Editorial: Dealing with the complexity of why 85% of youths want to leave this country

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 17, 2015 13:48

Story Highlights

  • We cannot know if Albanian leaders do care about their legacy, beyond the next election cycle. But if they leave behind a country where more than half the population has left to seek a better life elsewhere, history will judge them harshly.

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Under the radar of most Albanian media, a report was recently released, containing a wealth of data about the beliefs of Albanian youths. Among the findings, there was an astounding figure: 85 percent of Albanian youths are interested in emigrating.

The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Albania report (pdf) is based on a 2014 survey of 1,200 youths, aged 16 to 27, from across the country. It shows 60 percent, are interested ‘a lot’ in emigrating, 17 percent are ‘somewhat’ interested and 9 percent are ‘a little’ interested. Only 15 percent are not interested ‘at all’ in leaving the country. The same survey conducted in 2011 showed that the numbers of those who are very interested in leaving the country have jumped from 43 to 60 percent, showing a deterioration of hope in the past three years.

There are no easy answers for this negative trend and for the urge Albanians – and young ones in particular – feel to leave the country for greener pastures. It is a complex matter and an issue that will haunt Albanian governments and this country’s society for decades to come.

As German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann put it this week in an exclusive interview with Tirana Times, “I think it’s a question for the entire society, the entire Albanian political class, to ask themselves the fundamental question: What is going on in this country that so many people are actually ready to leave?”

One simple answer is that Albania is small and poor by European standards, and the young, like their counterparts everywhere, are restless and looking for opportunities. In a country that has a track record of massive emigration – more than one in three Albanian citizens now lives outside the country – the trend goes on a momentum of its own as people want to join family members abroad or hear stories about opportunities from friends and relatives who have taken the journey. And the good life of the wealthier countries of Western Europe and North America are ever present through television and movies, even if the reality of life there for a migrant worker might be entirely different.

These are clear pull factors, but it is also important to talk about the push factors. Have the leaders of the this country been able to inspire hope and provide good opportunities for young people? The high number of those who want to leave suggests the answer is clearly a negative one.

Albania’s prime minister said this week said he knows there are unhappy people, but he does not have a magic wand to make the country a better place to live in overnight. No magical wands are needed, just inspiring hope and improvements to create a momentum people can believe in.

As the current government, like others before it, gets bogged down in scandal after scandal, and fails to meet its promises for the majority of Albanians who are poor and lack any direct connections to power, many Albanians are now or could in the future simply vote with their feet.

We cannot know if Albanian leaders do care about their legacy, beyond the next election cycle. But if they leave behind a country where more than half the population has left to seek a better life elsewhere, history will judge them harshly.

- Written by Andi Balla, aballa@tiranatimes.com

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 17, 2015 13:48