Cost of Youth Emigration from Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Cost of Youth Emigration from Bosnia and Herzegovina

June 12th, 2020

How much money does Bosnia and Herzegovina lose due to youth emigration?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is losing up to €21,000 per person that leaves the country, according to new research from WFD’s Western Balkans Democracy Initiative.

The latest figures from 2018 show that 44,700 people left the country and according to OECD data, the favourite destinations for people from Bosnia and Herzegovina are Germany (54%), Slovenia (26%), and Austria  (9%) of total emigrants.

The main reason for people leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina is the inability to find work. For young people, who are typically the most mobile part of the population, high unemployment rates represent one of the main push factors. The unemployment rate of young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina is enormous, with almost 40% of people having no chance of finding any sort of work after finishing their education.

This huge unemployment rate, combined with low wages even if work is found, does not create a good prospect for young people. The average income in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 6 times lower than in Germany and Austria, which are the most significant countries for emigration from this area, while it is 8 times lower than Norway, and 10 times lower than Switzerland – other destinations for Bosnian emigrants.

If this trend continues, it will bring a series of socio-economic problems in the future, some of which are visible even now – pressures on pension funds, healthcare services, social care services, a decrease in potential GDP growth due to worsening human capital factors, disturbances in workforce markets, and other challenges.

The people who leave Bosnia and Herzegovina, are “taking away“ significant value in invested funds in their education in addition to their knowledge and experience. By emigrating, these funds turn from investments into costs, as these skills and knowledge are materialized in other countries, creating a ‘brain drain’ from Bosnia and Herzegovina. These costs are multiplied by the fact that these people do not contribute to the economic activity in their own country, either as producers, or as consumers, so they directly influence a decrease in the potential of the Bosnian economy.

During the online presentation of the study’s launch today, 12 June, the British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Matthew Field stated that:

“This detailed and rigorous study provides a sobering insight into the real costs of failing to provide opportunity for all. The exodus of qualified and motivated citizens has a real and direct economic price. Using this analysis, we can work together to define and resource more positive and successful policies for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a sound basis for a new way of thinking.”  

Through our office in Bosnia and Herzegovina, WFD is working on an initiative to tackle the structural challenges to youth unemployment, one of the main drivers of emigration. In its work, our office in the country engages a wide range of stakeholders including state institutions, businesses and civil society organisations.



Read the full study.



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