The Covid-19 crisis exposed labour market challenges and opportunities
Two years of the Covid -19 pandemic hit the Macedonian labour market after a decade of continuous improvements. While the economy recovered faster than expected from the Covid-19 pandemic (GDP growth rate in 2020: -4,5 per cent, in 2021: +4 percent, est.), the much-needed recovery of labour markets is lagging. Working-hour losses in North Macedonia have generally been higher than in other Western Balkan economies. According to Labour Force Survey data, the working-hour losses displayed high volatility during the pandemic and increased from 8.3 per cent in Q1-2020 to 23.8 per cent in Q2-2020 due to strict containment measures. Since the second half of 2020, data show a recovery of working hours, but as per mid 2021 working hours are still lower than in pre-pandemic times (-5.2 percent in Q2-2021 compared to Q2-2019).
The COVID 19 crisis has further exposed the structural labour market problems from before the pandemic. These challenges are low labour market participation, in particular among women and youth, low job creation, inadequate earnings, and unproductive work.
With permanent presence in the country since 2009, and assistance through the Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCP), the ILO has supported the country in working on these challenges. The current DWCP 2019-2022 focuses on two priorities: 1) improved labour market governance through enhanced social dialogue; and 2) more and better jobs for inclusive growth and improved youth employment prospects. The ILO continued to support the state institutions and the social partners in the areas of employment, skills, labour legislation, and application of international labour standards.
The new National Employment Strategy 2021-2027 and National Action Plan on Employment 2021-2023, developed with the ILO assistance, aim to improve the quality of education and training, enhance the role of economic and enterprise development policies in generating decent jobs, and strengthen the inclusiveness of labour market policies. ILO supported the roll out of Youth Guarantees and Local Employment Partnership. These interventions contributed to the creation of almost 7000 new jobs in 2021.
Another highlight of ILO support in 2021 was the introduction of a Virtual Reality Skills Lab that simulates workplaces for VET students. 300 students used the Lab in electrics and electronics related occupations in five secondary VET schools.
The partnership between the ILO and the European Union, supporting the Economic and Social Council, resulted in a stronger and proactive forum for social dialogue. The council advised on major laws and economic and social policies including the Covid 19 recovery packages.
Social partners introduced new services for their members with ILO support. The most prominent example comes from Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia. The organization introduced a mobile application for reporting labour rights violations to trade unions and ultimately to the State Labour Inspectorate. Since its launch in early 2021, 5400 workers received legal assistance and advice. Most of the cases related to delayed salaries, overtime work, right to minimum wage, allowances and salary contributions (or full story see here).
Macedonia has ratified 79 ILO Conventions (77 in force), including the eight fundamental Conventions. The ILO Committee of Experts has a number of requests concerning application of ratified conventions.
Text last updated 3/22