The Western Balkans (WB) region has had one of the largest emigration rates in Europe in recent years with approximately one-third of their citizens now living outside of the region. Recent data from the World Bank report “Western Balkans Labor Market Trends 2019” confirm that most of the WB emigrants are young and well educated. These trends raise concerns on the negative impact of the emigration of young professionals, both men and women, on the human capital formation, competitiveness, growth and economic convergence in the region. Two sectors affected in particular by emigration are public health and ICT.
Given the increasing need for healthcare services due to the demographic changes in Western and Central Europe, the recruitment of foreign health professionals and caretakers in the EU Member States, such as Germany, has intensified, and an increasing number of health professionals, whose education and training were significantly subsidized through state education budgets, have left their home countries for better salaries, training opportunities, and career prospects in EU Member States.
BiH is among the most affected countries by the emigration. It is estimated that half of those born within its borders now live abroad. Compared to 3.2 million inhabitants in BiH (BHAS estimate), the number of BiH nationals living abroad is 1.6 million (Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2018). The emigration flows involve economic, security, family reunion and other forms of migration. This emigration wave (1995 onwards) has mainly involved young people leaving BiH due to the high unemployment rate, institutional inefficiencies, political situation, and/or other individual reasons.
According to the data provided by Eurostat (2020), in the period between 2011 and 2019, a total of 363,705 residence permits for remunerated activities were issued to BiH citizens in the EU countries. Even though the number of first-time residence permits for remunerated activities have been growing progressively over the last decade a trend of substantial growth in the last five years has been observed.
This trend is particularly evident in the healthcare and information communication and technology (ICT) sectors. Since comprehensive data on this phenomenon is missing, through its "Evidence-Based Labour Migration Policies for Healthcare and ICT Sectors in BiH" project, the IOM has set up a close partnership with government authorities and the private sector relevant to contribute to the BiH Government’s efforts to improve migration governance and development of evidence-based policies related to the migration of healthcare and ICT professionals.
This is to be achieved by gathering evidence on the scope, trends and impact of the emigration of women and men working in the healthcare and ICT sectors from BiH, making these findings available and providing recommendations to national authorities on how to address the challenges deriving from the situation. Concretely, the project will support national authorities in BiH to map migration flows from BiH, looking specifically at the emigration of healthcare and ICT professionals, establish the scope and emerging trends of these migration flows, distinguish different trends between genders, and develop a typology of female and male professionals who migrate and/or are prone to migrate. The project will also help to better understand and estimate the short-term and long-term consequences of the emigration of healthcare and ICT professionals at the national, local and potentially household/individual levels and will propose a series of policy and programmatic recommendations to address key challenges and negative impacts of the high rates of emigration, including gender-specific negative impacts such as lack of care arrangements of families left behind. Recommendations could address the lack of data and gender disaggregated data on the phenomenon, which would be required to inform the design and introduction of new labour migration policies with the potential to minimize the negative consequences of the emigration of these professionals, and with a potential to contribute to systematic change in affected communities in BiH by linking such policies to broader and long-term city strategies, education strategies, urban development plans etc.
As comprehensive data on this phenomenon is missing, IOM has set up a close partnership with government authorities and the private sector relevant to labour migration issues and, through its "Evidence-Based Labour Migration Policies for Healthcare and ICT Sectors in BiH" project, implemented a study to gather evidence on the emigration of healthcare and ICT professionals.
Therefore, through this proposed project, IOM aims to support the relevant ministries in the health, labour and education sector in s BiH to: (i) gather gender sensitive evidence of the scope and scale of the emigration of healthcare and ICT professionals from the region; (ii) through participatory approaches, assess its impact at the national and regional/local levels; and (iii) provide tailored recommendations to national authorities and the private sector in both BiH and EU Member States in order to further address the challenges of this phenomenon in the WB in a gender-sensitive manner and possibly turn them into opportunities making way for innovation and digitalization, and more equal labour market participation of genders.
The project is in full alignment with the SEE 2020 Strategy for the region, which aims to increase the provision of universal health coverage and increase the quality of health services, harmonize cross-border public health legislation, to adopt multilateral agreements to strengthen human resources for health and to improve inter-sectoral governance for health. Furthermore, it is in line with the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel as well as with the WHO European Health 2020 Strategy which aims to ensure the health and wellbeing of every person in Europe.
The project is also aligned with the South-Eastern European Health Network (SEEHN) Chisinau Pledge of the Ministers of Health of the network’s Member States, aiming at sustaining and strengthening the regional cooperation in public health professionals/workforce observatory, achieving universal health coverage for its populations by e.g. recruiting, developing, training and retaining the health workforce and by establishing a SEE Health Network platform to strengthen human resources for health and to promote cross-border mobility of public health and health care professionals. The project is also aligned with the overall aim of the 2030 Agenda of “leaving no one behind” (especially SDG 3 and 8). Through this project, IOM intends to achieve efficient, effective, resilient and sustainable health systems in BiH and improved income generating opportunities for BiH ICT professionals, contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, 5 and 8.
 Fachkräfte gesucht wie nie!, DIHK-Arbeitsmarktreport 2018, https://www.dihk.de/themenfelder/wirtschaftspolitik/
 World Health Organization Report 2018: www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2018/en/
 Data available for 2009.
 Vracic, Alida (2018): The way back: Brain drain and prosperity in the Western Balkans. Policy Brief by the European Council on Foreign relations. www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/the_way_back_brain_drain_and_prosperity_in_the_western_balkans (accessed 19/11/2018)
 Market Makers (2016): Gender Equality in IT Sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Retrieved from: http://www.marketmakers.ba/bundles/websitenews/gallery/files/15/1485873826Gender_equality_in_IT_sector_in_BiH_(ENG).pdf (accessed 19/03/2018).
 International Labour Organization 2017
 National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) https://www.ncwit.org/
 Ansip, Andrus (2015): BLOG POST Digital skills, jobs and the need to get more Europeans online. Retrieved from: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/ansip/blog/digital-skills-jobs-and-need-get-more-europeans-online_en (accessed 19/03/2018).
 Empirica is a private research and consultancy firm supporting innovation with new information technology across a wide, international area of economic activity. https://www.empirica.com/de/home/
 See for example: https://www.dw.com/en/the-new-balkan-dream-is-a-2000-per-month-telecommute/a-45258826