General information on Albania

In spite of the introduction of child protection measures, Albania is still one of the riskiest places for children in Europe. The risks start at birth – Albania has a high infant mortality rate – and continue through to early adulthood – when the lack of opportunities for young people makes it very difficult for them to become independent.

 
Children playing in SOS Children's Village Tirana - photo: B. Neeleman
SOS Children's Villages offers a loving home to children who have lost parental care (photo: SOS archives)
Around 3.1 million people live in Albania. The capital, Tirana is home to around 420,000.

Since 2014, Albania has been a candidate to join the European Union. In this context, changes have taken place and the lives of some families have improved. However, around one quarter of the population continues to live in poverty. The poorest five per cent struggle daily to feed their families. Poverty mostly affects women, young people and those living in isolated rural areas.

Albanians themselves see unemployment and corruption as the two main problems that they face. The unemployment rate remains high at 17.5 per cent. Many people work in the informal economy – these jobs lack stability and protection from exploitation. Corruption also affects families on a regular basis when they deal with the authorities – they often have to pay extra to receive better and faster medical care or when enrolling their children in schools.
 

A lack of basic services for the most vulnerable

We ensure that children in our care have access to education – from kindergarten for small children to vocational training for young people (photo: SOS archives)

There are an estimated 857,000 children under the age of 18 in Albania. In spite of some recent improvements, more needs to be done to protect children. Children without parental care are at a higher risk of discrimination, abuse and exploitation.

One such risk is child labour: according to UNICEF, around 12 per cent of children between the ages of 5-14 are working. Children from families in rural areas are most at risk: the child labour rates in rural areas are four times higher than in cities. Children work in factories, in agriculture or in the service industries. The majority of these children have dropped out of school after finishing primary school.

One in three young people under the age of 24 don't have a job. Those who do work are often paid low wages. These factors put them at risk of falling into the hands of human traffickers who promise them good jobs with high wages elsewhere.