• Dušan Pejaković

Youth policies and their significance: Case of Montenegro

Politics vs. policy

In public discourse, with an extremely large number of people, there is a kind of misconception that the terms politics and policy are in some ways synonymous. Certainly, it is axiomatic that they derive from each other, and that they stand in a very strong correlation. However, the term politics can be defined as a science or art of governing or government, especially governing a political entity like a nation. On the other hand — policy can be defined as an overall plan that embraces the general goals. A policy can also be said to be a course or action that is proposed by a government, an individual, a company or any party. Our focus is on this latter one.

The Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs defines youth policy as an expressed political ambition for the living conditions of young people (young people are defined to be between 15 and 29 years old, according to Eurostat). In today’s public system, political ambition is usually expressed in various kinds of goals or desirable outcomes.

Youth policy

Youth policy is based on how a government or decision-makers view young people. The value framework of a youth policy is very important for how measures reach young people and the goals they reach them for. In some cases, these values and principles may guide youth policy, but in others they may be absent. Their absence is also an indication of the above-mentioned view on young people. In a democratic society, the values of youth policy may include young people’s access to human and social rights, equality, inclusion and social cohesion, democracy, active citizenship and participation, opportunity and talent development, safety, health and well-being.

Many countries have stated their youth policies, but are they executing them? Do these policies support young people to achieve their rights? In which ways do specific youth policies and broader policies affect young people interact and what are the results?

Montenegro’s framework of youth policies

Although, so far a number of significant and valuable efforts have been made to improve the position of young people in Montenegro by various entities, civil society organizations, institutions at the national and local level, international organizations, enthusiasts and individuals, there is significant room for improvement of the overall coordination process. The Youth Strategy 2017–2021 tries to answer this problem and to create an adequate formal framework for the systematic improvement of the position of young people in Montenegro, in which all interested parties will find their place.

The strategy defines six key priorities — key outcomes — when it comes to young people in Montenegro, as follows: 1) young people achieve economic and social security through easier access to the labor market and employment; 2) young people are provided with access to quality education; 3) young people actively, motivated and proactively participate in decision-making processes, community development and policy making and implementation; 4) young people are in good health, safe, and have access to an adequate support system for the transition to adulthood and self-realization; 5) young people have access to quality cultural content as creators and consumers; 6) an effective normative and institutional framework for the implementation of youth policy has been established.

Although a well-conceived platform, the despairing setting of the coexistent situation is a warning to everyone in Montenegro, but also in the entire Balkans — because the situation is very similar or identical in many key aspects. This primarily refers to the inability of young people to establish employment and to translate the desired level of qualifications into economic security and self-sustainability.

First obstacle is unemployment

There are currently 53,990 unemployed people on the records of the Employment Bureau, which is 11,671 more than in the same period last year, or 27.6 percent. Young people aged 18 to 30 (who are primarily the subject of interest in our work) make up 24.87% of the total number of unemployed in the country. The common assessment of many analysts is that this is largely due to the inconsistency of public policies with the state of the real sector domain in Montenegro.

This is most evident in the mismatch of educational and vocational orientation with the formation of an employment relationship in later life. However, in some rare cases, occupations have seen higher demand than supply. Thus, higher demand than supply was recorded, mainly in some occupations of catering and tourism — maid, assistant caterer, server, pizza maker, waiter, assistant cook, etc. Also in some construction occupations there is a higher demand than supply — construction manipulator, auxiliary construction worker and the like. In most cases, the opposite is true — supply is greater than demand.

There is a huge influx of university diplomas from some obscure and unknown, invalidated institutions from within the region and they are not in adequate correlation with the products of education itself in Montenegro. Yet again, in the labor market they are the equivalent of diplomas obtained at higher education institutions within Montenegro. This creates an even bigger gap in regards to the normative relationship between the education sector and the employment sector — which further leads to the inability of young people to realize their full potential in the domicile country and consequently they are forced to continue their lives abroad. It is something which is especially disastrous for a small country like Montenegro, where young people should be the first line of support in the economic recovery and further development of the country.

How to ensure good practice in the future

Youth policies are very important. Young people are a driving force that will shape the world and its principles in the future. Accordingly, their voice must be heard. Numerous initiatives by large organizations, the UN and the European Union, have been made in order to improve the lives of the youth and to offer them various opportunities for growth and development in areas of vital importance. However, even the very countries that are part of that system must make sure that the National Youth Strategies are being drafted and adopted in a comprehensive and inclusive manner, and most importantly — ensure the proper implementation of these same strategies. They should primarily be planned and executed as cross-sectoral youth policies.

That’s the only way you can include everything relevant in the process, mainly by increasing participation of young in the decision-making process and making it easier for young people to become established in the labor market and preventing social exclusion, through strengthening the empowerment of young people through education, particular training and so on. In some countries, it must be acknowledged, the ignorance and lethargy of young people is at an extremely visible level and this is also an important difference. Such defeatist thinking and behavior needs to be mitigated and replaced with some more positive examples for the sake of progress at the individual or group level. Certain decision-makers should find a way to first inform the public in the right way, and then consequently mobilize young people and mobilize them in terms of activating their full creative potential.

There are many options and valid opportunities in the world nowadays, and it is up to all of us whether we will recognize and seize them or not. Together we can change the world, one step at a time!

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