The UNFPA in Bosnia and Herzegovina has commissioned a survey that needed to provide research evidence on youth emigration in the country, and support the development of new or revision of the existing policies at different levels of BiH governance.

The research study was conducted on a representative sample of 5,001 young people, aged 18-29. The research was based on a quantitative approach and collection of primary data collected in a large-scale face-to-face survey, which took place between January and March 2021, implemented by a market research company, Ipsos BiH.

The research report documents the main socio-economic factors and features that drive outward oriented migration of young people from BiH, primarily taking into account individual characteristics of the respondents such as sex, age, education level, employment status, political and civic engagement, place of residence, quality of living environment, positions and trust toward politics and policies in pre- and COVID19 period, as well as various other relevant elements. Migratory potential was assessed by the application of a set of questions on migratory intentions in the country of origin, while drivers of migration were explored by questions on the causes of migratory aspirations that are observed as a result of macro (e.g. socio-economic situation), meso (e.g. social network abroad) and micro factors (e.g. characteristics of the individual).

According to the survey results, 47 per cent of young people in BiH had been thinking about leaving the country; 23 per cent would like to leave the country temporarily, while 24 per cent are thinking about leaving BiH permanently. The survey results also indicate high migratory potential of BiH youth population; 47 per cent have total, 13 per cent have probable, while 4 per cent have actual migration potential, meaning that estimates suggest that between 22,300 and 23,700 of young people (aged 18 to 29) have probably already undertaken some actions/initial steps for actual migration to happen, and it can be expected they will emigrate from Bosnia and Herzegovina, either temporarily or permanently over the next twelve months.
Survey results indicate that young people in BiH are faced with an unsatisfactory standard of living and quality of life, which is a product of unfavourable socio-economic conditions, high youth unemployment rate, insufficient availability and/or accessibility to quality public services, as well as non-supportive environment and the lack of opportunities for personal growth and professional development. At the same time, the level of trust of young people in public institutions in BiH is quite low which can be explained by a high level of perceived corruption and mismanagement in the public sector i.e. more than 70 per cent of young people believe that BiH society is systemically corrupted.

These findings imply that young people do not believe that public institutions in BiH care about their interests, and that level of institutional distrust might result in indifference and resistance, and lack of willingness to contribute to political and socio-economic development. Furthermore, the institutional distrust might also lead to a growing dissatisfaction with the living environment and feed a pessimistic attitude about the future (both personal and social), which are all important determinants of migratory aspirations. Insufficiently responsive institutions also drive youth’s decisions to emigrate, which consequently shrinks the pool of skilled workers and professionals that will serve to replace generations and contribute to systems that require intergenerational solidarity (such as health care and social protection).

The results regarding political and civic engagement of youth correspond to prior research and indicate that young people in BiH, apart from the traditional model of participation through voting in elections, express low interest in either formal or semi-formal types of political engagement. The civic engagement, on the other hand, is mostly evident through helping others and donating money to a charity. These findings imply that many of young people in BiH do not see themselves as an important driving force for changing the system, either because they are not interested, or because they are not enabled to create and shape policies that directly affect their lives, or because they use their abstinence as a form of protest against a socio-political system that does not seem to recognize their needs and interests within existing public policies and practices.

The findings imply that macro factors, such is the lack of sense of general stability and perspective manifested in various spheres (economic, political, social, and environmental), and meso factors, such as structure, strength and the quality of social networks, are the ones that significantly shape migratory aspirations of young people in BiH. If dissatisfaction in attaining goals (in terms of financial stability, career prospects and better quality of life) and unmet needs for security and structured, predictable and optimistic future is added to that, then it becomes clear that migratory aspirations and migration-related behaviours of young people in BiH are driven by necessity rather than a choice.

Full research report can be downloaded and read here.