Is there a crisis in Albania? - By Elida Motro-Iljazi
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Like many children who grew up in a family with strong traditions, I learned how to respect and go through the repeated talks of people coming to condole you for the loss of a dear one in a progressed age. During the first two weeks after the funeral, serving coffees, raki or kampari on these people of different ages, backgrounds, races, living in Albania or abroad, after the usual expressions of comforting the outlived spouse, I could see almost with no exception, the conversation turning towards one very “safe” topic: that of the economic situation, how everyone is coping with the effects of the crises. That turn provoked all present to join the discussion and kept things interesting even in a situation of condoling.
My interest on the subject was more acute when I knew that the main theme of the magazine issue was the existence( or not) of the economic crisis in Albania, its effects on the Albanian working force and the respective HR challenges.
The crises and the HR challenges
In any business setting, be it large or small, the HR specialist or department is expected to do “thermometer-ing” the situation of the human asset in the organization and suggest or take action(depending on its managerial weight in the senior structure set) to improve the improvable. The aim is to maximize the value added by the human resources of the company to the business. With the goal of bringing this up in the electronic pages of the magazine , we will try to do the same job of the HR specialist or department but, in a larger social scale. We will present significant pieces of the situation as it is, and aim to give the direct connection of the changes(for good or bad) of the aspects of work life with the direct affect that passes on the family and social life of the society in general.
In Albania: Recession, Crisis or Progress ahead?
Stagnation, recession, crises or progress ahead of the Albanian economy, will, of course, have different effects on the working force in Albania and different reflections on the HR side. That’s why we aim that this material put under the “scope” of this edition of Burime-Njerezore.com will represent some of the material that life gives us abundantly in the job-market caused by either of the above mentioned situations in the current Albanian economy.
The opinions on this issue on the state of our economy, as fragile as it may seem to be( always considered in one form or another as the “big gun” used by one political force against the other/s and, not only) will stay clearly away of any political colouring. Actually the consequences of the crises, after all, regardless of what colour your party membership card is, are the same on the personal wallet of any employee. Authors with different points of view, with various professional backgrounds, from different levels in the professional career stations, from profit and non- profit employment mechanisms, come with one common line: to present what is the Albanian workforce doing in this situation, and how do the HR functions in the Albanian businesses align(or not) to these changes.
Having said that, we join the big chorus of the written and spoken media in Albania that substitute the word “economic crisis” with any other milder euphemism that would even take you to reports on “constant development”, “growth” of the Albanian economy. But for the sake of being HR professionals let’s make clear first the definitions between the situation of recession and crises that may help the reader to see if one or the other is cross-legged in Albania for the last couple of years.
Recession imply a very particular economic phenomenon: a business-cycle recession, in which the drop is quick, and the recovery is usually similarly quick. Is this what we’re in? You normally get out of a recession by lowering interest rates and convincing consumers to spend. Financial crises, on the other side have nothing to do with the business cycle falling out of whack. They’re about huge amounts of debt taken with less and less capacities to give it back . And that’s why crises are so difficult to recover from. The period after a financial crisis is marked by consumers trying to get out by fighting hard to give back the borrowed money. So are we in an after crises recovery period? An article that got my attention lately is on a report from the bank of Albania just stating the above graded down as per sector.( See for more at 24-ore.com 21/08/2011)
As per the same source of information(Bank of Albania), the macroeconomic indicators of 2010 are as follows:
Taken from the “Financial Stability Report on the 2nd six months of 2010”, published by the Bank of Albania
Without reaching in any conclusion, let’s see what effects we have from just being part of the world, of this “big global village”, keeping in mind at least-the “peddle falling in the pool effect”. After the peddle is thrown, it is impossible to get rid of the waves of the water, reaching your shore when they may. It is important for us as HR to see the dynamics of the macroeconomics to see for example the effect of the going up of the unemployment rate in the country and the lowering of the remittances from the Albanians working abroad(partly because of the unemployment in Europe and abroad. Being part of the old continent and far too close to Greece both geographically and because of the thousands of hundreds of Albanian work force living and working there, make us be more sensitive to the wave effects of the “peddles “ that fell in 2010 there and that keep rolling still. In the map following , the unemployment in the Euro zone(the source from Eurostat) at the end of June 2011 was 15.94% while in Albania 13.9(source Bank of Albania).
Lately we have seen the heads of the strongest world economies (G8 for example) get together to sort out what to do for the after crises effects. One of the themes on the talks’ table remains how to lower the global unemployment, which stands at more than 200 million(source of report from http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/statistics/search_database). In the USA, (as per Sarah Beth Glicksteen/ The Christian Science Monitor/ File discussing the findings of a the poll by the Pew Research Centre) some 3,000 Americans during May answer the poll pointing out that these last years are America's deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In the following map(the source from Wikimedia Commons, see more at www.wikimedia.org) you can get an idea on the world unemployment.
So after we saw how we relate to one of the crisis indicator, let’s go back to the job of an HR specialist or department in a company in hard times for the business, be it economic stagnation, recession or crisis. We cannot stress enough the significance of the HR role in the company to bring forth the problems and provide solutions to the strategic leaders of the business. The experience in the HR abroad is huge and a “passed road”, all we have to do, is learn and adopt what to do in cases when the highest percentage of the labour force we work with, or will hire from, or train, will be touched by being out of the job for certain periods of time, when you have to impose reduction of working hours, pay cuts, switching on part time from full time. And still be responsible to have the same or even better work results, still have the motivational levels in the right notch, still retain the talented people-the company stars even when your competitor tries to snatch them by out-paying them by a couple of thousand leks! And to make things worse, whenever the crises starts, the departments that most threatened by the job cuts are the HR people, but then who said the HR job is easy to keep when done properly? Trying to assist with the above, we will bring the voice of the experts from abroad, or of the experience of the foreigners in Albania, and of course of the colleagues of HR exercising our profession in Albania.
And the life goes on, crisis or not!
...Crises or not, from the point of view of an HR (having people under the microscope ).I was amazed by something in that little town( that still maintains the human relationships intact and visits to one another as if the last 20 years have not passed over that place). The ease with which the people coming to condole they would pass from the gloomy(yet safe) talking like “ How are you getting on with this crises? See the prices? Almost double than last summer!”, to the bright, like in the 1995-6 mode of talking “ And because of this my son and his family preferred Corfu this year over the Albanian Riviera”! Quite fascinating, considering that minutes ago, they had complanied that the same son had had a bad year with his business because of the crisis! In the end of all the friendly talks I realized that the connection to the crises or its naming was somewhat blurred and the name was tagged depending on your personal loss. So if you are out of the job-it is recession, if I lose my job- it is crises, if it is happening somewhere else- it’s just bad times!
A Greek friend of mine, that owns a travel agency in Corfu told me she intends to learn the Albanian language. In the last 3 years, the majority of the tourists she was processing through her office are coming to Corfu from Albania, and well known as “ spending and generous tourists”! Aren’t these amazing?