Young people in South Eastern Europe: from risk to empowerment

Type Report
Title Young people in South Eastern Europe: from risk to empowerment
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Publisher The World Bank
Young people are assets in development and, in many cases, have been agents of social and political change. Yet in South Eastern Europe, youth who have come of age during the years of transition have been strongly affected by increased poverty and neglect.\n\nThis study addresses the following questions regarding youth aged 15 to 24 in Southeast Europe (SEE): What is the age structure of the economies of SEE? How are youths at risk in this subregion? What are the dimensions of these risks? What are the economic and social implications of these risks? How are youth disadvantaged in the labor market? How does economic exclusion impact risky behaviors of youth? What are the elements of an effective youth policy?\n\nThe study finds that youth in SEE need urgent attention, particularly young males in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). To a greater degree than elsewhere in the subregion, these two conflict-affected areas have large youth population bulges and high rates of school leaving, youth unemployment, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorders, and young male suicide.\n\nYoung males also risk being recruited into extremist organizations, increasing the potential for renewed eruptions of ethnic violence. Young women are subject throughout SEE to the vulnerabilities of domestic violence, early pregnancy, human trafficking, and especially in Kosovo, to early school leaving.\n\nThe study finds that unemployment is contributing to risky behaviors among youth in SEE. Youth in region have become marginalized—socially, economically, and politically. They are dropping out of secondary school, failing to find jobs, engaging in unsafe sex and substance abuse, and becoming victims of violent crime. They are marrying later, but continuing to have children younger (in many cases, as single mothers). The social and economic implications of these conditions are significant, including potentially costly health crises and the transmission of poverty to the next generation in the societies of SEE.\n\nThe study contends that, to be effective, youth policy in SEE must adopt an integrated approach to the social, economic, and political participation of young people. Specifically, these needs are for: education appropriate to the job market (formal and non-formal), employment, child care and development, preventative health practices, and youth-friendly services (mental health and rehabilitation) and for inclusion in participation in decision-making.\n\nFinally, the study finds that youth concerns need to be mainstreamed within World Bank development policy and practice. Traditional sectoral approaches are not well-suited to addressing the multidimensional nature of youth issues, particularly the multiple risks faced by male adolescents and young men. Ideally, each country should have a well-developed, gender- sensitive youth policy that integrates the following key components: i) community-based, informal education, ii)practical work experience and support to small businesses, and iii) development of youth policies with national and sub-regional youth councils and/or\norganizations.\n\nAs used in this report, South Eastern Europe is comprised of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, which are also referred to as the “subregion.”\n

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