“The emigration of educated and high-quality young people is a major problem for the development and the future of a small country” notes Mrs. Mila Carovska, a relatively newly appointed Minister for Labor and Social Policies in Republic of Macedonia.
Carovska, otherwise a former NGO leader and a well-known advocate for social entrepreneurship in the country, in this interview discusses how we can address societal problems through business, and what the added values of the social entrepreneurship are. Carovska also announces new measures that should not only help young people to get inspired on social entrepreneurship, but also to boost their employability skills through the Youth Guarantee initiative.
“Our priority goal is the young people in Macedonia to project and build their future in their homeland.” – says Carovska.
Mladiinfo: Minister Carovska, Macedonia is one of the countries with the highest youth unemployment rate on the European continent and in particular, there is a danger of long-term youth unemployment. Additionally, practice shows that youth in the country are not so much interested in activism and advocacy for changes and prefer to look for better future out of the country. As civic activists and former NGO worker and is now a Minister of Labor and Social Policies, what do you see as reasons behind this issue?
Carovska: Our priority goal is the young people in Macedonia to project and build their future in their homeland. The brain-drain of youth our country faces nowadays is primarily due to the feeling of hopelessness due to high unemployment, although the past decade has shown that youth decided to leave Macedonia also due to other problems in our society. The emigration of educated and high-quality young people is a major problem for the development and the future of a small country. Therefore, we must work to provide a chance for everyone and to improve the overall standards of living. The youth policy is an integral part of the employment policies and the reforms to be conducted by the government in the fields of education, health, culture and others. In the area of policies within the competence of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies, it is crucial for us to enable an environment where young people will easily get their first working experience. That is the reason why this year we are introducing the Youth Guarantee as one of the initiatives in this regard.
Mladiinfo: How do you understand the term social entrepreneurship? Could it provide a response to the burning issues in the Macedonian society discussed above?
Carovska: The social entrepreneurship or the social enterprises create innovative business models, products or services that improve the lives of people or solve a serious social problem. In recent years, these business models have become extremely interesting and have present a challenge for young entrepreneurs, as they provide the opportunity to instigate serious social change through innovation. Of course, social entrepreneurship can contribute to resolving the burning problems in the country and help marginalized groups of citizens. Innovative and practical ideas are needed that will be realized through a sustainable business model, something that is not easy at all, but it is a great challenge and a noble approach to business.
Mladiinfo:How would you evaluate the existing social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Macedonia? Do we have the necessary infrastructure for it? What role does the Ministry of Labor and Social Policies play in the process?
Carovska: Research shows that the development of social entrepreneurship in our country is still in early stage. Those, who show interest in working in this sphere, do not master the required entrepreneurship abilities, including management and financial skills, and in addition to these problems is the poor cooperation with the business sector. In my personal opinion, financial mechanisms and tools that would encourage social entrepreneurship development are still missing. Primarily, public/social/private partnership should be fostered, alongside with initial founding, grants, micro crediting, and other financial mechanisms. In this regard, the Ministry for Labour and Social Policies started to take actions to improve the eco-system by adding new measurements to the Operational plan for employment 2017.
The first action is to support already existing social enterprises, and the other one is to support employment in civil organizations, in projects like this one. These actions will continue to be part of the Operational plan for employment also in 2018. In addition, the development of social bargaining and delivery of social services, which are under regulation of the new Law of Social Protection, will provide a basis for support and development of social entrepreneurship. We are reviewing some certain benefits in the frames of the Law of Public Procurement, thanks to which the social enterprises will gain better sustainability. Last but not least, is the development of human capacity, development of management and financial skills for leading the social enterprises, and the transfer of good practices we already have in our country.
Mladiinfo: In the last few years there was an initiative to finally introduce a legislature on social entrepreneurship. However, at the very start of the process, the draft version of the law for social enterprises faced critics by the civil society representatives. At what stage is this procedure at the moment and when Macedonia is going to have functioning legislature supporting social entrepreneurship?
Carovska: Yes, it is true that the process of drafting a draft law on social enterprises began two years ago, and it has been adjusted and amended several times, in line with all the remarks submitted. In this regard, an EU project was implemented, which was supposed to help the preparation of this draft law. We now have some final proposals that need to be considered within the Ministry, but the final decision has not yet been made whether the Law will contribute to the improvement of the situation at this moment. What we will continue to do is to improve the eco-system for the development of social entrepreneurship by introducing measures of support, building stakeholders’ capacities and removing the current barriers in the existing legislature that limits the business component of the non-profit sector.
“The main goal for introducing Youth Guarantee is to secure employment offer, further education, training or internship to young people aged 15 to 29, for a period of 4 months after graduation.” – explains Carovska.
Mladiinfo:What are the upcoming projects of the Ministry for Labor and Social Policies focused on empowering youth and strengthening their employability skills? What should we all do to reduce brain-drain in Macedonia and to provide more job opportunities for youngsters in Macedonia?
Carovska: Aiming to enhance youth employability and employment, this year we are piloting the Youth Guarantee. We have to build realistic opportunities for youth, and slowly remove all major causes of why our youth is leaving the country. In the following days, the Government will adopt the Operational plan for active employment measures, where this project is included. The main goal for introducing Youth Guarantee is to secure employment offer, further education, training or internship to young people aged 15 to 29, for a period of 4 months after graduation. In 2018, the Youth Guarantee will be piloted in three Municipalities: Gostivar, Strumica and Skopje. The Youth Guarantee will include young unemployed people that are not included in the educational process, nor in training and are registered as unemployed for the first time in the current year.
Services such as career guidance and professional orientation, motivational training, individual and group counselling will be provided for them, enabling their activism and motivation within the frames of the Youth Guarantee, aiming to secure the most suitable offer for them. Further on, young unemployed people will be included in the appropriate programs, measures and services for employment according to the annual Operational plan for 2018, or including them again in the educational process.
This pilot program is supported by Swiss Development Contact and implemented in partnership with the National Youth Council. I hope that other organizations, especially successful ones like Mladiinfo, will get involved with their capacities and help in the implementation of Youth Guarantee.
Interview by: Ana Alibegova
Translation: Mladiinfo’s team