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Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans

From Analysis to Action

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The Western Balkans region has come a long way over the last two decades in achieving economic and social progress. Its people are the region’s greatest asset. Yet faced with a lack of opportunities many, particularly the young, decide to emigrate. To make the most of its future the region must invest in its attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest in.

This report comes as a follow-up to the earlier publication Multi-dimensional Review of the Western Balkans: Assessing Opportunities and Constraints. It builds on an extensive peer-learning process that brought together experts from across the region and beyond. The report provides suggestions and recommendations for three strategic priorities that can help create opportunities and boost the quality of life. First, better education and more competencies are the basis for raising productivity, creating jobs, encouraging civic participation and making the region an attractive destination. Second, social cohesion is the bedrock of resilient societies and requires stronger labour market policies and effective social protection that can cushion people’s hardship and provide them with new opportunities. Third, cleaner air and more sustainable energy are indispensable for boosting the region’s quality of life and economic opportunities.

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Fostering social cohesion in Kosovo

Since its independence, Kosovo has made remarkable progress in increasing the well-being of its citizens. Despite a narrow productive base, Kosovo had the highest economic growth in the region over the period 2015‑19. Kosovo has also made important steps towards institution building. As a result, living standards have improved. To continue building a socially cohesive society through labour market and social protection, this chapter puts forward key policy priorities for Kosovo. Kosovo should prioritise strengthening links between the skills formation system and labour market needs. To further increase labour market participation, especially among women and vulnerable groups, it is important to also address the existing weakness in maternity leave and provide options for paternity leave, as well as taking action against discrimination. Kosovo has a unique social protection system, with universal social pensions and last-resort income support compensating for missing social insurance mechanisms. While this has benefits in terms of coverage, the absence of financed employment-linked entitlements tends to limit worker protection and to generate adverse labour market incentives. Providing unemployment insurance, improving the functioning of the pensions system and ensuring that social assistance reaches those most in need, would improve access to adequate safety nets. In addition, Kosovo should also improve the delivery of social services.

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