Labour Market and Skills in the Western Balkans

The themes of skill shortage and skill mismatch as constraints on economic growth have become topical issues in the wake of the global economic crisis. As countries struggle to emerge from the deleterious effects of the crisis, many are searching for a ‘new growth model’ based more on indigenous sources of growth than in the past, seeking to change their strategy away from dependence on inflows of capital and credit, a model which was broken in recent years by the changed international environment in the wake of the global economic crisis. The need to understand the key problems in making this second transition from external to internal sources of growth is especially great in the Western Balkans countries which have been hard hit by the economic crisis and have seen unemployment sky-rocket, international debts increase sharply and are struggling to keep budget deficits in line with increasingly stringent conditionality from the international financial institutions. In this environment the need for improved policies to reduce skill gaps and mismatches and improve the concordance between the education system and the labour market calls out for new, reliable research to provide the evidence on which effective policies can be based.

This book presents recent research into the role of labour force skills in underpinning future economic growth in the Western Balkans. It sets out the most recent thinking on the relation between skills and the labour market and between education systems and skill formation. It concludes with a set of policy recommendations that could be readily implemented given the political will to do so. It also reflects on the ways in which countries of the region can benefit from greater regional cooperation in the development of this vitally important aspect of their societies. The book, written by members of the LSEE Research Network on Social Cohesion in collaboration with the Foundation for the Advancement of Economics (FREN) at the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade has been conceived in response to this growing need.

Most of the chapters in the book were presented at an international conference on “New Skills for New Jobs” organised by the Regional Cooperation Council in Sarajevo in October 2011 and were further presented and debated at a research workshop organised by LSEE and FREN and held at the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade in May 2012. We are grateful to both the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and to LSEE for providing generous support for the participation of researchers from the LSEE Research Network at these events. We are also grateful to the European Training Foundation for providing support for background research for some of the chapters within the context of the European Training Foundation MATCH project and for helpful debate and discussions at European Training Foundation workshops in Turin. We are especially grateful to JelicaMinić and Nand Shani at Regional Cooperation Council for their encouragement and support for the activities of this regional network.