This policy paper examines the Youth Guarantee (YG) program to understand its theoretical and practical aspects within the context of the Western Balkan (WB) countries, particularly Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia. YG programs are designed to address unemployment by explicitly targeting individuals not engaged in employment, formal education, or training (NEET). Crucially, these programs seek to reduce (and ideally eliminate) the challenges young people face when entering the job market. Empirical evidence from European regions where YG programs have been implemented demonstrates significant outcomes, even though the program’s effectiveness may vary across different micro- and macroeconomic contexts.
To that end, a scholarly investigation – comprising desk research and fieldwork – was undertaken to explore the implementation of YG programs in Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Research findings indicate varying levels of development of YG programs across the three countries. Specifically, North Macedonia has made significant strides in integrating YG principles, while Serbia and Albania have initiated preliminary preparations for program implementation. The institutional framework responsible for formulating and implementing the YG program also varies. In Albania, efforts are spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MFE); in Serbia, by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy (MLEVSP); while in North Macedonia, by the Employment Service Agency (ESA). Despite the collaborative efforts between analogous institutions within the respective countries, the divergence in lead institutions underscores disparities in the infrastructure of the YG program across them. In addition, findings reveal that youth are not sufficiently aware of the YG program and instruments at their disposal for navigating their qualification and employment needs.
As such, there is a pressing need for bridging the gap between diverse legislative and institutional structures associated with YG programs on the one hand and between the responsible institutions and youth on the other. Therefore, this policy paper puts forward recommendations for the effective implementation of the YG programs in the Western Balkan by advocating for improved inter-institutional coordination and better outreach to youth. The latter can be achieved through increased cooperation with NGOs and grassroots organizations and via national information campaigns tailored to the communication needs and channels best fit to serve the targeted young audience.
This Advocacy Research Report is prepared by the Youth Participation Working Group of the Regional Youth Leadership Mobility Program 2023 (RYLMP). The Regional Youth Leadership Mobility Program is a collaborative effort between the Center for Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV), the Center for Education Policy (CEP) in Serbia, and the Youth Educational Forum (YEF) in North Macedonia. This project is supported by the Open Society Foundation.
Learn more about the Regional Youth Leadership Mobility Programme (RYLMP) here.