Balkan youth em­i­grate for better prospects

Coun­tries face mas­sive brain drain

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

BEL­GRADE:

Aleksa Kon­stanti­nov was one the bright­est maths stu­dents in Ser­bia this year but like many Balkan young­sters he im­me­di­ately left for a US univer­sity af­ter fin­ish­ing school. Bos­nian neu­rol­o­gist San­ina Babic Ribic was ei­ther laughed at or told she needed “po­lit­i­cal or some other sup­port” to get a job af­ter she grad­u­ated. She moved to Ger­many to work three years ago and now earns “four Bos­nian salaries”. These are just two among the tens of thou­sands of young peo­ple who have aban­doned the West­ern Balkans in the face of un­em­ploy­ment, cor­rup­tion and low wages, look­ing for better prospects in west­ern Europe or Amer­ica.

The World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s 2016/17 Global Com­pet­i­tive­ness Re­port ranked Ser­bia 137th out of 138 coun­tries for “ca­pac­ity to re­tain ta­lent”. Bos­nia was ranked 134 and Croa­tia 132, while Al­ba­nia and Mace­do­nia were just slightly ahead. Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by Mon­tene­gro’s Cen­tre for Civic Ed­u­ca­tion, half of its young peo­ple want to leave the small coun­try of about 620,000 peo­ple. Stud­ies show that most of those leav­ing in the mas­sive re­gional “brain drain” are well-ed­u­cated young­sters.

“Uni­ver­si­ties in the US and Bri­tain... of­fer many more op­por­tu­ni­ties,” 19-yearold Kon­stanti­nov told AFP by email from the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT), where he is now study­ing. Last year a record 58,000 peo­ple left Ser­bia - more than dou­ble the yearly av­er­age of 26,000 be­tween 2004 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to Vladimir Gre­cic, an im­mi­gra­tion ex­pert and a Bel­grade Univer­sity pro­fes­sor. Croa­tia has a 43 per­cent un­em­ploy­ment rate among 15 to 24-year-olds, and its en­try to the Euro­pean Union in 2013 has en­abled young­sters to flock to Ger­many, their pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion fol­lowed by Bri­tain. In Mace­do­nia, “about 85 per­cent of fi­nal-year univer­sity stu­dents have said that they see their fu­ture out of the coun­try,” ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment re­port.

Dreams of leav­ing

Kosovo is among the hard­est-hit coun­tries in the Balkans: Half the pop­u­la­tion is aged un­der 28, but youth un­em­ploy­ment stands at al­most 60 per­cent. “Not only me but ev­ery young Koso­van dreams of leav­ing and con­tin­u­ing his pro­fes­sional ca­reer abroad,” said Blerim Cakolli, a waiter and law grad­u­ate in the cap­i­tal Pristina. Cakolli, 31, said he had been look­ing for a job in the le­gal pro­fes­sion for more than four years. “The lack of op­por­tu­nity for young­sters makes them ready to leave and de­grades our so­ci­ety,” he said.

Across the re­gion, those most likely to leave are health­care providers. Babic Ribic, the 37-year-old neu­rol­o­gist now work­ing in the north­east­ern Ger­man town of Pader­born, said one of her Bos­nian col­leagues paid a 5,000-euro ($5,200) bribe to get a job in Sara­jevo Univer­sity hos­pi­tal. “I couldn’t af­ford that, nei­ther fi­nan­cially nor mo­rally,” she told AFP. In the poverty-stricken north­ern Bos­nian re­gion of Tu­zla, the Al­pha­bet In­foCen­tar or­gan­ises fort­nightly meet­ings be­tween for­eign em­ploy­ers and lo­cals seek­ing work.

Mer­sudin Mah­mut­be­govic, the cen­ter’s head, said Ger­many had signed an ac­cord with sev­eral Balkan coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bos­nia, au­tho­riz­ing the em­ploy­ment of up to 250,000 peo­ple from the re­gion in its health sec­tor by 2020. Short of doc­tors and nurses, Ger­many finds Balkan em­ploy­ees to be “flex­i­ble and re­li­able,” Mah­mut­be­govic said. And they are spurred to leave by “a lack of em­ploy­ment, low salaries and few pos­si­bil­i­ties for ca­reer pro­gres­sion” at home, said Al­ba­nian univer­sity pro­fes­sor Gaz­mend Go­duzi, who co-au­thored a study on health­care work­ers’ mi­gra­tion from the West­ern Balkans. — AFP

TU­ZLA: Bos­nian youths wait to take Ger­man lan­guage ex­ams, con­ducted by em­ploy­ment bro­kers from Bos­nia and Ger­many, on Nov 23, 2016. —AFP

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