Concern is growing in Albania over the quality of the education system and its effects on massive unemployment, particularly among young people, international and local experts say.
The World Bank’s regional director, Ellen Goldstein, said at a recent high-level conference that reforming the education system is the largest challenge Albania faces in improving job prospects for young people who are facing record unemployment.
Officials from the World Bank and the Albanian government say they are working together on a new strategy to reform the education system to better serve the needs of the labor market.
The World Bank has noted Albania still lags behind the region and must work harder to meet European standards.
Goldstein also offered figures indicating massive workforce under-utilization in Albania.
“About 40 percent of the working-age population is neither working nor looking for work, and are passive in this regard,” she said at the conference. “These figures are higher for youth, women and the poor.”
Goldstein added Albania needs a fundamental education reform to help increase employment by adapting to market needs.
Albania is facing difficult labor market challenges and should boost competitiveness, World Bank experts said.
For example, employment of women in Albania is extremely low, at only 30 percent, data shows.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said at the conference a radical reform at all levels of education was needed.
He said the government was working with the European Union and the World Bank to increase funding for education.
The government believes that vocational education will reduce unemployment, because young people will not follow general studies but take on marketable skills at an early age.
To that end, it is hoping to establish more trade schools, following the example of Germany and Austria, which have successful education systems and low unemployment rates.
The latest efforts come as data earlier this month showed youth unemployment climbed to a historic high of 33.5 percent in the second quarter of 2014, meaning one out of three people aged between 15 to 29 find themselves jobless, according to a labor force survey published by the country’s state statistical institute, INSTAT.
The unemployment rate for this category has increased by around 10 percent in the past couple of years rising from 23.6 percent in the first quarter of 2012 to 30.2 percent in early 2014 and 33.5 percent in the second quarter of 2014. Youth aged 15 to 29 years old who said they were students or attending training accounted for 62.7 percent of young men and women economically not active.
With Albania’s average population age at 31, one of the youngest in Europe along with Kosovo, youth unemployment has become a top concern although most young men and women nowadays manage to get a university degree, unveiling the inefficiency of the education system but also crisis impacts as the private sector has almost frozen new hiring. Around 12.6 percent of youth aged between 15 to 29 are classified as discouraged workers.