The Prime Minister’s repeated statements that it is not due to politics that young people are leaving the country contradict the arguments he himself gave in 2013, before he came to power. Not only that, but the verification of INSTAT figures also disproves the thesis that those leaving the country are returning. Meanwhile, experts suggest that the government does not need to close the door to citizens who leave, but to open its wallet, meaning to make it easier for them to stay through policies that encourage cooperation and reduce costs.

Jona Plumbi

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Edi Rama has started talking about the mass exodus of young people, a phenomenon that has long occupied the headlines of news, polls and studies. In meetings held in various municipalities, as a campaign for the upcoming local elections, the Prime Minister has “thrown” the thesis according to which no state, or political team, can close the door to people to keep them in their place; that Albanians do not flee because of politicians, but because they fled historically; and that this problem is coming to an end.

Faktoje verified the Prime Minister’s statement, referring to state statistics and the expertise of researchers in the field.

From 2021 to 2022, the median age of the Albanian population increased from 37 years and 7 months to 38 years and 2 months. Even the dependence of the elderly over 65 years on young people increased from 22.3% to 23.1%. These figures published by the Institute of Statistics – INSTAT, show that the population in the country is aging and that young people are continuing to leave the country.

Despite the fact that the number of those leaving Albania increases every year, the reasons for which they leave are mainly consequences of public policies, and in order for this problem to be solved, you first have to admit it.

“DO NOT CLOSE THE DOOR, OPEN YOUR WALLET INSTEAD”

In a meeting with residents of Kamza, the Prime Minister referred to claims that the emigration of Albanians is a result of politics as ‘superficial’ ones. ” No kind of politics and no kind of political team would have been able to close the door and keep all the Albanians here.” – said Rama to the residents of Kamza, in an apparently electoral meeting.

The statement “echoes” the times of the communist system in Albania, as a form of exaggeration to illustrate the argument repeated several times: young people are free to leave if they want. What the Prime Minister should do in this case, according to the Head of the Center for Economic Studies, Zef Preçi, is to admit the phenomenon and recognize the reasons that lead young people to emigrate.

“If you intend to cure a disease, you have to know its cause, so if you say that young people run away because they are free, you are just avoiding the problem,” Preçi told Faktoje. His suggestion in this case is to pay attention to the internal problems faced by the Albanian economy and society.

The time has come to use incentive policies for wages, just as it can be done for specialized doctors, perhaps also for agricultural workers. – said Preçi – But for this to happen, policies are needed that promote cooperation and reduce costs.

WHY ARE ALBANIANS LEAVING?

The reason the Prime Minister Rama mentions for Albanians leaving the country is “ Albanians have historically left, because they have historically been a people who migrated “.

In the last 10 years, the number of immigrants has been increasing every year. Also, INSTAT shows that the Albanian population in 2003 began a continuous decline, culminating in 2022 with 1.3% fewer citizens than the year before. While in 2013, the population decreased by 0.5%, today, 9 years later, this percentage has more than doubled.

“This national hemorrhage will lead to crises that are not very obvious yet today, but tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” said the economic expert, Zef Preçi. He referred to Prime Minister Rama’s choosing to ignore the phenomenon as an irresponsible and entirely political statement.

“Emigration is more pronounced among the educated and their families, who own savings and family capital, so the government should not ignore them, as they can have a devastating effect on the social security system, ” Preçi explained to Faktoje.

This is also supported by INSTAT figures, where according to the diaspora survey, the main reasons for leaving Albania are economic – and more specifically, almost 84% of Albanians leave to find employment opportunities. [table 1]

Therefore, according to the expert, the country needs supportive policies aimed at bringing its potential into economic circulation.  Therefore, Preçi mentions two sectors where investment should be made, as they can create many new jobs in Albania: tourism and agriculture.

The country needs programs that promote qualified professional training for these sectors, which has not happened so far.” – said Preçi.

IS THIS “END” OF EMIGRATION OR IS IT 5 LEAVING AND 1 RETURNING?

According to the head of the government, the emigration of Albanians is coming to an end. “ I am convinced that the period when there is more people leaving than returning is coming to an end and in the coming years, the next 3-4 years, we will begin to see a period, when Albanians continue to leave, but return” – declared Rama.

The Prime Minister does not say how he came to believe this, which is not supported by the state official figures. This is because INSTAT in 2021 counted over 42 thousand people leaving and less than 10 thousand returning to Albania. In other words, in 2021, 5 people left and only 1 of them returned.

Also, the number of those leaving Albania has almost doubled from 2020 to 2021, while the number of those who have returned has dropped by at least 20%. [table 2]

According to the “Balkan Barometer” survey of the Regional Cooperation Council – financed by the European Union, 29% of the Albanian population believes that the phenomenon of the departure of educated young people, known as the “brain drain”, is a serious problem that the economy of the country faces.

The reason for this is precisely the government policies that favor those who are called “government clients”, Preçi emphasizes. According to him, government policies of opening the labor market are favorable to the oligarchs, not the youth. Bringing workers from Bangladesh helps the private sector to pay low wages, maintaining profits, and does not encourage the private sector to increase the qualification and wages for employees.

During the 2013 election campaign, when the Democratic Party was in power, Prime Minister Rama declared that Albanians are leaving because of the policies followed by the government, which according to him were policies that would “sell” every aspect of citizens’ lives. ” 130 people leaving Albania every day?” – emphasized Rama, the leader of the opposition at the time. But today, when Albania has at least 100,000 fewer citizens than in 2013, when 116 people continue to leave every day and when the median age of Albanians in these 9 years has increased by almost 5 years, the Prime Minister refuses to blame those he calls “vile politicians”.