Issues with Youth Employment in North Macedonia

Katerina Kamchevska, Northern Macedonia

Like in many countries in the Western Balkans, youth in North Macedonia faces the same issues related to unemployment. In general, the job market is too limited and restricted to offer opportunities for the youth, starting with the capital, Skopje, and extending to other cities where the population and economy are significantly lower. Throughout the years Skopje gets bigger and busier and what the youngsters find to be a problem is having enough finances to lead even a semi-independent life from their parents. This is observed starting with students and unskilled labor vacancies. The concept of ‘student jobs’ is still a novelty in most of the Balkan countries, and Macedonian job market is not different.

On the one hand, it is difficult to find a job as a university student, because most of the companies or private businesses do not offer a part time position for students. For most of the private sector, a part time job does not mean what it should legally be – which is 20 hours per week – excluding the weekends or two days off. Those who offer some kind of part time position are mostly call centers, but even in that case, one has to sacrifice some hours of university classes due the unavailability of their other coworkers and they are also meant to work full time on weekends. The rest of the private sector who offer unskilled vacancies such as: waiter/waitress, bartender, seller or retailor, host/hostess, etc., are not meant to be for students or youth in education. They rarely, or almost never offer part time opportunities, primarily because they cannot afford to have too many workers.

However, what seems to be a bigger problem with youth unemployment is strictly related to corruption and nepotism. If one wants to get a stable job or pursue their own career (chiefly after finishing their degree), that person is more likely to get a job if he knows the employer or – paradoxically – if he pays either the mediator who knows the employer or the employer himself. This technique is widely known to work in public jobs. What would boost the chance of this youth is a connection to political parties – in any way this connect can be – either by knowing someone or strictly following and sharing their ideologies. This leads to them feeling left out from the functional inclusion of decision making which concerns them. They do not feel that they ‘have a voice’ in important issues such as: environmental, human rights, and education.

What is considered to be a positive change in the Balkans the last couple of year, is the thriving of different NGOs. The same positive change applies to North Macedonia as well, where youth can participate and be an active part of civil society. Surely, what is a fundamental part of these NGOs are the funding that they get from the most part by the EU. This funding is enough to support the projects they organize and the people who help in organization. That means that predominantly a vast number of youngsters who participate in these projects and who are members of these NGOs, do not get paid. Normally, they are not supposed to get paid, but as it is customary in the Balkans, young people cannot afford only volunteering. Hence, voluntary jobs are not very well known and appreciated in this part of Europe.

What is very common nowadays however, is the rising of online jobs. This category could be roughly separated into two subcategories. The first one is the most common, like online teaching, sometimes programming and design. The second subcategory has been trending only in the last couple of years. Young people with a high social media presence would establish online shops, arts and crafts online profiles and of course, there is a new occupation called an ‘Influencer’.

Nonetheless, all of the examples mentioned above simply point out that the youth wants to work and sustain themselves. They resolve to online jobs and drastically to moving abroad because of the lack of opportunities, but this does not compare to working in your own career path in your own country.