Albania has one of the lowest standards of living in Europe. Approximately 60% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture; the balance is involved in services or industry. The country's economy contracted in the early 1990s as Albania attempted to move quickly from a tightly controlled state-run system to a market economy. During this period, the unemployment rate was about 40%, but by the end of the decade it was closer to 20%.
Agriculture was formerly socialized in the form of collective and state farms, but by 1992 most agricultural land had been privatized. Grains (especially wheat and corn), potatoes, vegetables, fruits, and sugar beets are grown and livestock is raised. Albania is rich in mineral resources, notably petroleum, natural gas, coal, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, nickel, and salt. Agricultural processing, oil, mining, and the manufacture of textiles, clothing, lumber, cement, and chemicals are among the leading industries. Iron and steel plants have been developed, and the country has several hydroelectric stations. Because of economic disturbances during the 1990s, Albania remains essentially a developing country.
Foreign trade is carried by sea, Durrës and Vlorë (also the terminus of the oil pipeline) being the major ports. Albania exports textiles and footwear, mined natural resources, foodstuffs, and tobacco and imports mostly machinery, other industrial products, and consumer goods. Its chief trading partners are Italy and Greece. In the early 1990s Albania joined the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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