Labour Migration

Policymakers in relevant government agencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH), in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agency for Labour and Employment and its line ministry, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, require support in the design and implementation of policies that maximise the positive effects of migration, while minimising its negative impacts on families and communities of origin, transit, and destination. In this context, bilateral labour agreements should be pursued with countries in the region and the EU, to facilitate short-to medium term migration from BH for the purposes of, inter alia, seasonal employment, specific project-related employment, apprenticeships, or trainee-ships. These agreements serve to formalise the commitment of respective countries to ensure that migration takes place in accordance with agreed principles and procedures, facilitating an orderly migration process that protects the interests of the migrants themselves, as well as both the sending and receiving country.

The establishment of Migrant Service Centres (MSCs), which have been supported by the Migration for Development in the Western Balkans (MIDWEB) project, has strengthened and increased the capacities of state agencies to provide efficient dissemination of information about legal channels for migration among potential labour migrants and provided enhanced opportunities for return of skills and human capital. Therefore, investing in the establishment of further Migrant Service Centres will ensure that the progress made since the establishment of the centres is maintained.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a member of the Coordination Body for Migration and Asylum, should be supported in promoting state-level policies dedicated to temporary and circular migration which can help establish links between BH and partner states as well as between stakeholders in both the private and public sector, opening channels for systematic and effective skills transfer and capacity building through managed migration. Temporary and Circular Migration Schemes targeting specific professions and designed to address labour market and demographic age disparities between EU and Western Balkan countries and BH, as well as to encourage the attainment of new skills and expertise that will be beneficial to BH upon migrants’ return can be initiated, with appropriate support, by the Coordination Group mentioned above. This would include the initiation of bilateral labour and social benefits agreements with EU member states based on the identification of destination countries of strategic interest and taking into account labour market needs and political considerations in both BH and the country of destination. This form of migration also serves to diminish the push factors that cause irregular migration from BH amongst the economically active population, preventing brain drain.

Countries in the region have advanced in regulating labour mobility; new laws and by-laws are being adopted in line with  EU acquis. Practical mechanisms are emerging for regulating migration as well as incorporating migration into other strategic documents. However, emerging mechanisms and frameworks are still fragile and require consolidation and institutionalization. Labour market information systems capture some data on migration, but in a non-systematic manner, hindering analysis and long-term forecasts. Migrant Service Centres provide support to out-going migrants, but they are not yet a nation-wide phenomenon. The need for labour mobility regulation has been proclaimed, but very few practical mechanisms exist to implement policies. Furthermore, whilst links with the Diaspora have been established and pilots have taken place in the sphere of temporary return, both are in a non-systematic manner.

In this context, economic migrants continue to leave uninformed of or unprepared for real market demands in destination countries; migrant workers remain poorly protected while abroad; and specialists from BH residing abroad are eager to contribute with their skills but opportunities in BH are not well-pronounced, causing potential investors from amongst the Diaspora to remain inactive and opt for other markets. Therefore, policies should move away from regulating total flows of migration towards more targeted approaches based on migrants’ educational level and experience; nature of migration; and meeting specific labour market needs with immigration schemes based on “points” and migrant characteristics. Furthermore, a reliable framework is required for mapping the Diaspora and assessing its potential input into the development of BH.