Stronger public employment services for better labour market integration

Project completed
At the job fair in Tuzla, young people receive information on job searching.
At the job fair in Tuzla, realized by the project with support of a private employment agency, young people receive information on job searching. © SDC

The Youth Employment Project (YEP) focuses on the better integration of young women and men, particularly from disadvantaged population groups, into the labour market. It works closely with the public employment services, in particular to improve their ability to place youth in jobs. Youth Employment Project also makes efforts to effect positive changes to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s youth employment policy.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Employment & economic development
Employment creation
Education policy
Basic life skills
01.10.2011 - 31.03.2016
CHF 3'600'000

Discouraged by a complex context

In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) almost 60% of young women and men between 15 and 24 years old are unemployed. The public employment services are weak and unable to develop effective client-oriented services, especially for young unemployed people in the country. Disadvantaged youth do not have access to adequate support mechanisms and face particular difficulties in entering the labour market.The reasons for the public employment services’ low performance are manifold: On the one hand, the bureaus are heavily understaffed and thus overburdened by administrative tasks; on the other hand, the political structure of the country is complicating the processes and slowing down all efforts, as 13 institutional bodies are involved in managing the employment issues at national, entity and cantonal level.As a result, young people do not trust the existing system and institutions. The situation makes them feel hopeless and discouraged. As a consequence they become increasingly passive.

Spotlight on public employment services

Improving the employment services’ efficiency and performance plays an important role in tackling unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially in including young women and men in the labour market. Initially the project focused on various small-scale interventions at local level, mainly implemented by NGOs and private employment services, the project is now aiming at having an impact on the overall employment system. The current phase of the project puts the PES at centre stage. Special emphasis is placed on public employment bureaus in rural areas where people generally have less access to such support services and many long-term unemployed can be found.
Accordingly, the project targets three interrelated outcomes:

  1. Building the capacities of the public employment services with a view to strengthening their internal management and increasing their job-matching performance
  2. Reaching out to disadvantaged young people, particularly long-term unemployed and young people from rural areas, with new instruments and initiatives to strengthen their employability and helping them to find a job
  3. Influencing youth employment policy by increasing the importance of this issue in the country’s policy agenda and by raising public awareness; this outcome is key for achieving sustainability of the project results.

Bottom-up and top-down measures

Youth Employment Project, together with NGOs and private employment agencies, works closely with local employment bureaus to introduce innovative approaches on a pilot basis, and to disseminate them throughout the country. Model offices, performance management and job clubs are among the tools designed to improve the practices of the public employment services. The project also works with managers of public employment services as well as decision makers to promote changes in policies and to develop new strategies. Measures on this level are national youth employment forums, study tours and awareness-raising activities.

Committed public employment services

After the project’s initial phase, the public employment services’ commitment to develop their skills and increase their performance is evident. Thanks to this fruitful cooperation and some successful measures piloted earlier, the first year of the second phase already shows good results:

  • 16 job clubs, a measure focusing on the long-term unemployed, were established countrywide; the job club leader profile is included in the organisational charts of the PES;
  • 2 employment bureaus were identified as model offices, where work practices, internal management and infrastructure will be improved in accordance with international standards; these offices will be used as examples to effect further changes in the employment system;
  • the first youth employment forum was organised in collaboration with youth NGOs, focusing on good practices and success stories; the forum attracted a significant number of BiH stakeholders and contributed to raising awareness on the issue.

Context requires specific measures

One of the main lessons learned is the need to work with BiH institutions at all levels and to take into account their specificities. In an institutional setting as complex as in BiH developing relations with national, entity and cantonal institutions is crucial for the interventions’ success and effectiveness.