Opening chapters and fulfilling criteria in the European Union negotiations have been one of the main focus in the political progress of Western Balkan countries. Countries are aiming to coordinate the state of their progress with the criteria that EU has set, but deviations from the ideal model are more than present, and visible as well. When countries have a model to follow, it is quite simple to notice the amount of divergences that are putting a huge pause on any kind of progress. Western Balkan countries are lacking quality social policy, and the ones they are currently implementing are deviating from the goals that are set in Chapter 19 in the EU accession negotiations.
Unemployment counts as one of the biggest issues that Western Balkan’s social policy is facing, with a special highlight on youth unemployment. Even though a falling trend in the unemployment rate has been recorded, according to the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, it remained higher than in the EU countries. I would say that youth unemployment is consequence of disproportionate stages and contradictory requirements in a youth’s process of becoming an equal part in the labor market. One of the most common requirements in employment process is previous experience in the labor market, and it is the biggest requirement that is stopping youth to becoming employed. Huge steps that need to be taken to improve this kind of disbalance include countries investing in the skills development as the final preparation that would equal to working experience and would make youth a competent and ready for labor market.
Main focus of the labor law is securing the equality, health and safety at work as well as anti-discrimination. Unfortunately, there are noticeable irregularities when it comes to the implementation of labor law in Western Balkan countries. The irregularities target people as workers as well as their human dignity. Labor is often underrated, underpaid which discredits the employment policy, but also disturbs the employer – employee relation. Current situation regarding COVID-19 is just an example of poor social policy, where unemployment rates are rapidly growing due to the lacking implementation of job-securing and minimum standards-providing measures. Even though steps are being taken towards improvement of working conditions and legit and complete implementation of the labor law, there is still a long way to go. Equal pay for equal work, health insurance, security and stability in certain situations that often lead to unemployment, stable social dialogue and equal opportunities that are by no mean determined by someone’s ethnicity, gender or any kind of orientation should be, I believe, main goals of Western Balkan social policy. It is a long process that requires financial and institutional resources for employment and social policy aimed at those who need it the most.
Regular and complete implementation of strong social and employment policies can lead to long-term suppression of nepotism, corruption, incompetent and irregular, as well as party-oriented and motivated employment that are parasites to social policies in the entire Western Balkan. Institutions need to be mobilized to take emergency steps, before not only Chapter 19 is opened, fulfilled and closed, but before unemployment and lacking employment become the main obstacle in any kind of political and social progress at all.
Author: Daria Knežević - CRTA