Albania Table of Contents
Growing at least 2 percent annually during the 1980s, Albania's population reached 3.2 million by 1990. Males accounted for about 51.5 percent of the Albanian populace. About 60 percent of the country's men and 55 percent of its women were of working age. Natural growth added about 45,000 persons to the working-age population annually in the 1980s, about a 3.5 percent average yearly increase. The work force officially numbered about 1 million people in 1980 and about 1.5 million when the economy collapsed in 1990. Albania's principal industries were labor-intensive, but there were ample labor reserves in the agricultural population. Workers officially put in a six-day, forty-eight-hour week with at least two weeks of annual vacation. People who fled Albania during the communist era, however, reported that ten-hour workdays were the minimum at many farms and factories (see Social Structure under Communist Rule; Social Insurance, ch. 2).
The government also assigned almost everyone to special "work actions," which entailed gathering harvests and building irrigation systems and railroad embankments; "volunteer" work details scavenged scrap metal and beautified public parks on "Enver Days" to honor the "father of the nation." Labor productivity declined about 1.7 percent per year from 1980 to 1988, an indication that the economy was failing to create enough jobs to absorb the increasing numbers of working-age people. Apart from diplomatic staff and émigrés, no Albanian nationals were working abroad before the communist system's decline.
Albania's employment profile was clearly that of a developing country. In 1987, Albania's agriculture sector employed 52 percent of the country's workers; industry, 22.9 percent; construction, 7.1 percent; trade, 4.6 percent; education and culture, 4.4 percent; and transportation and telecommunications, 2.9 percent (see table 6, Appendix). The failure of the communist economy, however, rocked the structure of Albania's work force. Except for workers in the government bureaucracy, schools and hospitals, the military and police, basic services, and private firms, the turmoil left only a handful of Albanians with productive jobs. The doors slammed shut, for example, at almost all the enterprises in the mountainous Kukës District, including a profitable chromite mine, a copper-smelting plant that closed for lack of coal, and a textile factory that ran out of wool and thread. Albania's government reported unemployment at about 30 percent, but unofficial 1991 estimates indicated that about 50 percent of the work force was jobless. Idled factory workers tilled private plots, sought jobs in new private retail outlets and handicraft workshops, or attempted to leave the country to search for work abroad. Officials appealed to the international community to provide material inputs necessary to jump-start Albanian factories and hoped that a US$10 average monthly wage, one of the world's lowest for a literate labor force, would entice foreign investors.
Data as of April 1992