Building skills and investing in new sectors needed to create job opportunities in developing Europe and Central Asia: 2015 Human Development Report

Dec 14, 2015

The region’s steady progress in human development is being challenged by changing demographics, large migration flows, and environmental degradation. New approaches are required to create work opportunities for present and future generations alike.

Istanbul, 14 December 2015 — Continued progress in Europe and Central Asia depends on creating better job opportunities and working conditions for all women and men, according to the 2015 Human Development Report titled `Work for Human Development’, launched here today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The developing countries of Europe and Central Asia have been showing steady progress in human development levels. Together with Latin America and the Caribbean, the region has the highest Human Development Index (HDI) among all developing regions. Nevertheless, complex challenges – including globalisation, demographic changes, large migration flows, fast technological progress and environmental degradation -- may increase inequalities and reverse recent development achievements there.

The report encourages governments to look beyond the formal sector and to consider the many kinds of work —such as unpaid care, voluntary or creative work – which also improves equally the well-being of people and societies.

“The developing countries of Europe and Central Asia have maintained comparatively low levels of inequalities, including when it comes to gender. But decent work needs to play a central role in furthering development efforts, “said Cihan Sultanoglu, Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS. “Countries can now build on their success if they focus more on education and skills, participation and social protection,” she added.

Together, Europe and Central Asia have a 51 percent employment rate, the second lowest among developing regions after Arab States. Meanwhile, youth unemployment stands at 19.5 percent and in some countries in the region it is even more acute. The region also accounts for large numbers of migrants and other informal workers who do not benefit from any type of social safety net.

In many countries of the region, low population growth rates, migration and a rapidly aging population are leading to population decline and a shrinking labour force, also known as the exhaustion of the demographic dividend.

Economic transformation and promoting new skills are required to make employment opportunities more sustainable

Becoming less vulnerable to climate change and improving energy efficiency remain strategic priorities for the developing countries of Europe and Central Asia, which some indicators suggest is the most carbon-intensive region in the world. Promoting green jobs, as well as more competitive and transparent domestic industries, including extractive sectors, would strengthen human development and make their economies more sustainable.

The report highlights a widening skills gap and shows there is a mismatch in the region between actual skills and those required by a globalized economy. While countries in the region have the highest percentage of tertiary school age population among developing regions, moving towards environmental sustainability and energy efficiency demands new skills, technologies and standards.

“We are moving towards an increasingly polarized world of work. There has never been a better time to be a highly skilled worker and a worse time to be unskilled. Unless action is taken, many people, particularly those already in marginalized groups, might be left behind,” said Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office and lead author of the report.

Developing skills, pursuing technology transfers and addressing inequalities among generations can help workers overcome the skills mismatch, the report says.

Women have new work opportunities, yet they perform more unpaid work and care responsibilities than men

Gender inequalities as measured by the Gender Inequality Index are lower in the developing region of Europe and Central Asia than in other developing regions. This is primarily due to low maternal mortality rates. The report acknowledges particular success in the area of women’s participation in civil society and government, in a special contribution to the report by Roza Otunbayeva, Former President of the Kyrgyz Republic.

However, the report also points out that women earn on average 19 percent less than men for paid work and that 30 percent of women employed are in vulnerable employment. Men in the region are also more likely than in any other region to spend their time on leisurely activities than women are. Further, women often carry the burden of providing for their families and communities, a trend that is likely to worsen as population ages.

The Report urges countries to improve women’s lives by ensuring equal pay, providing decent parental leave, and tackling the harassment and the social norms that exclude so many of them from paid work. It also calls for more equitable distribution of care work. Europe and Central Asia should also develop targeted strategies to eradicate human trafficking, the report says.

Setting the new agenda for work

While policy responses to the new world of work will differ across countries, three main clusters of policies will be critical if governments and societies are to maximize the benefits and minimize the hardships in the evolving new world of work. Strategies are needed for creating work opportunities and ensuring workers’ well-being. The report therefore proposes a three-pronged action agenda:

  • A New Social Contract between governments, society, and the private sector, to ensure that all members of society, especially those working outside the formal sector, have their needs taken into account in policy formulation.
  • A Global Deal among governments to guarantee workers’ rights and benefits around the world
  • A Decent Work Agenda, encompassing all workers, that will help promote freedom of association, equity, security, and human dignity in work life.



ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2015 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices and specific regional implications, please visit:

2015 Human Development Report

Full press package in all UN official languages

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Serbia 
Go to UNDP Global