Standard of Living
In the late 1980s, the average pay for an Albanian worker was about US$89 to US$104 monthly at the official exchange rate of US$1 to L6.75. The government supplemented low incomes by annually allocating about 25 percent of the annual budget, about L4,000 (US$595) for each family, to the population's cultural and social needs, including everything from price subsidies for necessities like children's clothing to library construction. The state provided free education and health care and absorbed 65 percent of tuition for day care and kindergarten and 18 to 35 percent of the cost of meals in worker cafeterias.
Under the communist regime, the cost of living for the average Albanian was generally low. Food was generally inexpensive but in chronically short supply. The Albanians' staple diet consisted of bread, sugar, pasta, and rice, which were sold at or near cost. Production shortfalls limited supplies of meat, dairy products, and other protein-rich foods. Albanians enjoyed increasing supplies of clothing in the late 1980s, but price, quality, and style left much to be desired. The state subsidized the prices of children's clothing and shoes, but a man's shirt could cost about L200 (US$30), a suit L675 (US$100), and a woman's sweater L150 (US$22). A farmer had to work about two weeks to buy a pair of the most inexpensive shoes. Durable goods carried exorbitant price tags. A bicycle sold for about L900 (US$134); a motorbike, L2,700 (US$402); a radio set, L1,000 (US$149); a television, L4,000 (US$595). The ever-vigilant state required that purchasers of televisions and refrigerators obtain permits. Housing rents were low, usually amounting to between 1 percent and 3 percent of an average family's income. In 1980, for example, the monthly rent for an apartment in LezhŽ came to L40 (US$7.50). Public transportation also cost little.
Officials estimated that the standard of living for town dwellers with average monthly incomes dropped by about half in 1991. Government statistics showed that a typical family with an average monthly income of L1,300 in December 1990 would need more than L4,500 to keep up with inflation over the same period. In 1991 a kilogram of spinach sold for L60 at TiranŽ's produce market; oranges cost L200 per half kilogram; and a bottle of orange drink, L600. Per capita annual meat consumption in cities totaled about 11.7 kilograms in 1990, down from about 14.6 kilograms in 1975; rural meat consumption in 1990 was about 9.0 kilograms per capita, actually an improvement from 7.3 kilograms per capita in 1975. Furniture prices give some indication of how personal incomes failed to maintain pace with prices in 1991. In one TiranŽ store, a table cost L60,000; a bed, L130,000; a door, L150,000.
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