The main reason Albanians and others in the Western Balkans emigrate is in search of higher wages, according to a survey conducted by the OECD across the region in 2022.
Respondents were asked about their main reasons for immigrating to another country. From a list of 13 possible causes, 79% of respondents ranked higher wages as the most important reason for leaving their country.
Other reasons included lower living standards, high levels of corruption and political instability.
In Albania, the unemployment rate is around 12%, while the minimum wage is just EUR 240. Many, however, work for less in the informal economy, which is particularly challenging during the current economic crisis.
The educational systems of the Western Balkans also show weaknesses which in turn leads to more emigration, the report found. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that, on average, half of all 15-year-olds in the region do not achieve basic skills in literacy or mathematics and more than two-fifths of businesses surveyed in the region cite a lack of applicant skills as a reason for unfilled vacancies.
The mismatch between the supply of skills and the demand for work is stimulating young people, to seek suitable work opportunities abroad. This is most evident in Albania, which has the highest percentage of young people up to 24 years old who emigrate.
The survey found that private sector development is hindered by a challenging business climate, high levels of corruption and weak links between foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic sectors. Furthermore, more than a fifth of businesses in the Western Balkans identify corruption as a significant obstacle to doing business in the region.
“Such an environment hinders the potential for economic growth and job creation, which in turn can reinforce the factors of emigration,” the OECD study says.