This brief is based on a compilation of views, opinions, insights, and conclusions on youth entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and startups in the Western Balkans (WB) region contributed by the civil society organizations and key stakeholders active in the region and compiled from reports, publications and articles listed in the Bibliography section of this document.
The per capita income of the Western Balkan countries is just 27 percent of the EU15 average. Over 50% of youth population is unemployed, with one country reporting the youth unemployment rate of 63 percent, the Europe’s highest. Women participation in the active labour market starts at dismal 30 percent. Similarly, the WB region’s small and medium enterprises (SME) sector and social enterprises (SE) in the impact sector provide less than 30% of total employment. The economic hardships, poverty or a lack of jobs, coupled with a lack of opportunities and future prospects result in sizeable migration that drains the region of its most educated and skilled residents. The WB governments have, so far, failed to find a sustainable solution that develops human capital and keeps it within the region, mobilizes (youth) entrepreneurship and support SMEs for the new economy.