In Moldova, the legislative framework of the national youth policy is constituted through the National Youth Law adopted in 1999, the National Youth Strategy 2009-2013 and the National Youth Action Plan 2009-2013. The National Youth Law marks the responsibility of the State to guarantee youth participation and youth development, including the right to social protection, the right to participate in the public life, the right to personal development, the right to study and access to job opportunities. The Law highlights the need to „create socio-economic, legal, political, cultural and organizational conditions under which young people may realize their personal potential and thereby benefit their society“.
The National Youth Strategy 2009-2013 determines fours priorities for action: 1) to improve the access to information and services, 2) to enhance participation in public life and active citizenship, 3) to create employment opportunities and 4) to develop human and institutional capacities.
The health status of Moldova's youth is vulnerable, among the major risks faced by the young people are smoking, illicit drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual activity, and in consequence, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS among youth aged 15-24 increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 21.2% in 2007 – Moldova has the third highest rate of HIV infections in Europe. Young people have limited access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, which results in high-risk sexual behaviour and low voluntary HIV testing. Another significant public health challenge for youth in Moldova is Tuberculosis, the number of incidences increased from 97.3 (per 100,000 people) in 2002 to 113.3 in 2011. The serious problems of prostitution and human trafficking lack attention at the government level; this is the same case for mental health issues and suicides among young people.
Education in Moldova has made significant progress, however, three major challenges remain: First, the number of young people enrolled in primary and secondary education decreased steadily over the past decade. In 2013, the net enrolment rate in primary schools was 88% (93% in 2003) and 77% in secondary schools (80% in 2003). In contrast, progress has been achieved in the net enrolment in pre-primary schools. Second, the education sector suffers from a persistent lack of efficiency and educational quality, including inadequate curricula, out-dated learning materials and poorly trained teachers. Third, equal access to education is seriously thwarted by disparities between rural and urban areas, as well as between the richest and poorest income quintiles. Equity is at its worst for ethnic minorities and marginalized groups – young people from rural areas, poor households and Roma minorities face significant barriers in accessing basic education. After completing mandatory education, 60% of female and male students continue their formal education in secondary schools; about 30% choose a vocational training program. According to the World Bank, Moldova spent 18,84% of its government expenditure and 7.5% of its GDP on education provision in 2014.
In Moldova, 20.6% of young people (21.6% of male and 19.7% of female youth) participate in the labour market. More than one third of the economically active youth works in the informal sector, being largely engaged in agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, as well as in hotels and restaurants. Young people face a clear labour market disadvantage in Moldova. Although the rate of unemployment among them (15.8% for male and 14.9% for female youth) is comparable to the average of other countries in the European Union, the risk of being unemployed is twice as high for young people as for adults. The lack of decent employment opportunities is a major push-factor for migration, particularly for youth from rural areas, where youth unemployment is even higher than in urban areas.
A growing number of young people in Moldova leave their country for economic purposes – poverty, lack of decent employment opportunities, and low salaries are the main push-factors for youth migration. Russia and Italy are the major countries of destination, followed by Ukraine, Turkey and Israel. More than 60% of the young migrants are from rural areas, where the lack of real employment possibilities as well as vocational training institutions is most oppressive. Gender differences are significant as more young women than men choose to emigrate. The positive impact of migration is remittances, which contribute to the increase of income and welfare of over 20% of households in Moldova. Moreover, young migrants are likely to obtain new skills and professional qualifications abroad, which they import in case of return. At the same time, young migrants are more vulnerable to lack of social and medical protection as well as family disintegration.
Since Moldova's independence in 1991, the issues of youth participation and youth development gained increasing attention on the political agenda of the government. The National Youth Policy defines as its major goal „the involvement of young people in the decision-making process in the areas of social, economic, cultural and political development of the country, by creating local youth councils and other forms of participation“. Indeed, structures and forms of youth participation have expanded, including youth councils, youth NGOs, youth teams of peer-to-peer educators, youth volunteering groups, youth parliament and Scout Groups. The National Law on Youth highlights the importance of the National Law on Volunteering, providing a legal platform to volunteering activities, and the establishment of Youth Resource Centre all across the country, giving youth access to information and services, activities related to non-formal education, vocational trainings and leisure time activities. Local and National Youth Councils facilitate dialogue among young people and different community actors, in order to foster their involvement in the design and implementation of youth policies at the national and local level. Notwithstanding such progress, main barriers towards meaningful youth participation are persistent, including lack of awareness and opportunities, exclusion of disadvantaged youth groups and insufficient funding.
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