To what extent is the problem of brain drain among the youth of the Federation of BiH taken seriously?
- To be honest, not very! Even though, this issue has been gaining more attention lately, and that is a positive sign. Solutions were needed much earlier, as is shown by studies conducted by the Union for Sustainable Return and Integration in BiH since mid-2013, which indicate that more than 90,000 people left BiH between the start of their research and the end of 2016. According to statistics from the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, the number of pupils in elementary and high school is decreasing drastically. At the start of the academic year 2011-2012, 208,491 elementary school students were registered in schools across the FBiH, while during the same period in 2015-2016, that number decreased by 19,705, leading to a total of 188,786 registered pupils.
A better tomorrow
The same is true for high school students. At the start of the academic year 2011-2012, 107,249 students were registered, while that number decreased to 86,676 during the same period in 2015-2016, indicating a difference of 20,573 students.
Does the youth comprise the majority of those leaving the country, and is this brain drain from rural areas or larger cities?
- Youth and young families are certainly the majority of those leaving BiH. The fact that from the entire youth population (which is estimated to stand at more than 700,000) only 9% get married is the main reason for low natality. Certainly, more people are leaving from rural areas, but when we talk about brain drain from BiH, youth are leaving from everywhere. In short, because they don't see any prospects for their future.
It is widely assumed that unemployment is the biggest reason for brain drain, but is it the only one?
- The inability to find work is the main reason for the youth's departure abroad. However, those who are employed are also leaving, because they are dissapointed in the system and they do not want to be a witness to the daily problems and squabbles in this country. They are leaving to look for a better future for themselves and their families. Of course, there are other reasons, such as low wages and high costs of education. EUROSTAT studies show that the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages in BiH, which are 75% of the EU average, are more expensive than in Macedonia (59%) and Albania (69%). The price of clothing is 92% of the EU's average, and electronics (TVs, cameras,...) are at 97%. All of this is affecting people's decision to leave BiH.
Do we have a strategy to employ the youth in our country?
- I know that there was the 'Strategy for Employment in FBiH' between 2009-2013, and the 'Strategy for the Development of the Federation' between 2010-2020, where employment constitutes an important component. Coming up with such strategies is very important, but what is more important is their implementation. As the FBiH Youth Council, we will always support such developments, and help implement them. Thus, we need to continue implementing similar programs supported by the FBiH government, including initiatives like encouraging first employment opportunities for the youth, incentives for the disabled or those with developmental difficulties. They are part of our society, they are our dear colleagues and friends, who we cannot forget.
What are government incentives for establishing small businesses and support for youth entrepreneurs?
- You say how difficult it is for the youth to professionally establish themselves in this country, but I have to mention Alen Jusupović from Zavidovići, who established the first donkey farm and won 4,000 dollars with his business plan. He received 5,400 KM, from which the government received 1,870KM. There are incentives on all levels for entrepreneurs and small business owners. We should applaud that and continue its development in the future.
How come we have an overrepresentations in certain sectors, while in others there is a severe shortage of a trained workforce? Can we talk about a poor communication between the academic community and employers?
- Yes. It's important to establish a better connection between the academic community and employers, especially to better coordinate academic offerings with market needs. High schools, especially on local levels, should work to align their curriculum with the needs of our employers. The same is true for universities, where they should analyze various sectors, including government positions, the private sector, and agriculture.
Do you have representatives in all FBiH cantons?
- The FBiH Youth Council shows that we can work together in this country, but that we just need mutual respect for each other's identity and our differences.
There are 47 municipalities in which there are formations of youth councils, and 6 more municipalities and cantons need to continue that process so that the council can spread further. The FBiH Youth Council, as the legal and legitimate representative for youth in this entity, points to the daily problems that young people face, looks for solutions, proposes initiatives, and works with young people from all over the country and the region. The voice of youth is being heard but must get louder. The FBiH Law on Youth needs a better implementation on all levels.
How to respond to the argument that young people are inactive and that they do not want to work?
- I invite everyone who thinks this to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. My heart breaks when I see how difficult life is for many among us, and how many families live in great poverty. But, on the other hand, I rejoice, because they don't give up. They don't give up on their communities. I'm happy for the young person in Čapljina who successfully works in agriculture, for the young person from Tuzla who is doing well in computer engineering, for the young person from Sarajevo, who is an excellent mathematician, for the guy from Rama who breeds sheep, for the young medical doctor from Bihać, the young construction engineers from Mostar, the successful journalist from central Bosnia, the young businessman from Banja Luka, the hairdresser from Trebinje...Many young people want to stay here, but we must provide them with the opportunity and the conditions for a better life. My friend Jozo Kolobarić recently wrote: "For it is on us to live, so live, brother, sister, it is for us to live!"
Translated by: Tea IVANOVIĆ
(Original version: Mladi razočarani u sistem)