Pensions and health insurance, which government employees have enjoyed since the 1940s, also include members of the cooperatives since 1971. Since 1963, medical treatment is free for all, while drugs are subsidized. Mothers are entitled to 6 months’ leave in childbirth. Other social services, e.g. childcare, it is also often subsidized or free. The school is free at all levels, and the teaching materials mean low prices. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of ALB and acronym for Albania.
An important element of wage policy is the far-reaching equalization. In 1967 and 1976, the maximum wages for government employees were lowered in order to reduce the differences between the city and the countryside. Furthermore, support for cooperatives in the mountain areas has been introduced to equalize the income gaps between these and the more productive units of the lowland. The measures have a welfare policy purpose, but also involve an attempt to stimulate production in the collective agriculture and to hold back urbanization. Laws governing the possibility of moving have been created for the same purpose. One consequence is low social mobility and few socially mixed marriages. Despite the significant improvements, the regional variations in living standards are still considerable. Thus, cities and districts in western and southern Albania have better access to good medical care, schools and consumer capital goods. These areas also show lower infant mortality, longer life expectancy and higher educational attainment.
The transition to a market economy has meant that unemployment has increased rapidly; at the beginning of the 10th, it was estimated at 15 percent. In the hunt for work, many people go to the cities.
Poverty is widespread, especially in rural areas, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. About 14 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and many depend on the money that relatives working abroad send home. Health care is free, as is medicine for children. Albania has state health insurance, and in 1991 unemployment insurance was introduced. Pensioners receive about 70 percent of their salary; the retirement age is 55-65 years for men and 50-60 years for women.