Our author and MEET UP! Young Expert Gheorghe Chiriac shares his ideas about the youth sector in the Republic of Moldova. In 2019, he worked as a civil officer at the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Moldova in the Department of Youth Policies.
Youth is the time of big dreams, the time of the most daring and maybe even wild stuff. It's a time when it seems like there are infinite resources, when no dream is too big, when time isn't limited, when there are no half-measures, and when failure isn't a barrier. But how do young people in the Republic of Moldova navigate these exciting times?
Young people make up about a quarter of the country's population. So, it is in everyone's interest to invest in them. Effective implementation of policies that address the reproductive and sexual health and the rights of young people, their active involvement in the decision-making process, offering opportunities to fulfill their potential. But a major concern is that the generation of young people is continuously decreasing because of low birth rates and emigration.
It's worth noting that in recent years, more and more young people in the Republic of Moldova have chosen to pursue higher education opportunities outside the country. This is an upward trend as the degree and scholarship opportunities continue to grow. Internship and scholarship opportunities for graduate and post-graduate students are abundant. And young people from the Republic of Moldova tend to opt for these opportunities. To the extent that the formal educational system cannot fully cover the qualitative development of the skills required in the digital age, being insufficiently flexible, the state invests in the promotion of non-formal and informal educational facilities. It is built around the concept of learning by doing, employs methods and tools to work with young people within non-formal education activities and programs, which aim to develop a set of skills and competencies that ensure personal and career growth of young people.
The NEET phenomenon in the Republic of Moldova is fairly common. NEET (an acronym for "Not in Employment, Education or Training") is used to refer to the situation many people aged between 15 and 29 find themselves in Europe. About four out of ten young people in the Republic of Moldova are employed. With an increase of 3% as compared to 2020, the Republic of Moldova has one of the highest rates of young people in Europe who are not currently employed or pursuing their education. Some of the reasons include the lack of employment opportunities, low salaries, reduced opportunities and poor-quality services, poorly developed infrastructure, especially in rural areas.
© Andrii Volgin
Many young respondents said they were considering leaving the country to go to college or find work. Colleges and universities continue to see a drop in college enrollment rates. There is also a steadily growing shortage of skilled young people to fill job openings. A large-scale process that has been underway for two decades now is difficult, if not impossible, to halt at this point. It is probably the lack of vision and leadership, but also the mistrust fueled by repeated internal failures. It’s a much-discussed issue that has taken root in young people’s minds.
Young people in the Republic of Moldova, like probably many of those living anywhere else, firmly support the idea of embracing cooperation among states, where international borders are erased as decidedly abstract notions, where many of them can fulfill their potentials or find a good job far away from their homes. The Republic of Moldova is losing a significant number of young professionals every year; this trend has been noticeable for a number of years now, and predictions indicate that it will only worsen. The United Nations Development Program confirms that a quarter of the population is temporarily or permanently located elsewhere. The population fell from 3.3 million at the previous census in 2004 to 2.8 million at the most recent count in 2014.
Is it a trend that has been adopted by the masses of young people who are influenced by the example of others around them, or will it be a reasonable choice determined by precarious economic, social, and systemic circumstances? It's hard to give a simple yes or no answer. The truth is that many young people feel less motivated to change anything in their home countries and are fueled by the yearning for a better life abroad.
There is a low degree of participation among young people, according to international and national reports that assess their involvement in civic and decision-making activities. The Moldovan Youth Index for 2020, a tool that measures the disparities between young people and the adult population in different socio-economic fields (participation in the decision-making process, economic vulnerability, economic activity, risk situations and health) suggests that the level of participation of young people in the political and decision-making processes at the local level is much lower than that of adults. Despite efforts to stimulate youth participation, less than 20% of young people in the Republic of Moldova participate in activities to influence the decision-making process. We mean both participation in the meetings where decisions are made, including those impacting the community, work sessions of youth entities and street rallies. We should somehow counteract these alarming statistics, which are closely related to the lack of competent institutions to promote, manage and control youth facilities in the Republic of Moldova. In the absence of a functional institution, the position and salary of youth workers has become less attractive to ensure staff stability, which in turn determines the quality of the programs and services provided. Because of their limited resources, youth organizations must focus their service efforts on low-cost, long-term initiatives that benefit young people directly. The youth sector's human resource capacity is low, and this limits the quality and effectiveness of youth employment. The fact that many specialists and youth workers come from unrelated backgrounds and lack the appropriate training and experience is another issue. There is a severe lack of youth-focused services in more remote areas. Youth organizations are primarily located in urban areas, which means that disadvantaged groups of young people have even less access to the relevant services and programs. Young people who have fewer opportunities (such as those with disabilities, or those that come from ethnic minorities, poor families, the unemployed or educationally disadvantaged young people etc.) are less likely to be included in development programs and services.
Even though young people in the Republic of Moldova are facing a lot of challenges, I keep telling myself that this is an equation with multiple unknowns, especially when it comes to the future. However, it is encouraging that political institutions along with NGOs and organizations like the EVZ Foundation are working together to give young people in the Republic of Moldova the tools they need to be actively involved in changing their lives for the better. For example, the launch of the Young European Ambassadors of the European Union and the Erasmus+ programs promote cultural, economic and social exchanges among young people in the Republic of Moldova. The Minority Youth Moldova organization also helps reduce social isolation of young people and bring people from different social backgrounds together to work on projects and learn from each other. Also, more and more students in the Republic of Moldova are getting involved in youth parliaments and youth councils at the local and national level, and working together to improve their training conditions and learn to articulate their positions on current issues. The Republic of Moldova's EU-oriented government is also helping to provide more freedoms and opportunities for the country’s youth. I’m hopeful and still believe that the best is yet to come!
Written by Gheorghe Chiriac