Young men at a workshop at the Youth-centered Skills observatory and Experimentation Lab in Moldova. Photo: UNDP Moldova

In Moldova, about 30 percent of young people are either unemployed or not enrolled in any formal training. This is an alarmingly high figure, indicating that so much of our country’s potential is currently wasting away.

To tackle this problem, we at UNDP Moldova have been collecting micronarratives on unemployment since 2016. This technique brings together the richness of anecdotal data with the objectivity of statistics.

By analyzing the micronarratives through a software called SenseMaker, we are able to identify patterns, tendencies, and correlations in the stories. The process helps us to uncover details that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

To date, we have gathered more than 1,500 micronarratives from youth. One of our major findings in Moldova has been this: It’s not simply a matter of unemployment. It’s about lack of skills, or a mismatch of skills between businesses and youth.

As one young person put it: “The jobs out there all require experience from us young people, but nobody wants to help us gain it. It’s a vicious cycle.” That explaıns why a lot of young people in Moldova end up either taking positions ranking lower than jobs they are qualified for, or they leave it to find jobs elsewhere. Even in cases where they gain experience abroad and come back, the struggle is rarely over: “I came back, and they told me that the experience I gained abroad is not relevant in our country’s context. Now I am back to square one.”

Most people we spoke to say they don’t know where to start. They don’t know where to post their CV, or even which field suits them best. If they decide to be bold and launch a start-up, they often fail quickly due to high competition and lack of experience.

Young men at a workshop at the Youth-centered Skills observatory and Experimentation Lab in Moldova. Photo: UNDP Moldova

Another thing we learned was that many young people are mothers with small children who cannot afford childcare, which holds them back from entering the labor market. If we want to encourage more young women to join the labour force, development of day-care services housed within the premises of private employers is a must.

We are the first organisation in Moldova to look at youth unemployment through the lens of youth perspectives. Compared to the usual practice of developing large scale, national-level programmes (which can often be removed from the realities on the ground and quickly collapse), small experiments like ours can translate into innovative solutions which do not require major legislative changes, are low-cost and safe-to-fail.

Through our innovation lab, we hope to continue to inform policy makers and the National Employment Service on new ways to promote youth employability and engage with youth for the design of new solutions.

If you are interested to hear about our experience in more detail, contact us. We will be delighted to help you explore the complexity of the labor market, generate new evidence, and experiment with solutions that you think could increase employability in your national context.

Editor’s Note: The Youth-centered Skills observatory and Experimentation Lab is funded by the Government of Turkey through the Istanbul’s Catalytic Facility and implemented by UNDP Moldova. 

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