In this section we try to give a brief overview of the economic engagement of women based on focus group discussions but also on LSMS data and other statistical sources.

Regarding the profile of participants in focus groups, their level of education and their economic engagement is as follows: The majority of them had secondary education and this was quite similar for women and men. However, there is a higher percentage of women than men who only obtained elementary school. The percentage of women and men with secondary vocational education is very low, and this illustrates the overall situation with the number of vocational schools declining dramatically after ‘90.

Table 2: Level of employment of the participants (in percentage), by sex





















Source: Participants in FGs

As may be observed above, the majority of women participants in focus groups are not participating in paid work. That is why unpaid care work will be analyzed both for women engaged in paid work and those not economically active or unemployed.  The majority of young women participants had never been involved in paid work

After 1990, a “going back in the past” picture is being noticed for women and girls in Albania. The withdrawal of women from the labour market was accompanied by a decline in enrollment rates of girls and boys[2] with different rates in different education levels. What is important to say is that the decline of the enrollment rate for girls begins after the primary level, and this is more observed in rural areas. In rural areas also girls marry at an earlier age, and there is a link between the marriage age and the educational level, the higher the education level the later the age of marriage.[3] After 1990, there has been a decrease in the age of marriage for women and an increase in the age gap between husband and wife.[4] During FG discussions, some of the women participants were highlighting the fact that especially in rural areas (but also in urban ones in a lower scale) young girls are no longer going to school after the 8 years of the primary level, and the trend is to marry at a young age, preferably with migrant young men, which will ensure incomes for the family.  

Female employment in the public sector

One of the main areas of formal employment for women and men in the regions covered is in the public sector – working with local and national authorities. In fact, it is important to note that for many of the participants in focus group discussions – both male and female, both experts and authorities – interpret the term “employed” as meaning “working within the public sector”. Women are more employed in the public sector, and within the public sector, they are predominantly employed in the health and education sectors [i.e. in jobs that mirror the ‘care’ that they do unpaid at home!]. They also work within social work, but seldom at the decision-making level and rather at positions which are characterized by lower than average salaries but at least offer social protection.[5] It is important to note that the government recently pledged to increase the salaries in these sectors, mainly for teachers and nurses in order to improve the quality of the public service. (See Table 4 and 5 in Annex 3)

Another important detail is that most of the women employed in the public sector in the activities mentioned above need to have a certain education. As mentioned in the Labour Market Assessment, human capital does not seem to be an important factor in explaining the relatively poor labour market outcomes for women. Particularly in the rural areas, there is an increase in the number of younger women, who are dropping out of, or being taken out of secondary school. As such, they are not as able to compete in the formal labour market – particularly in the public sector. Thus, their economic opportunities are often found in the agricultural sector, and in the broader informal labour market.

In other cases such as Paskuqan, the reason for being out of the labour market is mainly related to the fact that “women do not have to work”[6]. It is up to the man to bring incomes and to work, so women do not have to do it as well. In Paskuqan, this was expressed openly but in other cases this mentality was hidden or unconsciously accepted under the expression “better stay at home than work for a low paid job,” forgetting that staying at home and not being economically active makes women dependent on their husbands, isolates them from social and civic participation and also influences their access to social and health insurances.

Informal employment among women

Informal employment is a dominant feature of the labour market in Albania. The majority of workers are employed in informal arrangements outside the coverage of labour legislation and social insurance. Although much of the informal employment reflects the nature of the Albanian economy, informality is also considerable in more modern, urban non-agriculture sector. During the early years of the transition, informal employment was important both to the economy and to the welfare of many households. However, it is also significantly correlated with low earnings, poverty and vulnerability.[7]

“Just over three-quarters of the total employment is informal, according to the definition used in this report. Most of these workers are in agriculture. According to the LSMS data, 76% of employment in 2004 was informal, as defined here. About 60% of the informal labour is comprised of workers in agriculture who are either self-employed or unpaid. The remainder is roughly split between self-employed and unpaid workers outside of agriculture and informal wage employees.”[8]

According to LSMS data 2005,[9] more than 60% of the women working in the private sector do not enjoy any social protection, because they are not paying social contributions. This means that the private sector is offering jobs for women more in the informal than in the formal labour market. (See Table 6 and 7 in Annex 3)

Women declaring themselves as self-employed seem to run this kind of businesses[10] with low revenues and almost entirely working in the informal sector. Self-employed women in the non-agriculture sector are working mostly (around 50%) in the retail trade, which means small businesses, close to the house or using part of the house which allows them to do their unpaid care work as well. Two other activities which seem to be applied by self-employed women are hotels/restaurants and manufacturing of clothing (See Table 3 in Annex 3). This last activity is mostly characterized by handicraft products made by women at home and in some specific areas of the country, where traditional products can be traded in the market. If we assume that self-employed is equal to a business or to a potential business, this means that for self-employed women these three activities seem to offer more possibilities in the Albanian business environment. It is important to mention that these kinds of opportunities to be self-employed are convenient for women, as they offer the flexibility to balance home and work life. .[11]

“The LSMS data suggests that women do not prefer informal wage employment relative to other types of work and relative to men. One reason is that female relative earnings in informal wage employment are very low. In 2004, female wage workers in the informal sector had mean hourly earnings that were 44% less than women who are employed in the formal sector. In comparison, the formal-informal wage differential for men was only 19%.”[12]

The majority of women participants in the focus groups have been working in the private sector at some point in the past. When asked about the reason of leaving the work force, women responded that the salary was very low, they worked without work contracts, and so were unprotected from being fired at any time, the insurances were not paid, and working conditions were very bad (particularly reported in Shkodra and in relation to the industrial sector). Thus, there were no reasons for working in such bad conditions and getting nothing back. This was one of the points where they needed state support. Regarding this point, both women and men highlighted the need for the strengthening of trade unions, and this was more stressed during focus group discussions in Tirana, Elbasan and Vlorë. Only the ones working in the public sector were protected by a work contract and insured. The question of the informal sector was the most important one for all the participants. This was the reason for leaving the work force, but this was also the reason for not entering it. Women and men reported that the only possible jobs were in the private (and thus to them, the unprotected and informal) sector.  Therefore, it was judged somehow useless to work in such conditions.

Women’s role in the agricultural sector[13]

In order to better understand the employment situation of women in Albania, it is important to explain the disparity between the situation in rural and urban areas. In the rural areas, agriculture dominates the economy which has a labour market that operates very differently from the labour market in urban areas where the non-agriculture sector predominates.

According to the data from LSMS 2005, 39% of agriculture labour employment is composed by male and 59% female, (See Table 1 in Annex 3) leaving 2% undefined. Some important features of agriculture: a) In most of the regions covered in this study, this is the primary employment opportunity – at both a small, self-owned and larger scale; b) The undefined 2% could be in part because there is a large emigration of the men which has reduced the male workforce in the rural areas; c) There is a lower level of education of women in agriculture and; d) The labour force in the agriculture sector basically reflects the composition of the total population at the working age (15 years old and over) with women prevailing over men. The employment composition is also evidence that in the rural areas the entire family is employed in the agriculture sector, and often informally. In agriculture, working conditions are difficult while salaries or revenues are pretty low. Furthermore, women are paid less compared to men in both sectors as confirmed by table 3. Especially in agriculture, net payment for women is 50% less than men while in non-agriculture, despite similar working time, female salaries amount to 75% of the male salaries.

Table 3: Average monthly usual net payment by gender in Albanian Lek ALL









Source: LSMS 2005


Employment in agriculture is composed mainly by worker on own account and unpaid worker in the household farm (76%). People are not employees for someone who is not a member of the household and also farmers were complaining about the lack of person power. In most cases, they are declaring themselves as private individuals. Farmers keep producing mostly for their personal needs while remaining engaged in several different and extensive agricultural activities. According to LSMS data 2005, most of them are selling their products in the market outside the community but still in the district market (82% of them) and mostly directly to the final consumer.

We can conclude that the lack of alternatives for good employment make men not willing to work in low paying jobs as women do, and thus men choose not to work in the agricultural sector, but seek migration as the most convenient alternative for them.

[1] Here it must be said that, in the case of women, it refers not only to “unemployed”. This category includes women unemployed but also women withdrawn from the labour market. The difficulty with the definitions is that for the majority of participants the term “unemployed” is used for all cases, even for the ones that are not seeking a job any more.

[2] According to official statistics in the pre-primary and tertiary education, the enrollment rate for girls is higher than that of boys. Meanwhile, in the primary and secondary education, the boys’ enrollment rate is higher. In the secondary education in 2004 the ratio of girls to boys is 0.94. Nevertheless, there is an important aspect to be highlighted, which is the difference between rural and urban areas. In primary education, there are no differences between rural and urban areas.  Regarding the secondary education in 2004 the ratio of girls to boys in rural areas is 0.82 while in urban areas it is 1.(MDG 3 in NSSED progress report 2005).

[3] Danaj E., Festy P., Zhllima E., “Becoming an adult: challenges and potentials for youth in Albania”, Tirana,  2005

[4] Danaj E., Festy P., Zhllima E., “Becoming an adult: challenges and potentials for youth in Albania”, Tirana,  2005

[5] UNDP, Gender policy analysis in the MoLSA, Tirana,  2005

[6] Facts from the FG in Paskuqan

[7] Albanian Labor Market Assessment, World Bank, page 62, May 2006,

[8] Albanian Labor Market Assessment, World Bank, page 62, May 2006,

[9] ASC staff calculation by the data set of LSMS 2005

[10] This is referring mostly to non registered business

[11] In these cases, women are working in both places, being housewife and economically active at the same time.

[12] Albanian Labor Market Assessment, World Bank, page 65, May 2006,

[13] This section refers mostly to the World Bank report “Albania Labour Market Assessment” 2007 and LSMS 2005 data.

Supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) under the auspices of its sub-regional Programme “Gender-Responsive Budgeting in South East Europe: Advancing Gender Equality and Democratic Governance through Increased Transparency and Accountability” . The Programme is implemented with funding from the Austrian Development Cooperation and Cooperation with Eastern Europe, and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of UNIFEM, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations.

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