Welfare and poverty
Kosovo is one of Europe’s poorest countries. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of RKS and acronym for Kosovo. In terms of HDI value, in 2012 only Moldova had worse conditions. According to Kosovo’s own estimates in 2012, 12 percent of the population was extremely poor and unable to eat, and close to 35 percent lived below the poverty line. However, the proportion of poor people has been reduced over the past decade. This has mainly been the result of 20–25 percent of households regularly receiving money from relatives who emigrated to wealthier countries during the 1990s and early 2000s, especially to Germany and Switzerland.
In 2012, unemployment was about 45 percent, higher than in any other country in Europe. Kosovo is the country with the youngest population; half of all residents are younger than 23 years. The number of young people applying for their first job is now rising sharply, but most of those entering the labor market are low-skilled. With the uncertain economy, too few jobs are created. At the same time, the competence requirements for new employees have increased, which is partly a result of increased internationalization of business and industry.
The informal sector is large, partly because it is difficult to get the formal permits needed to start one’s own business. Those who work in the informal sector are outside the social security system and have unsafe working conditions.
The new labor legislation from 2010 and the following year is ambitious and detailed. It provides 40 hours work week for adults and 30 hours for 15-18 year olds and at least four weeks paid vacation, and it has relatively generous rules for working mothers. Forced labor in all forms is prohibited, as is work for children before the age of 15. Traditionally, however, underage children help their parents in the informal sector with work in agriculture and with street sales and housework. The law says that children should not be allowed to attend school. The authorities, in particular, pay attention to the fact that children are not used for begging and that young people under the age of 18 do not have dangerous jobs, for example at construction sites. Employers must pay occupational injury insurance for employees.
Freedom of assembly and association is without limits, but unions are ineffective and dependent on the state.
Poor Kosovo has so far had very little opportunity to build social welfare systems. Society’s safety net is not far enough and family and family are the primary basis for security. Health insurance systems are lacking and illness directly and negatively impacts the household’s finances and increases family poverty. The new labor law provides for 20 days of paid sick leave per year, longer in the event of work injury, but those who are not employed in the formal sector cannot count on such support.
In 2010, about 15 percent of the population received social assistance, including war veterans, war-wounded and their families. However, the support is not enough for a life above the poverty line and it does not upgrade in line with inflation. A small retirement pension is paid to everyone who is at least 65 years of age. In addition, there is a small supplementary pension, the size of which depends on the amount of fees paid during the working years. Today’s very high unemployment will mean that a large proportion of tomorrow’s pensioners will have a poor life.
The ethnic contradictions in the 1990s and the 1998-99 war were devastating for the health care in Kosovo. The Kosovo Albanian doctors disappeared, the Kosovo Albanian medical education was closed and many hospitals and clinics were destroyed. After the end of the war, help for reconstruction came from many countries and organizations, but there are still shortcomings in health care. Health indicators show that conditions in Kosovo are worse than in other Balkan countries. There are no current health statistics, but there is information on high infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition and tuberculosis diseases. Many households do not have access to clean water and more than half of them lack sanitation facilities.
Citizens have free access to health care but in practice have to pay a lot of treatment and medicines themselves. Of the limited government budget, only 3 percent is allocated to health care. There is a decision on a healthcare reform, but resources are lacking for it to be implemented at present.
Discrimination and ethnic contradictions
Kosovo has ambitious anti-discrimination legislation, but there are shortcomings in the application, as traditional attitudes persist in society. LGBTQ people feel to a large extent forced to keep their position secret in order not to be subjected to discrimination, threats and violence. In many cases, physically or mentally disabled people do not have access to normal education, medical facilities and other social services. The mental health institutions have a low standard.
Tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs have diminished somewhat, but in northern Kosovo there is no unusual violence and persecution at the household and individual levels with ethnic background. In the country as a whole, it is the small Roma minorities (including Ashkali and Egyptians) who are most at risk of discrimination. In many cases, they lack opportunities for basic hygiene, education and healthcare and it is they who are most dependent on humanitarian aid from international organizations.
Human rights and equality
According to the electoral law, 30 percent of the 120 parliamentarians are women, and so it was in 2012. So far, however, only a few of the government’s ministers are women. In 2011, a woman was elected president, the partyless police chief Atifete Jahjaga. Women are rare in higher management and in 2012 women stood as owners of only 6 percent of all registered companies. Only 12 percent of women aged 15-64 have permanent full-time work and unemployment is more common among women than among men. The minimum marriage age is 16 years.
Women have the same legal rights as men, but they traditionally have lower social status. It affects how their rights in reality are valued, and they are subject to discrimination in different contexts. The new labor law provides for equal pay for equal work, but women still receive only a small portion of the pay that men receive. Women are entitled to twelve months’ leave in childbirth, nine of which are part of the salary. After a few years with the new law, it was found that young people, and especially newlywed or pregnant women, found it harder to find jobs, as employers did not consider themselves receiving adequate compensation from the state for increased wage costs.
Violence against women and organized sex trafficking of women and girls are widespread in Kosovo, which is both a country of origin and a destination country for forced prostitution. The crimes rarely lead to prosecution. Organized human trafficking also affects Roma children who are at risk of being exploited for begging.
Crime and punishment
A number of ambitious anti-violence programs have been devised to protect women and children, but cultural stigma can still be attached to victims and their families, and many acts are not reported to the police. In addition, the victim is usually financially dependent on the perpetrator. Rape and intercourse with minors result in long prison sentences. The production, distribution and possession of child pornographic material produces several years in prison.
Since 1999 there are plenty of weapons in the country and an organized crime has emerged which the state has very difficult to curb. On the contrary, it is promoted by the fact that corruption is widespread and also exists at a high level in society. The country’s ineffective legal system has little opportunity to deal with drug smuggling, arms trafficking and trafficking, and in the early 10s part of international aid went to strengthen the rule of law.