver a solid Youth Strategy that aims to strengthen attitudes, and promote staying and working towards Kosovo’s success.
Kosovan citizens and leaders have to work on realizing these development needs for themselves and their children, so that a sustainable future might be possible – and migration will be a choice, not amust, for survival.
What is human development? An animated look at Kosovo*
Kosovo has maintained a steady 15 years of peace and stability and is now in the midst of further development. However, a great deal of work remains in getting politicians in charge to support evidence-based policymaking: Its implementation is crucial for Kosovo and its aspirations to join the European Unionin the future.
But how do we get the policymakers behind this?
How do we grab the citizens’ attention first so they can then put the ‘pressure’ on decision-makers and shape the agenda further?
Before this is achieved, they also have to understand which approach is the best for them now, as well as for their children in the future.
When we publish dense reports, key messages all too often get lost in the mix.
We figured that a short and fun video could convey the message in a far more straightforward and captivating way.
What is that message?
We want to explain what sustainable development is to as much of the population as possible.
Having this in mind, the video is animated, catchy, and available in English, Albanian, and Serbian in an effort to reach our target audience: Kosovan youth – a key demographic in a place where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 35.
The crucial message we want to spread here is the importance of ensuring sustainability by minding our consumption and keeping our more materialist impulses in check.
Human development is about the growth and development not of only the individual but of the community as well.
We hope this video helps spread the word!
What are some other ways we can get our message heard?
*Hereafter referred to in the context of UN Security Resolution 1244 (1999)
Uncle! I need a job
According to the 2012 Kosovo Human Development Report on the private sector and employment:
- Only one in ten Kosovans are employed
- One in ten women of working age are employed, and
- Only three in ten young job-seekers find jobs.
While such stark statistics already paint a worrying future for Kosovo, across Europe, Kosovo’s overall unemployment rate is considered to be the highest – at an astonishing 45.4 percent.
Taking into consideration the limited job opportunities in the private sector, Kosovans would logically attempt to find employment in the public sector which covers nearly 23 percent of the employment market.
But, even there they are confronted with irregular and unjust practices. Kosovan youth perceivefamily connections and bribes as the most important factors in successful job seeking.
Keeping this in mind, we should pose the question “in Kosovo, what do the employment-seeking procedures in the public and private sectors have in common?”
The answer is nepotism.
When you use your influence in the public sector to hire unqualified family members, and small business owners employ their entire family, including their cousins, there is no light in the dark tunnel.
Of course, the private sector cannot be compared with the illegal job-seeking practices in the public sector.
Even though private businessmen and women seek profit-making strategies within their family circles, nevertheless, the people who are trained for low-skilled jobs are being neglected because of family ties, regardless of decreased potential profits, increased deadweight loss, and a skill mismatch.
Meritocracy, either in appearance or in actuality, has failed to emerge within Kosovo, plagued by a culture of mistrust and suffocating familial relations.
Skilled applicants and job-seekers recently graduated from college have no chance to break through these practices and into the system, and don’t get a clear picture why they don’t get positions they’re qualified for.
The analysis becomes even worse looking into the near future.
The people who work and have reached a certain standard of well-being send their children to private schools, and when they turn 18 years old, they get internships and jobs in the already established “clans” that nepotism has claimed as its own.
Finding a job in Kosovo seems to be a “mission impossible,” unless you have an influential relative in either the private or public sector.
If that’s the case, why not just make a call and say “Uncle! I need a job!”
*Referred to in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244/1999