In the Soviet Union, Armenia was a predominantly industrial country. In the end of 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly Armenia had to feed itself and rebuild its economy. The agricultural sector was relatively marginal, state-owned industries were shutting down and masses of Armenians found themselves unemployed and with no source of income.
Although skilled in other sectors, many Armenians started to work in agriculture as it provides some food security and at least partial employment. Huge collective farms were replaced by small farms, owned by individual households. Problems arose because of the lack of farming knowledge and business skills. Moreover, the technology of the collective agriculture was not suitable for farming on small businesses and besides, much of it was obsolete.
International help tried to prevent famine, but poverty struck deeper roots in the new republic.
Despite recent economic growth the income gap is widening. While a small proportion of people thrive, most struggle to stay above the poverty line. The building of monopoles, the oligarchic structures and the corruption altogether interfere the modernization of Armenian economy and make it hard for small firms to succeed. The average income in Armenia is around 250 Dollar per month. Compared with the low salary the living costs are very high. In the most cases three generations of a family are living together in one flat or one house., because no one can afford to life alone or as a couple in an own flat. The rent of a flat amounts usually the whole income of one person per month. Therefore, living in Armenia without a big family is very hard.
The official jobless rate in 2013 was 16,2 %; however the actual rate is much higher. A problem is that not even half of those unemployed people get the financial support of around 35 Dollar per month. Due to this situation in their own country, many male workers are looking for work in other countries. The men have to leave their wives alone with the burdens of caring for the family and the household. One out of three households in Armenia is now headed by a woman and the trend is on the rise, especially in rural parts of the country.