Academic journal article Demographic Research

Albania: Trends and Patterns, Proximate Determinants and Policies of Fertility Change

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Albania: Trends and Patterns, Proximate Determinants and Policies of Fertility Change

Article excerpt


For a very long time, Albania has had one of the highest levels of fertility in Europe: in 2002 the total fertility rate of 2.2 children per woman was the highest in Europe. Although this current level is high, the country has experienced a rapid fertility reduction during the last 50 years: a TFR decline from 7 to 2.2. This reduction has occurred in the absence of modern contraception and abortion, which indicates the significance of investments in the social agenda during the communist regime that produced policies with indirect effects on fertility. Most significant of these were policies focused on education, in particular on female education. Social and demographic settings for a further fertility reduction in Albania have been present since 1990. Contraception and abortion have been legalized and available since the early 1990s, but knowledge of their use is still not widespread in the country, largely due to the interplay between traditional and modern norms of Albanian society. This chapter points out that future fertility levels will be determined not only by new policies that might be introduced, but predominantly by the balance of this interplay.

1. Socio-economic development in communist Albania 1950-1990

It is difficult to understand any achievements or setbacks in the development of Albania without considering the impact of communist rule in the second half of the twentieth century. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the communist regime faced an unparalleled task: not only did it have to re-build a country destroyed by the war, it also had to create a modern country from the ruins of a semi-feudal society. The economy was in a shambles: farming was the main economic activity, involving about 85% of the population; heavy industry was limited and focused primarily on the extraction of a few minerals, despite the country's wider wealth of mineral deposits. The country had no large industrial establishments; instead it had primitive forms of cottage industry supplementing agriculture or stock-raising activities (Mason et al. 1945). Industrial output had made an insignificant contribution to the country's economy since the start of the Italian occupation in the late 1930s.

The post-war Albanian government followed a policy not unlike that of other socialist countries in order to accomplish its development strategy. Emphasis was placed on the development of an industrial base to bring about basic structural changes and a balanced development of agriculture. The country's goal was set as the transformation of Albania from an agricultural society (85% of the population being rural in 1939) to a developed industrial-agricultural one. Although the Albanian government tried to keep a balance in its policy of development between agriculture and industry, the main focus of its development for 50 years was the industrialization of the country. The government based its policy on the Stalinist model of rapid industrialization, developing both light and heavy industry, and the principle of longterm economic planning was adopted. At the end of the second five-year plan in 1955, it was announced that a light industrial base was to be created, and that Albania had now become an agricultural-industrial country. The total output of the mineral industry increased dramatically.

In the later Albanian economic plans the focus remained the intensification of industry, but now with a more difficult priority - the development of heavy industry for Albania. Until the mid-1970s, the Albanian government was moderately successful in industrializing the economy and the income per capita increased rapidly at an average of more than 8.2% a year (Gjonça, Wilson, and Falkingham 1997). The government's rapid industrialization policy led to the creation of a relatively modern multi-branched industrial sector, which by 1985 was generating 43.3% of the total national income (Golemi and Misja 1987). …

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