March 7, 2019 – A team of local PEP researchers held a national policy conference in Skopje, Macedonia, to discuss their findings on how youth underemployment is a key problem facing three Balkan countries.
Almost 60 stakeholders, including the Minister of Labor and Social Policy, attended the event where the research team highlighted the importance of addressing the mismatch between skills supply and demand. Other stakeholders present included representatives of national organizations, such as the Ministry of Education and the National Bank of North Macedonia; international organizations, such as the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNICEF and UN Women; and youth and student organizations such as the National Youth Council and the Youth Educational Forum.
Organized as a panel discussion, the event invited speakers on the topic of youth being “highly educated and underpaid.”
Prior to the team’s project, the issue of underemployment has been largely ignored by the general populations and policy makers. Ms. Daniela Zampini from the ILO remarked that it was the first time she had been invited to speak about underemployment in the region despite the ILO covering the issue since 1919.
In presenting the findings from their PEP study on the Youth Underemployment in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, selected under the PAGE II initiative in 2017, the research team shed light on how up to two thirds of young people in the three countries are affected by underemployment—leading to lower wages and reduced monetary welfare.
“Young people who are underemployed earn up to 14% less than those in full employment,” explained Blagica Petreski, team leader and Chief Economist/CEO of Finance Think. “We found that women are more vulnerable to underemployment than men, as are people with higher [tertiary] education compared to those with primary or secondary education.”
Representatives of the National Youth Council and the Youth Educational Forum asked for stronger policies to tackle the unemployment issue.
Ms. Dijana Despodov of the American Chamber of Commerce spoke about the paradox faced by Macedonia: “On one hand there is unemployment and underemployment, on the other hand there is a lack of suitable employees.” The research team called for policy action to reduce this mismatch between skills supply and demand, and to mitigate the negative effects of underemployment on monetary welfare. Find out more about the team’s research methods, findings, and policy recommendations in PEP Policy Brief 193.
During the event, Ms. Mila Carovska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy promised that the Ministry would include underemployment in the first revision of the Operational Plan for Labor Market Measures and Activities. The Operational Plan for 2019 includes the Youth Guarantee—a policy to connect young people with jobs and restore their trust in institutions such as the Employment Agency. The Plan also aims to support young people in acquiring knowledge and skills to be more competitive in the labor market.
Ms. Zampini congratulated the research team for putting underemployment on the policymakers’ agend. She also requested future collaboration with the research team and Finance Think to identify mechanisms that can ease underemployment in Macedonia.
Ms. Despodov called for more attention to be paid to global economic trends of informal means of employment—including distance work, freelance and online activities—and how legal frameworks can formalize these ways of working.
Journalists from two newspapers, a television channel and a radio station covered the event. News of the event was picked up and published widely, in eight media outlets.
The research team organized the event with support from PEP and in collaboration with Finance Think – Economic Research & Policy Institute.