The sustained deterioration of youth's position after 2008 was manifested in employment decline, unemployment growth and decreasing labour market participation. A clear indicator of the unenviable position of young people aged 15-29 was their unemployment rate, whose value peaked at 42.3% in 2012. Although the labour market situation has somewhat improved since then when it comes to youth, the youth (15-24) unemployment rate has remained high – in 2015, it was still significantly more than twice the general unemployment rate (15-64), at 43.2% compared to 18.2%.
It is precisely the high unemployment, accompanied by the unfavourable values of other labour market indicators, that has led economic and labour market policy-makers to take concrete action to improve the position of this vulnerable group. One such action was the introduction of the youth package as an initial step towards the Youth Guarantee1, a scheme widely present in European Union countries.
The provision of adequate support to youth and improvement of their labour market position is certainly hampered by the fact that economic and investment activity, as the key drivers of job creation, are at an insufficient level; that the general labour market indicators are unfavourable; that the total number of people in need of employment support is very high; and that the allocations for the implementation of active labour market measures are insufficient. Although the National Employment Strategy 2011-2020 specifies that the ratio of these funds to the GDP should have been 0.4% in 2014 and as high as 0.5% of the GDP in 2015, this was not achieved. The budgetary allocations ranged between 0.03% and 0.18% of the GDP, which was far below the planned level, implying a lower coverage of beneficiaries and thus also a lower impact of the employment policy. Yet, the very fact that financial resources are limited points to the need for better planning and design of measures to ensure greater impact, as well as targeting those unemployed individuals whose labour market position shall be improved by participation in active labour market measures. The evaluation presented herein has been comissioned with this need in mind.
The Youth Service Package was delivered between 2013 and 2015, and is also foreseen in the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) 2016 and the Employment and Social Reform Programme (ESRP). The Youth Service Package has not been evaluated to date. The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs (MoLEVSA), the Ministry of Youth and Sport (MoYS) and the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit (SIPRU) have launched the evaluation of this package, as well as the net effect evaluation of the measures and programmes funded from the Republic of Serbia budget and aimed specifically at youth employment, with the goal of taking action towards improving and enhancing the selected programmes and measures on the basis of the findings. In addition to the Youth Service Package, the analysis includes the net impact of the Professional Practice and Acquisition of Practical Knowledge measures, implemented by the National Employment Service (NES), as well as the evaluation of other relevant targeted programmes and measures aimed at youth employment and funded from the national budget, but implemented by other institutions, and supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sport (e.g. youth office services or civil society organisations’ programmes contributing to youth employment and employability enhancement).
The evaluation was performed under the first phase of the Youth Employment Initiative, implemented by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development (MoESTD), MoLEVSA and MoYS. The project is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation as support to ESRP implementation with focus on youth employment and employability.