Work Force and Standard of Living
Until the 1990s, Albania's working people played practically no meaningful decision-making role in the country's economic life. Most workers simply followed orders and scrambled to find necessities in the country's poorly stocked stores. Personal initiative too often either went unrewarded or was considered ideologically unsound and therefore hazardous to personal safety. The regime denied the existence of unemployment in Albania but kept thousands of redundant workers and managers on factory and government payrolls and dispatched young people entering the work force to labor manually on collective farms or elsewhere in the economy.
The collapsing economic system left most Albanians effectively jobless. Despair, fear of political repression, and television-fed expectations of an easy life in the West triggered waves of emigration to Europe's established free-market democracies, in particular Greece and Italy. The craving to leave Albania in search of work was so strong that in August 1991, long after the arrival of international food aid, tens of thousands of people converged on Durrės after rumors spread through the nearby countryside that a ship would take passengers from that port to Italy.
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