Dragos Cuta

During a recent problem analysis of the rural areas it was determined that the rural area from CEE countries is depopulating rapidly because youngsters are emigrating in order to find good quality and sustainable jobs. Meanwhile retired people who own or inherited a house in a rural area often prefer to live with their descendants in overcrowded apartments in big cities due to the lack of services in rural areas. Most of these youngsters are considered “NEETs” (Not in Education, Employments or Training) .According to Eurostat, the rate of NEETs aged 20-34 in the EU-28 fell from 17.6 % in 2006 to a relatively low level of 16.5 %. However, starting in 2008, the rate jumped to 18.5 % after the onset of the global economic crisis. The rate continued to rise—at a more modest pace—through to 2013, when it reached 20.1 %, before decreasing to 18.3 % in 2016.

These high rates pose the concern that a whole generation of young people in the EU could remain out of the labor market for years to come. The implications of this are two-fold: on a personal level, these individuals are more likely to become disenfranchised and to suffer from poverty and social exclusion, while at a macro-economic level they represent a considerable loss in terms of unused productive capacity and a considerable cost in terms of welfare payments.

A possible solution for this might be to create decent and sustainable jobs for the youngsters from rural area in the frame of local social enterprises strategically set up with the support of the local communities. This way youngsters won’t be forced to leave their villages to find a job and the local community will have access to services at affordable prices. In order to achieve this, a certain methodology should be put in place in order to involve the communities in setting up social enterprises. It should  serve and create jobs for inhabitants using local social capital, local economic development strategies planned in a participatory manner, and it should result in local businesses plans and new social enterprises in rural areas.

A direct results for this is that more people will become social entrepreneurs and social enterprises managers. They will create more social enterprises providing more jobs for youngsters and more services affordable for the inhabitants in rural area. Among other beneficiaries of this action there are people with initiative (potential or existing social entrepreneurs) from rural area and other stakeholders (clients, providers) of these enterprises.

This approach allows the rural communities to be empowered and set up their own social businesses. They can provide the services they need using the local youngsters as employees and shareholders of the social enterprises, which they will initiate with their own know-how as well as support given from experienced organizations. We are seeing excellent results in Romania. According to the final report of the Human Resources Sectorial Operational Program, the total number of social economy structures at the end of 2014 is 1392, which employed 7941 people. Of these employed, approximately 23% were of the age group 15-24 years old. Therefore, based on our experience in Romania, building social enterprises is a model that builds community empowerment and a sense of self-sufficiency, which is a major step along the way of creating more active and engaged citizens.

Dragos Cuta

The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.