The future of work in the Western Balkans

New forms of employment and platform work

Driven by social, economic and technological changes, labour markets are becoming more flexible in the European Union and EU Neighbourhood countries. This translates into growth in novel employment relationships, which differ from “traditional work” in terms of working conditions, content, and regulatory and legal ramifications.

The key findings of the ETF's recent study, "Embracing the digital age. The future of work in the Western Balkans. New forms of employment and platform work " shows that although digital strategies rank high on the agendas of Western Balkan governments, with an emphasis on economic development, education and digitalisation of the public sector many citizens lack the skills needed to compete in an integrated global economy and are incapable of adapting quickly to shifting demands in the labour market. Western Balkan employers often complain about skills mismatches. Shortages of skilled labour are also exacerbated by emigration. Brain drain is an issue in the region, especially in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

At the same time, atypical work is on the upswing in the Western Balkans – often due to the lack of well paid, high-quality jobs. There are two main categories: non-standard employment includes temporary, part-time and on-call work in which digitalisation is a driving force; and new forms of employment often relying on information and communication technologies (ICT), including remote and freelance portfolio work, co-working, casual labour, and platform work. These forms of work offer more flexibility, yet they present risks not yet adequately addressed by public policy. Young people and women, are more likely to work in atypical settings often because they have no choice.

Check out the ETF's publication for more details on the challenges, opportunities and policy pointers on these new forms of employment, including platform work. 


The ETF research took place between November 2021 and May 2022, focusing on new forms of employment, including platform work, and the implications on youth employment policies and skills development. The analysis covered six Western Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. Multiple data sources and findings were triangulated. The process involved desk research, interviews, and big data analytics, including an analysis of automatically collected data. Interviews targeted policymakers, business and worker association leaders, executives of platform companies, and people working with the latter. A stakeholder survey complemented the reflection on policy priorities.

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