In 2013, more than half of young Macedonians were affected by unemployment and the poverty rate remained high. Despite a variety of government strategies put in place, the results to date appear to be limited. Almost one-third of young Macedonian graduates succumb to brain drain, prompted by low salaries, poor career prospects and an uncertain future.
In line with the government’s programme, the SDC is aiming to revitalise the local economy by working on the causes that prevent jobs being created. To this end, it supports a project that seeks to ensure sustainable business growth and, indirectly, boost employability.
Support for certain sectors
The SDC focuses on specific sectors in order to establish better cooperation and coordination among the different stakeholders. It helps companies access a range of skills, technologies and know-how, and sets up further training courses to make sure that the qualifications and capabilities people have match the needs of the job market. The project also includes activities to improve framework conditions for businesses and boost demand for local products and services. It ensures that SMEs in the organic farming, tourism and ICT sectors will be able to benefit from better technical support and professional practices. The project will also focus on including women and young people.
Organic farming and ICT
In the ICT sector, the Macedonian government is seeking to develop opportunities for local companies providing online services, such as in its administrative bodies and healthcare service. This requires skilled labour, which is why the project focuses mainly on training workers – particularly young people – in line with market needs. It also helps local businesses to enter the economy.
In the organic farming sector, the project aims to strengthen this niche market through promotional activities and providing technical support. In the capital Skopje, there has been a recent trend in favour of organic products according to local consumers.
Suzanna Dimitrievska, a farmer, threw herself into the organic venture. With help from the SDC project, she was able to find high-quality seeds to grow beans and also received good advice. Now she hopes that she can even export to Switzerland, if the beans meet the standards that are required. Suzanna also shares her experiences and know-how with other local farmers.
Another project goal is to attract more visitors to Macedonia by capitalising on the country’s cultural heritage – improving the provision and delivery of services and fostering linkages between hotels, tourist services, municipalities and agencies. These diverse activities are concentrated in three tourist destinations – Mavrovo, Ohrid and Kruševo. Because the offers in these destinations depend on the season, local companies are supported and encouraged to put forward ideas for off-season services.
The SDC’s project supplements the Macedonian government’s strategy to increase jobs in the tourism sector and is expected to help the selected businesses generate an additional CHF 15 million in revenue by April 2019.