There have been done many studies and researches about various issues, economical, social and political that have and are affecting the Albanian society mainly after 90. Since the beginning of the post 90 period, women were affected from a lot of difficulties, some of them found themselves out of work, some of them found themselves head of households with husbands and sons migrating abroad, some of them found themselves not so free any more because of the returning of some old patterns that have been increasing during these years, etc. The transition years launched a gradual change in Albanian women’s and men’s traditional roles.

During the communist regime, women were benefiting from policies for the promotion of women, full education and full employment of women. Also, the participation of women in social and political life was promoted and supported. For many, women’s representation in political life was considered a token representation, but despite this, women were more active in decision-making at that point in history. This was also accompanied by a heavy burden of women that had to be engaged in a paid work, had to be active socially or politically but also had to be in charge of the house work and care. In the framework of the ideology of the communist regime, the state was responsible for offering people all the necessary services, such as care for children by providing crèches and kindergartens, free acess to health care system, elderly care etc. Nevertheless, as we said, the women had to support a multiburden, because the equal division of work between men and women was still suffering the traditional division of roles.

After 90 the situation of the Albanian society dramatically changed passing from a centralized economy to the free market, passing from a state umbrella for everything to a chaotic state having to cope with an extreme poverty, with the destruction of all the existing industries, with a high migration, with a dramatically inadequate infrastructure etc.

Since the 1990s, women in Albania have suffered from many problems such as difficult in entering the educational system, mainly the secondary one[1] in entering and staying in labour market, are suffering violence, physical and symbolic violence which is the one that perpetuates and reproduces the inequalities, are suffering difficulties in accessing and benefiting from an adequate health care system[2], are suffering from a very poor social protection system which is addressed only to people and groups in need, etc. Female participation in the labour market is low compared to the one of men as unemployment and activity rate shows. Also, the participation of women in politics and decision making system is not progressing since 1990. Only 17% of business managers are women and there is only one women mayor in Albania. [3]

As women’s roles have changed over the years, it is necessary for the State’s support in the provision of policies, social protection and opportunities reflect these changes in roles. For some years now, the Albanian government is being engaged in addressing gender equality issues and the promotion of women. In 2004, the country’s first Gender Equality Legislation (GEL) was adopted[4]. In 2006, the GOA adopted the country’s first legislation on Domestic Violence.[5] In addition to the above, the GOA adopted the National Strategy on Gender Equality and Domestic Violence (NSGE-DV 2007-2010)[6], the first of its kind in the country.  A number of international commitments towards gender equality have also been taken – such as the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993; gender equality commitments with the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995; the signing of the Millennium Declaration in 2000 and the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU in 2006.

Even there have been a lot of progress since the beginning of 90, still the Albanian welfare state remains very poor targeting only people and groups in need. Civil society has provided the majority of support for women and has been among the strongest advocates for the advancement of gender equality in Albania.

In this context, we considered it very important to address the issue of the unpaid care work of women. There are some studies and researches about the situation of women in the labour market and educational system, there are also regarding the political participation or the internal and external movements. But there is little information about women and their unpaid care work. Recent researches about the labour market and gender inequalities highlighted the issue that even though the unemployment rate of women is high, there is also a hidden issue, the participation of women in the informal labour market and their invisible work while caring for their household members and work.

Our main questions in conducting such research on women’s unpaid care work were as follows:

I) what is the state support regarding the unpaid care work of women, what are the social services that the state offers to women in order to cope with their household work and responsabilites? How it is the situation of providing services for children, elderly and sick people; can women have an adequate access to health care services; what is the level of social protection in Albania and how are women covered by this system etc; what can be done to better support women regarding their unpaid care work?

II)  What is the link between women’s unpaid care work and their economic engagement? Does the fact that women have to care about children, elderly, have to provide the household with water, ensure the state of the family’s health, take care of the household and all related utilities (gathering water and fire wood, fuel, etc) hinder them from being economically and socially active? Are they retiring from the labour market in order to have more time to care for the household members and works? Is their lack of access to state services which can support unpaid care work (i.e. day care, health care, social protection) impacting their decision to enter the formal labour market? What is the situation regarding their engagement to the informal labour market?

III) What is the understanding of women and men of their rights vis a vis state support regarding family and unpaid care work? What is their understanding of how much their respective roles in the family – both men and women – impact their economic and public engagement?

It is very important to see how women and men perceive their situation, how women consider the fact that they exclusively care for their household while their husbands consider themselves exclusively as “breadwinners” within the household. This is an issue highlighted from other reports and studies. The majority of women participating in this research are unemployed or out of the labour market, thus they are economically depending on their husbands. As we will see, this affects many of their rights.

[1] The secondary education level is characterized by a higher enrolment rate of boys compared to girls. For the year 2004-2005 data shows that the male enrolment rate is 53.03 % while the female enrolment rate is  46.97%. (UNDP, Gender Policy analysis in the Ministry of Science and Education”, 2005, Tirana)

[2] UNDP, Gender policy analysis in the Ministry of Health, 2005; UNCT, Common Country Assessment 2004;

[3] MoLSAEO, National Strategy on Gender Equality and the eradication of Domestic Violence, December 2007, Tirana

[4] Law No. 9198 dated 1.07.2004 “On Gender Equality in Society”, amended in 2006.

[5] Law No. 9669 dated 18.12.2006 “On Measures Against Violence in Family Relations”

[6] To be adopted in December 2007.

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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