Women and employment in Albania’s construction sector – Closing the gender gap

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A road construction engineer, Albania

New infrastructure projects typically see an increase in demand for labor and skills, thereby creating new employment opportunities in the construction sector. In Albania, several infrastructure projects currently being implemented are good news for the country’s economy – but they also provide an opportunity to boost participation of women in a largely male-dominated sector. According to our research, the share of women currently employed in Albania’s construction sector is just 3%.

Albania has much to gain from addressing gender gaps in its construction industry, not least the macroeconomic benefits of higher female labor force participation. And, given the current skills shortages in the sector, improving the gender balance in the workforce can help companies better meet their staffing needs.

We recognize it will not be an easy road ahead. Significant human and financial resources will be required, along with close cooperation among a wide range of stakeholders – including higher and vocational educational institutions, municipalities, local employment agencies, central government, development partners, and the private sector.

A new Gender Assessment, funded by the State and Peacebuilding Fund, and carried out with support from the Albanian Development Fund, explores women’s participation in road construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance in Albania. And it provides some important insights into gender gaps in the country.

For instance, females comprise just one-third of graduates of tertiary-level engineering, manufacturing and construction courses. Very few young women enroll in vocational education, which largely determines labor outcomes in the construction sector. One of the main reasons for this is the prevailing stereotype around what are considered “jobs for women” and “jobs for men”.

While men are employed in a wide range of roles across Albania’s construction sector, women are mostly employed in the areas of engineering or accountancy. Overall, the gender pay gap is 14% in favor of men.

Among private companies, recruitment usually happens through informal networks that comprise only men. In addition, there is little collaboration between education institutions and businesses, resulting in very few internship and recruitment opportunities for female students and graduates.

Last week at a joint World Bank-Albanian Development Fund workshop in Tirana, we shared the key take-aways from the Gender Assessment with development partners, private construction companies and municipalities. We also discussed – and challenged – some of the common misconceptions around gender in Albania.

The misconception, for example, that women do not want to work in male-dominated sectors such construction. In fact, HR statistics from road maintenance companies across Albania show otherwise.

Generally speaking, the public sector offers more job security for women than the private sector – it provides more regular contracts, social insurance, and convenient working schedules. In Shkoder, road maintenance is outsourced to a private company – and no women are employed in this work. In Pogradec, on the other hand, road maintenance is overseen by the local municipality – and 57% of road maintenance workers are female.

So, when the right conditions and incentives are in place, women are just as willing and able as men to work in the construction sector. This is particularly true in rural areas, where often there are no other income-generating opportunities beyond subsistence agriculture.

At the Tirana workshop, we discussed a range of initiatives that could potentially boost women’s access to employment in the construction sector. These ideas included addressing gender stereotypes (which have a strong influence on the education choices women and men make), improving workplace health and safety issues, and increasing the capacity of the Albanian Development Fund to systematically reflect gender considerations in the development of their infrastructure projects.

Some may argue that it will be impossible to tackle deeply entrenched gender stereotypes in this traditionally male-dominated sector. We believe it is certainly challenging, but not impossible.

To illustrate this, we heard about Albania’s State Police – traditionally a male-dominated sector – which achieved highly impressive results after promoting women into field command roles and implementing a policy against all kinds of harassment in the workplace.  

Both current and future infrastructure projects in Albania provide a huge opportunity to create more jobs and boost the local economy – but just as importantly, to provide equal employment opportunities to women and men alike.

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Blog post co-authored by Jing Xiong, Senior Transport Specialist, World Bank.

Download the Gender Assessment: Enhancing Women’s Labor Force Participation in Road Construction, Rehabilitation, and Maintenance in Albania (PDF)
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