My degree will be finished in a few months. I've already sent out preemptive resumés and cover letters, and I'm worried about what I will be doing for work when my current contract ends. I would like to go back to Kosovo. The majority of my Albanian friends here in Toronto say that would be a bad decision. “You wouldn't make enough money to be independent.” “You would stay at the same position forever.” “You can't find a decent job without a connection.” I'm not sure what the best strategy for finding work in Kosovo while I'm still a continent away. I have no connections to speak of; the remaining international organizations are not hiring; and the few jobs available have fierce competition. I want a job that pays relatively well — enough to pay rent and to pay for bills, with a little bit to set aside at the end of the month — and I know that right now, that's a pretty tall order.
Pursuing work in Canada seems like the more practical thing to do. Jobs are available, and I have a relatively good chance of getting one. I could make a reasonable amount of money and could afford to be independent here. Professionally, it would be the best decision. But what about home? I've heard the same list of responses to this question. They range from, “Don't sell yourself short,” “Don't think that just because you have a foreign degree that people will give you a chance”, “Why would you make that investment in yourself to settle for 500 euros a month?” And my prosaic, idealistic answer is: “Because I want to go back.” To be clear, I don't want to go back to “save” Kosovo or to gratify some unrealistic nostalgia. I want exactly what most people want: the ability to make a decent living in my place of birth, where I feel most comfortable and at home. I will continue sending applications when announcements for job openings pop up, but most likely I will have to invest in going back for a few months to job-hunt in person.
I'm sure my story is no different than that of any other young Kosovar looking for a job. There's the option of enduring a very competitive market for less than competitive pay and the option of trying your luck abroad. What I don't understand is how it is possible for 40 percent of a population of 2 million people to be unemployed. After all the years of money poured into the country by international organizations and the diaspora, and the infamous albeit “successful” privatization of state enterprises, shouldn't Kosovo be booming? The last PR bulletin of the Ministry of Finance pretty much says that things are going well — more people are paying taxes, America and the European Union are still throwing money at us, capital investments have grown – so why aren't more people working? If it's true that Kosovo has one of the most “business friendly” and “open” playing fields in Europe, why aren't more private investors investing? Or, at the very, very least, whatever happened to that “Brain Gain” program, that was supposed to attract highly educated, Kosovar professionals from abroad to help in development? Seriously, what happened to it? The Internet yields this much information:
And that's it! As far as where this program physically exists, how it works and whether it's still even in existence — no answers. How did they exactly think the diaspora would hear about this program? Try typing the alleged URL into your browser: http://www.braingain-gov.net. Extremely helpful. But to get back on point:
There's a small line of a D.H. Lawrence poem that I want to take out of context for a minute: “work is life, and life is lived in work.” Denying work or making work impossible to find is the best way to produce people who are chronically angry. Nepotism and corruption don't magically produce anything else but a silent, pissed-off mass of people watching the incompetent and the inept enjoy the fruits of no labor. What if the diaspora were to stop sending money tomorrow? Or if the rest of the world decides it's had enough with us and sends their money elsewhere? I worry about what will happen when the Democratic Party of Kosovo promised pay raises and pension increases stop because they simply aren't sustainable.
There is still a relatively good chance that I will find a job, whether abroad or in Kosovo. And so will many others, regardless of whether or not there's any institutional initiative to help them along the way. It's nothing new. I have friends who are more or less in the same boat — some of them are the most talented, well-qualified and good intentioned people you will ever meet — and some of them will never get a chance to show the full extent of what they can do. They will have to find something else or try emigrating. Who's fault is that? I still have post-election exhaustion from listening to politicians talk about patriotism and “putting Kosovo first.” It's like they live in a parallel universe. Nobody is lacking in patriotism. What we need is common sense, especially economic common sense. That's what we should have voted for. Back to my resumé.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Frances Berry
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