Taking the Bus to Tirana’s Airport

Some six years ago I wrote about taking the bus to Tirana’s airport. This post still gets many visitors, but things have slightly changed following the pedestrianization of Skanderbeg Square.

It’s now called Luna, and you find some information on the website of Tirana’s airport. The departure point has slightly changed, but otherwise the connection remains pretty much the same. It still runs every hour on the hour, though it now seems to run longer in the evening. It costs 300 Lek for a ride (around 10 times less than a taxi), which takes around 25 to 30 minutes. You buy the ticket on the bus (once it’s ready to depart; just sit in if you arrive earlier).

Departure is now behind the Opera & Ballet Theatre:

(click to get a zoomable version on OpenStreemap)

Here’s the bus:

And the timetable:

Choosing Unauthorized Migration

Our article on the choice of unauthorized migration (as opposed to authorized migration) is now available at International Migration. We benefit from data on return migrants in Albania to capture who is more likely to choose unauthorized migration — illegal or undocumented immigration are other common terms. We find that young men are particularly prone to unauthorized migration: we interpret this as a reflection of risk-taking behaviour. We also find that those who do not have social responsibilities (children, partner) are more likely to choose unauthorized migration.

Ruedin, Didier, and Majlinda Nesturi. 2018. ‘Choosing to Migrate Illegally: Evidence from Return Migrants’. International Migration 56 (4): 235–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/imig.12461. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/imig.12461

Out now — Choosing to migrate illegally: Evidence from return migrants

I am happy to announce a paper written with Majlinda Nesturi — Choosing Unauthorized Migration: Evidence from Return Migrants. While we have much knowledge about the nature of unauthorized migration and why it can and does occur, there is surprisingly little on why some individuals choose unauthorized immigration and others do not. As far as we could determine, nobody has ever used actual unauthorized migration (as opposed to authorized migration) as the outcome variable in quantitative analysis. One reason for this is most certainly that unauthorized migrants are hard to capture, especially in the country of destination. We use data on return migrants in Albania to capture actual unauthorized (rather than intended) behaviour. What is more, we capture unauthorized immigration when the migrants do not have to fear any consequences for revealing their previous behaviour.

We show that being young and male is associated with the choice or unauthorized migration. Our interpretation is that these two variables capture risk-taking behaviour — something future research should verify with dedicated variables. We also show that individuals are more likely to choose unauthorized migration when they are free of social responsibilities like having a partner or children. At the same time, authorized and unauthorized migrants resemble each other in many other aspects. If you think about it, this implies that restrictive immigration policies may lead to selecting risk-taking individuals, not necessarily those most needed in the labour market.

Taxing immigrants is likely to deter them: some data

In Switzerland, there’s currently a discussion on taxing immigrants (well make them pay a fee, not really a tax: “Zuwandererabgabe”) as a means to reduce regulate immigration. The intuition is straightforward: immigrants cause costs to the country of destination (infrastructure, environment), and we can recover at least some of the expenses from them. Reiner Eichenberger suggests to tax immigrants (refugees excluded) between CHF 12 and 15 every day (he likens this to a visitor’s tax tourists pay) for the first 3 to 5 years — that’s around CHF 5000 a year. This does not affect the freedom to move, but introduces costs which he argues would reduce immigration.

George Sheldon highlights that such an immigrant tax would most likely be covered by employers, not the immigrants. Immigrant workers can choose between many countries (of destination), while the employers need a worker in a particular location: this gives the immigrant worker more power in negotiating who covers a potential immigrant tax. An immigrant tax is also an opportunity cost, so immigrants are likely to stay longer — which actually increases the share of immigrants in Switzerland.


In this debate, alternative payments are also discussed, such as deposits. What lacks, however, is any empirical data on how immigrants are likely to react. Well, here I present data from a non-representative survey I conducted in April 2011 — when this idea of taxing immigrants was discussed last time (I wrote some of the text below in 2011, too) . The survey covers university students in Germany (Osnabrück) and Albania (Tirana), and asks about plans to emigrate. It also asks whether the prospect of paying a deposit or a non-refundable fee would deter them. Let’s be clear that these are survey questions, so we can only capture what they say, not actual behaviour; and university students may be a particular group. There are 122 responses from German students, and 41 from Albanian students in the data, studying many different degrees.

The intuition behind the case selection was to capture two different immigrant population — taking the perspective of Switzerland. On the one hand, there are the typically highly-skilled immigrants from Western Europe. They constitute a group of immigrants often considered benevolently, although not unreservedly so. On the other hand, Albanians are often regarded with suspicion in Switzerland, regardless of their qualification. Cultural differences tend to be highlighted in popular discourse. The expectation is that both in Germany and Albania, university graduates are a population of potential emigrants, although it would be wrong to expect everyone considering emigration.

The survey included a series of question asking respondents what is important in life (family, friends, politics, money, religion), and a number of attitudinal items. These attitudinal items capture whether men should be privileged over women if jobs are scarce, and if the native population should be privileged in the same situation. Further items asked whether immigrants should integrate better, if immigrants should keep their traditions or whether they should adjust to local customs.


In the absence of data, what could we expect? On the one hand, from a purely economic perspective, it can be expected that migration fees and deposits are a deterrent to migration. Other things being equal, a rational profit-maximizing individual will choose a different country of destination, where no such migration fee is levied. At the same time, the presence of a migration fee or a deposit could act as an important signal to potential migrants: that they are not welcome, or only welcome under specific circumstances. The migration fee in this case acts as a symbolic rather than economic disincentive. In either case, the expectation is that the presence of migration fees and deposits would influence migration decisions.

In economic terms, there is a difference between a migration fee and a deposit. A migration fee is non-refundable, and can be regarded as an (artificial) opportunity cost. A deposit, in contrast, is refundable under certain circumstances. It can act as insurance against costs to the country of destination — particularly in relation to crime and efforts to extradite unwanted immigrants. Given its potentially refundable nature, economic incentives may differ. The willingness to pay a small deposit is expected to be higher than the willingness to pay a migration fee and a high deposit.


58% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies. Of these, however, 63% have no concrete plans, and only 16% have gathered information. 25% have considered moving to Switzerland, 75% have only considered different countries.

In Germany, 61% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 69% have no concrete plans, and 11% have gathered information. 30% have considered Switzerland.

In Albania, 51% of respondents have thought about emigrating after their studies, of which 43% have no concrete plans, and 33% have gathered information. 10% have considered Switzerland.

What’s important to choose a country of destination? 73% mentioned job opportunities, 36% career opportunities, 28% friends, 16% the salary, 36% living costs, and 16% migration costs. For 57% language is an important criterion. 38% think they need a concrete job offer, and for 36% their partner is a deciding factor.

How important are migration costs? None of them thought that costs were irrelevant, but fewer than half (47%) consider these costs central or rather central.

Would an immigration fee affect your choice of country? Let’s look at the percentage of respondents stating that such a fee would affect their choice of country, beginning with refundable deposits:

€1,000: 18% think this affects their choice
€5,000: 43% think this affects their choice
€10,000: 78% think this affects their choice
€20,000: 84% think this affects their choice

So yes, migration fees seem to affect the choice of country, but only the larger amounts can deter the majority — and for 16% paying €20k is not enough to change their minds…

How about non-refundable fees?

€1,000, non-refundable: 42% think this affects their choice
€5,000, non-refundable: 73% think this affects their choice
€10,000, non-refundable: 89% think this affects their choice
€20,000, non-refundable: 94% think this affects their choice

Unsurprisingly, non-refundable fees have a stronger ‘effect’, with lower amounts already having a significant impact. Given the general opportunity costs of moving to another country, the many respondents deterred by an additional €1,000 suggests that the symbolic component of such migration fees can be substantial — and migration fees are not only part of an economic cost-benefits analysis.

There appear to be no gender differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee, and differences in stated job prospects are not associated with differences in the willingness to pay a migration fee. Young individuals, however, seem more willing (or less reluctant) to pay. For this, I have simply added the responses to the different questions on migration fees (thus a higher value means more of the questions were answered with having an impact on country choice = more reluctance to pay). The correlation between age and the sum of the fee questions is 0.25 (p=0.016). Young individuals are generally more risk-taking, so this is not a surprise.

You can download the data from my Dataverse.

Migration in Albania

Just over a year after we’ve embarked on researching migration in Albania in a comprehensive manner, the full report is now available from the INSTAT website. Drawing primarily on data from the 2011, this report cover internal migration (people who changed their usual residence within Albania) as well as international migration (people who moved from Albania to another country – primarily Greece and Italy; or returned to Albania). The report is invariably descriptive in nature, but we examined aspects of migration too often left out in generic publications, such as whether internal migrants moved directly or settled somewhere in between, or how many people actually left Albania since 2001 (indirect estimation). With many illustrations, the report should be readily accessible to a wide readership.