Asian migrants take jobs picky Albanians are now rejecting
Haque is one of 10 Bangladeshi workers employed by the INCA Lezha factory. The director claims that Albania is no longer providing enough manpower, forcing it to look far for workers.
“I plan to stay here for a long time because I have no other option,” Abudalep, 28, another Bangladeshi migrant employed at the INCA factory, told BIRN. “In my country, there is no work,” he adds.
“The need for bread obliges us to come to Albania. We have to provide for the needs of our families, ”he continues.
“We have grown, so we need more workers,” Iris Gruda, director of the company, told BIRN. “But we weren’t able to recruit people here,” she adds.
Young Albanians do not want work in sweatshops
It is an unexpected situation. Albania is still one of the poorest countries in Europe. But its economy had grown rapidly over the past three decades, fueled by remittances from emigrants to wealthier neighboring countries, like Greece and Italy.
However, its per capita GDP of some 4,800 euros is more than twice that of Bangladesh, a country of 163 million inhabitants. According to the International Labor Organization, the ILO, some 400,000 workers migrate from Bangladesh each year to earn a living.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama sparked controversy after suggesting during the April 25 parliamentary election campaign that local workers had become “lazy”. The only solution is therefore to find workers abroad, in countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh.
“We have a quick procedure, which lasts only seven days, for employing foreigners,” Rama told the owner of a sweatshop factory in northern Albania. “With the money you donate it would be easy to get them [workers] from Bangladesh, Pakistan or India, ”Rama added.
“When they start to learn Albanian, change them, because they will be tempted to start chatting about politics, democracy, freedom, Europe or the world,” he continued.
Albania has historically experienced a high unemployment rate. But many young people are now getting around this situation by seeking seasonal work in neighboring Greece and Italy, where the pay is better than the meager pay at home.
The official unemployment rate is now around 11.7 percent, but this is generally thought to be an understatement.
Meanwhile, Rama’s fiery comments sparked political debate, with some suggesting it was intentionally provoked controversy, designed to substitute serious reason-based discussion for politics to attract an emotional response.
Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said Rama’s idea of importing cheap labor was the exact opposite of what the country needs.
“Its aim is to bring Bangladeshi workers here, while my aim is to bring investors from Germany, Austria or Europe to create jobs for young Albanians here,” Basha said.