Aging populations, high mobility, relatively high employment rates, emerging job creation and high educational attainment characterise the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. Population growth is very weak or negative in all countries except for Azerbaijan and dependency rates are growing, meaning there is an increasing proportion of people younger than 15 and older than 64, compared to the working age population.
Unemployment is well above 10% in Armenia and Georgia, while youth unemployment is around 30%. Since 2013, Georgia has managed to reduce overall unemployment from 15 to 12%, while unemployment in Armenia has continued to grow since 2013 to 18.0% in 2016. In Ukraine, in particular, youth unemployment rose sharply to 23% in 2016. In particular, in Armenia, Moldova and Georgia, more than a quarter of young people are not in employment, education or training (NEET). The rate of early school leaving is high in Moldova at 20%. Where Moldova and Georgia had around 3-4% growth rates in 2016, Ukraine returned to small GDP growth of 2% in 2016. Azerbaijan suffers from low oil prices and had negative growth of -3% in 2016, while Belarus had a negative growth of -2.6%.The GDP growth in Armenia was very weak, achieving 0.2% in 2016.
Investments in VET in the region are starting to pay off. In Moldova for the first time this year more students were enrolled in VET than in higher education. There is progress in the design of national qualifications frameworks and the development of occupational standards and qualifications, with increasing focus on better implementation and broader stakeholder engagement. Work-based learning is on the increase, with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine all running pilot schemes.The high mobility of people in the region has also brought the non-formal, informal or formal mechanisms of recognition of skills and qualifications into focus.
Policy makers in all the countries of the partnership are seeking, via the establishment of sector skills councils, the higher engagement of the private sector in the design and delivery of vocational education and training. Skills anticipation and matching is also a target, which will mean ensuring training is adjusted to the needs of the labour market.
The ETF continues to work with the Eastern Partnership countries through both regional operations and country specific activities to support these initiatives, focusing on the above challenges and relying on more substantial EU support to boost the quality of vocational schools, equipment and delivery.