The labor force numbered approximately 1.3 million in 2000. The economically active population was equally divided between agricultural workers and those in industry and services. When communism was abandoned in favor of a free-market economy in 1991, a transitional dislocation of workers and resources took place, resulting in an estimated unemployment rate of 40% in 1992. In 2001, the unemployment rate remained high, up to an estimated 30%.
In 1991, workers were granted the legal right to create independent trade unions. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH) was formed as the umbrella organization for several smaller unions. The rival Confederation of Unions, closely tied to the Socialist party, operates mostly as a continuation of the state-sponsored federation of the Communist era. Approximately 175,000 workers are members of these confederations. All citizens have the right to organize and bargain collectively, except the military and civilian employees of the military. As of 2002, unions generally negotiated directly with the government since all large enterprises were still state owned, and little privatization had occurred outside the retail and agricultural sectors; few private employees are unionized.
The minimum work age is 16, with restrictions placed on employment of those under 18 years old. Children between 14 and 16 years old may work part-time. The labor code sets the maximum workweek at 48 hours. Minimum wages were approximately $50 per month in 2002, which does not provide a decent living wage for a family. Many urban area workers earn more, around $100 per month. The labor code also sets out occupational health and safety standards but provides no remedies for workers who leave the workplace because of hazardous conditions. The enforcement of the labor code is severely limited by the Albanian government's lack of funding.