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School to work transition

Youth in Eastern Europe and Central Asia face multiple barriers in finding decent jobs

A new ILO report on the transition of young people from school to work in Eastern Europe and Central Asia shows a missed opportunity in absorbing a well-educated youth workforce.

News | 28 April 2015
© Scott Wallace / World Bank
GENEVA (ILO News) – More than half of youth aged 15-29 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia completed their secondary studies, and nearly all of the others remain in school. However, an economic slowdown in the region has brought only limited job creation, running the risk of wasting the potential of a large pool of well-educated youth, says a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to the study, Labour market transition of young women and men in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, many youth with a high level of education can eventually expect to find a stable job after long periods of unemployment, although not necessarily a job that is well paid, that matches their level of qualifications or that offers the benefits of formal employment.

The findings of the study are based on school-to-work surveys carried out in 2012-13 among young people aged 15 to 29 in six countries (Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine), under the ILO’s Work4Youth (W4Y) Project – a global partnership between the ILO and The MasterCard Foundation.

The study finds that youth unemployment rates in the region vary a lot. They were among the world’s highest in Armenia and FYR Macedonia at 30 and 43 per cent, respectively. In comparison, unemployment rates in the Republic of Moldova (14 per cent), Russian Federation (12 per cent) and Ukraine (17 per cent) look more moderate and are closer to the global average of 13 per cent in 2014 (for 15-24 year-olds).

“In many of the countries surveyed, youth unemployment is not just high in terms of numbers of persons without work, but also it is of very long duration. Searching for a job for one year or more has dramatic consequences in terms of skills erosion, financial loss and damaged self-esteem among the long-term unemployed,” said Sara Elder, main author of the study.

The average length of transition from school to stable or satisfactory employment was nearly two years for the six countries analysed. Youth with university degrees do better at eventually finding a stable job. The lesser-skilled young person – with primary education only – spent, on average, four times longer to find a job than the university graduate.

It is important to link youth employment strategies with overall economic growth, development and employment policy."

Sandra Polaski, ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy
The ILO study was presented in a Work4Youth Regional Conference, taking place this week in Geneva. It gathered representatives from the six surveyed countries as well as other regional participants from Azerbaijan, Montenegro, Serbia and Tajikistan. They discussed how to better assess statistical evidence to support the design and monitoring of policies toward improved labour market transitions of young people in the region.

Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection of Population of Azerbaijan, representatives from the National Trade Union Confederation of Moldova, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and the European Youth Forum, joined a high-level panel, chaired by ILO’s Deputy Director-General for Policy, Sandra Polaski, to discuss key challenges facing youth in entering the labour market the region. The panel also identified key priorities in economic and social policies in promoting youth employment.

“Although the employment needs of young people should be addressed with specific policies, it is important to link youth employment strategies with overall economic growth, development and employment policy,” said Sandra Polaski. “If the economy is suffering, if investment and job creation are weak, it will be impossible to create the good opportunities that young people deserve.”

In addition, representatives from various European Union institutions and ILO senior employment specialists presented targeted measures to assist young people in finding employment and good practices in skills development.

Key findings of the report:

  • Education results are strong in the region: educational access is nearly universal and levels of attainment are high.
  • Stagnation in job creation results in missed opportunities. Educational investments are not fully translated into the productive utilization of human capital.
  • Technical vocational education and training systems are also well-established in the region, with robust participation of youth in most countries.
  • Investing in university education pays off in terms of better job prospects and faster labour market transitions.
  • The youth labour market in the region is influenced by gender issues.
  • Most young workers in the region benefit from a standard employment relationship, with a written contract and access to basic entitlements, although exceptions do exist.
  • Young people are attracted by the idea of entrepreneurship, but do not follow through when making employment decisions.
  • Youth in the region show an untenable expectation for work in the public sector.
  • Most youth rely on informal networks when searching for jobs.
  • Young men, youth living in urban areas, those coming from wealthier households with completed higher education and having parents with higher education have the advantage in terms of completing the labour market transition to stable and/or satisfactory employment.