Occupation: Beggar

Zhenis O. is a second year student at the Faculty of Economics in the University of Pristina. He worked as a waiter for two months about a year ago. Later he left the job to prepare for the police force test. He passed successfully all stages of testing: the written, the physical and the psychological test. But they said that the number of young people who have passed all the tests is greater than the number of officers required.

So Zhenis was left unemployed and out of the police force. He has been trying to find a job since last year.

The first job he found was at a car rental service. “I went to work and initially I was asked to take care of the customers and cars; later I was forced to clean cars for 14 consecutive hours. With just 15 minutes of break. The boss told me that I can rest only one day a week. I was not given days off even for my exam session,” says Zhenisi. “This job wasn’t worth sacrificing my studies, so I quit.”

Also he attempted to compete for many different positions that were advertised by commercial and productive businesses. “I’m surprised by the willingness to violate all my rights from a person who has a profitable business,” says Zhenis.

But the story of this young man culminates in July 2015, when about two weeks ago he received a call to start a new job. “They called me for an interview - on the phone I didn’t hear well; we decided to meet in a café on the second floor of a building. Initially I thought there was an office nearby coffee, but when I called prior to the meeting they asked me to enter the café. I was surprised because I couldn’t imagine that an employer does not have at least an office,” says Zhenis.

There were two men in their 30s waiting for him. One said that he worked for the government in the previous mandate. “They told me that they had a humanitarian company and that I could get a job from them as a beggar, so as a person who goes through the streets and squares and demands money for charity,” he says. “It seemed very strange to hire people who beg, because in principle I know that charity should not be a lucrative business”.

Working as a “donations collector” had no fixed salary. It differed based on the ability to collect money. “They told me that 30 percent of the money that I would collect would be mine. So, following a simple logic, the two bosses would get 35 percent each. Thus, had I accepted, I would be getting involved in a scam that is against every rule of my morals,” he says.

He says that the state should deal with most of these rogue individuals. “After my experience, I think all those who collect donations for some cause are frauds and should be questioned by the police to inquire if there is any rogue network after them”, he says.

Zhenis is one of many young people who continue to apply in every vacancy competition. 

According to data of the Agency of Statistics the number of young people who are unemployed is the highest in Europe. “A significant proportion of our young population is unemployed (61.0%) and the rate of unemployment among young women is higher (71.7%) than among young men (56.2%),” reports KAS in their yearly labour force survey.

The chances of young people to find a job are minimal. "In 2014, young people in Kosovo were two times more likely to be unemployed compared to adults, with similar figures for men and women", adds the report.

In fact none of the large supermarkets and clothing stores employ part-time people who are under the age of 18. “We do not need new employees that cannot cope with working here,” says the smiling owner of a boutique in the Dardania neighbourhood. “I’m telling you this but you cannot mention my name, because then the inspectors will come. In my boutique workers work 10 hours a day and I pay them 200 euros per month. They have only one day off a week. I would also like to be able to give my workers a salary of 500 euros a month, but then I’ll be bankrupt.”

Keeping this employer anonymous and talking to him informally is the only way to get some sincere information on the real working conditions employees face on daily basis.

Mentor, who is part of the employed minority that does not wander the streets aimlessly, works in a bakery. But, to do this job he makes great sacrifices. “I work in night and day shifts usually. I have one day off every other week, meaning two days per month,” says Mentor.

He had to work non-stop during the month of Ramadan when bread is sold much more than other months. “I worked in the night shift only, so from 21 pm until 9 am for 30 days. Yes yes, without a night’s rest,” says Mentor. “For 30 days I only made bread and I slept during the day.”

He has a salary of about 350 euros, although he has a profession that requires certain skills. “I have to work, because I can’t sustain myself without a job. I’ll stay here until I find something better,” said Mentor.

Merita Berisha
Pristina, July 2015