The company “Pestova”, which deals with the production, processing and marketing of potatoes, was founded in 1991. Its owner, Bedri Kasumi, says that initially the company started as a small family business, while today it employs about 250 regular workers and many others seasonal.
Mr. Kasumi said in a conversation with the Voice of America that every year his company has recorded growth of 20 to 30 percent, but its expansion is constantly challenged by difficulties in finding workers.
“A company to be successful must have trained staff who know their work well. This is a problem that has existed since earlier, but it is becoming more and more prominent every day. We have excellent students in theory, but in practice they are far behind and all the staff who manage this company somehow go through various internal trainings and only then are they able to take on the responsibility of the work assigned to them”, said Mr. Kasumi.
Difficulties are greater in finding seasonal workers, he says, especially in the phase of planting, watering and collecting potatoes.
“Even though they have an extremely good salary, a minimum of 900 euros and two shunts a day, we don’t have seasonal workers so we are facing a very big shortage with a pretty big problem that is growing,” he says.
Skender Krasniqi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Kosovo, says that the businesses registered in this institution, especially those related to construction, agriculture and hotel industry, are more and more complaining about the lack of workers.
“Yes, there are many, not even that there are cases, but now the possibility of hiring workers from abroad is trending and the arrival of workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and other countries has started in order to ensure the business”, he says.
This situation is considered paradoxical by experts in the field, given that the unemployment rate in Kosovo is very high.
Mr. Krasniqi says that this situation is a consequence of the lack of coordination between state institutions and business representatives to direct the education of young people according to market demand.
“The lack of coordination between institutions and businesses for several years, more precisely since the post-war period, has led to this bad situation where there is mutual dissatisfaction, on one side of the workers and on the other side of the businesses, because they are being forced to hire workers unqualified, to qualify them and then there is a risk of their fleeing”, he says.
Jusuf Azemi, head of the Union of the Private Sector in Kosovo, told the Voice of America that according to the union’s data, over 80 percent of the companies in the country face a lack of workers, a phenomenon that he considers very disturbing.
“Besides the salary, besides the conditions and besides the lack of implementation of the labor law and the collective agreement, there is also the issue of safety at work. We unfortunately lead Europe in the number of workplace deaths and we as a society have done nothing about these cases and people have already been waiting for quite a long time. It may be reasonable to wait about ten years after the war, but now we are more than 24 years behind and there are no improvements”, he says.
Mr. Krasniqi says that the difficulties in finding a job and the shortcomings in the working conditions are encouraging young people to leave the country.
“The salary, for example, of 400 or 500 euros is insufficient for a family of four or five members, and here the state must intervene in order to protect the family. The state must also protect the worker, in the event that a worker has been employed for over 20 years and remains unemployed for a moment, the state does not take care of him to give him 50 or 80 percent for at least six months or a year of the salary in order to protect him”, he says.
Mr. Azemi says that from 2014 until the end of 2022, 287 thousand 328 workers have fled from Kosovo.
“In 2018, 28 thousand 164 workers left, in 2019 34 thousand 913, in 2020 we have eight thousand 724 due to the pandemic, for 2021 we have 42 thousand 673 workers and in 2022 we have over 60 thousand fled from Kosovo”, says Mr. Azemi.
He expresses concern that if there is no intervention from the state to improve the current situation, the functionality of many institutions will be jeopardized due to the lack of workers.
“Our biggest concern is related to the maintenance and insurance of hospitals at the level of Kosovo, which are carried out by private companies, and if this continues and with these salaries, which are 270-280 euros, I am afraid that after a year or a year and a half in the operating rooms, maybe the doctors can be very ready, but they are not the ones who clean, maintain and make the room ready for the operation”, he says.
The spokesperson of the government, Përparim Kryeziu, in a conversation with the Voice of America, said that since the beginning of the mandate, the government has started efforts to mitigate the gap between the demand of the labor market and the preparation of the workforce, which he says have been missing for a while long.
Last year, the government of Kosovo opened several branches for professional training of young people within secondary schools in the country.
“This year, due to the success, we have decided to expand the range of dual education to a total of 12 profiles from four, in 23 municipalities from three, and to 12 schools from last year’s four, where it is planned that around 800 students will benefit . What we are aiming to do through this is to on the one hand respond to the labor market demands and on the other hand also prepare the new workforce to be ready and effective at work from the moment of engagement”, he says.
Mr. Kryeziu says that the government is also making efforts to employ young people, underlining the opening of the ‘superpuna’ platform more than six months ago.
“Thanks to this platform, we have five thousand young people who are already engaged in various jobs, always in the private sector, this was achieved through this platform but also through the support or subsidies that the government gives in the six-month period of the initial engagement of them”, he says.
While the lack of well-prepared workers continues to remain a challenge for the country’s enterprises, unemployment continues to be one of the biggest problems in Kosovo. In the Statistics Agency of Kosovo, the data for 2022 are not complete, while in 2021 the unemployment rate reached over 24 percent.