Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at presentation of three new employment promotion programmes to support individuals who have lost their jobs in both formal and illegal labour market because of the Covid-19 pandemic:
It is truly an important moment when the government proactively approaches to a recently created problem due to the heavy blow from the Covid-19 pandemic. A shock we have faced with dignity and the data clearly speak for themselves, yet this blow has yet to be fully neutralized and this employment promotion programmes will help all of those who need to reintegrate themselves into the labour market again.
Beyond every idle talk and nonsense and beyond the fact that we are very aware that it is not only the provision of a job position, but also the quality of the job and the quality of payment in that position, we are in front of an absolutely significant overview of reports over these years of our term in office and the terrible legacy of the previous years.
In fact, it is very clear, in black and white, that economic growth has been accompanied by employment growth. And it was not 70 years ago, but just 6 or 7 years ago, when the only employment offices in Albania were the party headquarters; the time when just being a party supporter and associating with a political party made you a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a guard and a sanitary worker; the time when the labour office at the Ministry of Labour granted aid only from a corner close to the Ministry of Labour. Meanwhile the network of the employment offices was a ridiculous and scandalous network with the employment offices, in most of the cases, housing bingo parlours, pubs and cafe, mostly rented out by the directors of the employment offices themselves.
As of today, there are a total of 44.000 registered employers, which is translated into 44.000 collaborators with the entire network of the employment offices to hire and recruit workers.
On the other hand, we should highlight the previously nonexistent vocational education system that is constantly expanding. A cold disdain and unjustifiable abandonment of the vocational schools, while there are today hundreds and thousands of skilled professionals and workers who have attended and graduated from the vocational schools with a quick access to the labour market thanks to the skills they have learned and developed at school. Further on, conditioning the economic assistance with attendance of the vocational training programmes, provision of subsidies to employers to hire women, people with disabilities and the specific employment programme for the best performing students. I mean young people, the opportunities provided to young people, but a considerable number of excellent students have already joined public administration under a merit-based system and their education performance without the help of any influential friend, without the help of any political party, and without being favoured by anyone.
According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate in Albania is 11.2%, the lowest in the region.
However, we need to address the Covid-related effects.
We and everyone else now knows that the two significant packages the government adopted to provide income to employers and employees after businesses were closed down because of the pandemic have worked.
The wartime salary has worked;
The decision to increase the unemployment pay and the economic assistance amid the pandemic is now an objective to further stabilize as such on an ongoing basis. We actually plan to double the economic assistance. Meanwhile, with the country’s gradual reopening, around 20.000 people out of 33.000 people who lost their jobs during the lockdown have now recovered their jobs since June.
With the early emergency already overcome, we have come to a point when we should care about those who still have to regain a job. With the reviewed state budget in July, the government increased its funding earmarked for the Employment Programme. The Employment Promotion Fund also increased to the last decade’s historic high. These programmes target precisely the jobseekers that have lost their jobs during the period between March and June.
Subsidizing 100% of the minimum wage for half the duration is a positive measure. Funding social and health contributions is a positive measure too. The 12-month programme for the former employees, who do not turn out to be as such on the General Tax Administration registers, covers 100% of funding the compulsory insurance costs. In addition to boosting employment, this scheme also guarantees a significant reduction in illegal work, which is very important.
What it takes for us as a government, as a network of the employment offices and as a network of the vocational education schools is to provide more information about this. The applications for such programmes are made via the portal e-albania, in full transparency, very quickly, effectively and at a zero cost. E-albania will do its share to inform everyone.
The good news is that Albania has lost fewer jobs per capita than other countries in the region. Reintegration into the labour market has taken place faster, because we actually imposed lockdown faster, but we also reopened faster.
We are now defining the measure, which has not been part of our objectives, but we are moving towards its fulfilment and that is setting a national minimum wage of 30.000 lek.
This measure takes into consideration all workers, mainly women, hired in the manufacture sector, who should now be definitely considered part of this pay rise process in the private sector too, starting with the minimum monthly salary.
The study on the progressive taxation system review is going on. I believe that positive conclusions will be drawn soon.
I avail myself of this opportunity, starting with people who for their own reasons refuse to accept the good, to accept the progress, that these measures, starting with the legislation adopted in July, where we made the profit tax a VAT rate cut a reality, like no other country in the region, for small business with turnover up to 100 million lek and zero profit tax like no other country in the region for small business with turnover up to 140 million lek, has not to do with the election campaign and it is not that we were reminded to do so today, but are all fruits of a long and hard work. Because these are measures that could never have been taken, nor could they have been thought of 4 years ago, or let alone 7 years ago, when we all found that black hole in the state coffers and all that big mountain of unpaid arrears to the private companies.
So, it is exactly because we have delivered on reforms, exactly we have moved forward with strong determination and patiently, exactly because we have been through shocks and aftershocks like nobody else, namely the earthquake, the pandemic, and exactly because we have coped with them with dignity, we can afford today pressing ahead with efforts to accomplish objectives. I believe that we will be able to announce the massive and substantial pay rise for doctors. When I said that the government plans a hike in the salaries of the teachers too, I saw many reacting and suggesting that I had pledged a 40% pay rise.
The calculations are very simple and we will make the calculations once the salary hike is announced for doctors and teachers.
Once again, let’s focus on information about these programs, focus on promotion. I urge all employment offices to inform and promote. These are all programs that do not solve the problem of a salary right away like in a job position, but they make it very easy for you to take up a job with sufficient skills to be able to be recruited by companies, which are open and offer a lot of vacancies, but which need skilled workers. This helps exactly this qualification and I am convinced that we will see the results very soon.
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