About the ILO in Bosnia and Herzegovina

One of the most challenging labour markets in the region

Despite a steady expansion of the economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina in past years, job creation has not kept up and the country continues to show one of the most challenging labour market situations in the region. Employment rates remain low (40% for age 15-64, 2020). Unemployment is high (16% in Q3 2021), despite a downward trend in recent years, especially affecting youth (23% for age 15-24, 2020). The share of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) is equally high (22%, 2020). The country has one of the lowest female employment rates in the Balkans (37% in Q3 2021, age 15-64). The share of informal employment in total employment is relatively high (30%).

The outward migration coupled with a rapidly aging population put a strain on the social security systems, challenging their sustainability over the long-term.
While the economy recovered faster than expected from the Covid-19 pandemic (GDP growth rate in 2020: -3,2%, in 2021: +4,5%, est.), the much-needed recovery of labour markets is lagging. According to ILO calculations, the country saw a decline in working hours of 7.4% in 2020 which is equivalent to 85,000 full time jobs. In 2021, the loss of working hours decreased but was still at 3.3% (equivalent to the loss of 37,000 full-time jobs).

Because of the political divisions in the country and a rather fragmented government structure the public administration has difficulties in coming up with solid diagnostics, socio economic responses to the pandemic and long-term reforms of education, labour markets and social policies. For the same reasons, the administration cannot guarantee sufficient outreach and coverage of related services like employment services or active labour market programmes.

ILO interventions in BiH

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a member state of the ILO since 1993. The country has ratified 83 ILO International Labour Standards (Conventions), including all eight fundamental conventions. Starting 1996, the ILO has been providing technical assistance in a wide range of areas including employment creation, labour law reform, promotion of social dialogue and collective bargaining, and tackling undeclared work.

The current ILO projects support
  • local employment partnerships (tailor made interventions agreed upon by labour market actors to come up with local solutions to specific employment challenges of a municipality or district),
  • entrepreneurship in export-oriented and innovative sectors,
  • public employment services in reaching out to vulnerable groups like long term unemployed,
  • labour inspectorates and mediation of labour disputes,
  • fact based information on labour migration in the EU and the Western Balkans.
The ILO assistance during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic included an assessment on the impact of the pandemic on the labour market jointly with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the development of the Employment Strategy of the Federation of BiH, measures to stop spreading the virus on the factory floor, emergency support to small and medium enterprises to retain jobs, and the introduction of E-learning/blended learning in vocational training.

Text last updated 1/22