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SARAJEVO, 17 November 2021 – Nearly one in two young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or 47 percent, say they are thinking about leaving the country temporarily or permanently, according to a new representative survey of young people aged 18-29 published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Populations Fund.
Some 23,000 young people, or 4 percent of the country’s youth, are projected to have already undertaken concrete steps and are very likely to emigrate within the next 12 months, the survey finds. 

Dissatisfaction with the quality of life in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the main driver of young people’s interest in going abroad, according to the survey: almost 73 per cent of respondents say the standard of living in their immediate environment has stagnated or even deteriorated.    

“Youth migration as such is a good thing: it opens up opportunities for studying and gaining professional experience abroad, learning new languages and getting acquainted with different cultures. But young people shouldn’t feel they have to leave their own country because of lack of opportunities at home,” said Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“We hope the survey results will be useful in informing and supporting ongoing efforts by the authorities to expand opportunities for young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and improve their quality of life and well-being.” 

This is not only a matter of ensuring that young people can fulfil their potential, but also critical for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s efforts to strengthen its resilience in the face of the demographic challenges it faces, added Ms. Armitage. 

Emigration is a major factor in the decrease of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population, which is projected to drop to under 1.6 million by 2070 (from 3.5 million today). It also exacerbates the ageing of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population, and affects the country’s fertility rate, with 1.25 children per woman already one of the lowest in Europe, as many young people of reproductive age are starting families abroad.       

Those most likely to have aspirations for emigration are 18 to 24 years old and male, have secondary education, do not have a job, are single, and have dual citizenship or family and friends abroad. In general, the survey found that the more stable a young person’s employment situation is, the less likely they are to consider relocation abroad.

The reasons young people cite for their interest in emigration include unfavourable socio-economic conditions, high youth unemployment, lack of quality public services, as well as a non-supportive environment and a lack of opportunities for personal growth and professional development. Distrust in public institutions is high, with more than 70 percent of young people believing that society is systemically corrupt.

The report recommends a range of measures to improve young people’s life quality and opportunities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This includes policies and action to improve education and job prospects, expand quality public services and access to housing, and restore young people’s trust in public institutions. Other proposed measures include promoting young people’s participation in public affairs, and countering negative stereotypes of the younger generation. 

“Young people are not a homogenous group – they have different backgrounds, characteristics, needs, experiences and aspirations, and any efforts at state and substate levels must take these differences into account, and involve young people themselves, to be effective and to make sure no one is left behind,” said John Kennedy Mosoti, UNFPA Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

“Providing opportunities and prospects to its young people must be a top priority for Bosnia and Herzegovina to thrive amid the demographic challenges it faces.”

The survey was conducted to inform the development of Youth Vision 2030 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a process that will be led by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina in collaboration with UNFPA and other entity ministries responsible for youth, including entity youth councils. Youth Vision 2030 will give strategic direction and suggest policy measures to improve the position of young people in society, in line with the Lisbon+21 Declaration adopted by the World Conference of Ministers responsible for Youth.