Youth Employment in Eastern Europe - Crisis within the Crisis

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Creating decent jobs for young women and men entering the labour market every year is an essential element of the progression towards wealthier economies, fairer societies and stronger democracies. Getting the right foothold in the labour market is not only critical for “success” at work, but also has a multiplier effect throughout the lives of individuals, their families and their countries. Youth is a crucial time of life when people start fulfilling their aspirations, assume their economic independence and find their place in society. A difficult entry into the world of work has serious repercussions for young people, including a higher risk of poverty and a loss of valuable skills, talent and energy. The global economic crisis has exacerbated the youth employment crisis that was already a daunting challenge for many of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.2 In these countries, the integration of young people into the labour market is more pressing than ever. The youth unemployment rates, at well above 35 per cent in some of the countries, are among the highest in the world. These alarming figures are compounded by the increasing numbers of young men and women who are trapped in the informal economy. Estimates for countries where data are available show that over one third of young workers are engaged in informal employment with no social security coverage. This is in addition to the high number of young workers in precarious jobs and the many young people who have lost hope and are neither in employment, education or training (NEET). The main purpose of the present paper is to serve as background for the discussion at the Informal Meeting, with the aim of sharing national experience and practice, as well as identifying priority areas for future action by governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations in EU Accession and Partnership countries. The first part of the paper reviews the main indicators of the youth labour market in the eight countries concerned, while the second part outlines some of the implications for policies affecting youth employment. The last part of the paper points to some areas on which future work and dialogue on youth employment could focus and outlines some issues for discussion.

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