Having emerged in the early 1990s from a 50-year dictatorship as the poorest country in Europe, Albania is today an upper-middle-income country and a European Union member candidate – a remarkable achievement. However, Albanian women continue to face barriers to achieve their full potential in a still traditional, patriarchal society, especially in the rural areas. This inequality has a high social and economic cost. By 2012, Albania’s GDP was estimated to be 20 percent lower than it should be with full gender parity, as women face difficulty entering and staying in the job market, with many leaving employment permanently as soon as they marry and have children. In addition, women entrepreneurs are a rarity. Even today, women continue to be paid less for the same work than men and occupy lower-paying or unpaid jobs.
“When I studied at university, there were more female than male students,” said Albanian Sheila Hafizi. “Many of us studied social sciences and the arts, which are areas with fewer employment and career opportunities. In science, technology, engineering, or math, there were fewer female students.”
The World Bank’s Albania Gender Equality in Access to Economic Opportunities project is a Development Policy Loan (DPL) that supports a program of policy and institutional actions to promote growth and sustainable poverty reduction. These loans are typically approved based on a country’s record of prior policy actions, which lay the groundwork for the approval of financing and demonstrate a commitment and capacity to implement a significant program of institutional reforms to achieve longer-term development goals.
In this case in Albania, the new Notary Law requires notaries to verify and automatically register co-ownership of property when owners are married, which would increase options for women to access financing for economic activities and for starting businesses.
“I have been running my business for 17 years now,” said Ajten Goci, a female business owner. “To start and develop a business, you need initial capital. Bank loans help in this case, but it was more difficult for women, as they could not put their property as collateral. In this regard, the latest legal changes have made it easier to further develop our business.”
In the education sector, several municipalities have received a budget increase to recruit more preschool teachers to improve the quality of daycare, which encourages parents to enroll their children and enables mothers to join the labor market. The government is also introducing childcare subsidies for vulnerable women who register with the National Employment Service, which is now mandated by law to prioritize placing vulnerable women into jobs.
“It is important that any social policy and employment policy go hand-in-hand,” said Dajna Sorensen, Albania’s Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy. “The likelihood that a woman enters the labor market and stays in the labor market is very much linked to how much there is in terms of childcare services. The trade-off of working vs. hiring someone to take care of your children is such that women often have no choice but to stay at home."
“Over the last six to seven years, however, all the indicators for women’s employment have been steadily improving. And once women enter the labor market, they are more employable than men. They are hard-working and very reliable.”