The Macedonian Manchester
Stip has been known for some decades as the Macedonian Manchester. Already in the 19th century it was a regional trade centre in Eastern Macedonia (part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912). It then had 15,000 inhabitants, including many Turks, Jews and Vlachs. A few thousand Turks left after 1945 as part of an exchange organized in the 1950s between socialist Yugoslavia and the Turkish Republic. Most Jews were deported and killed during World War II.
Today Stip municipality has 47,796 inhabitants, almost all ethnic Macedonians (there are very small numbers of Vlachs, Turks and Roma). Most of what one sees today was built in the early decades of socialism (1950 to 1975). There are few buildings from the last quarter century; to the passing it appears as if as if the town has been asleep ever since Tito died in 1979.
But this perception is misleading. Stip's largest socialist era employers went bankrupt in 2000-2001. Since then a rapidly growing and competitive private clothing sector has emerged. In 2006 there were more than 70 companies employing some 7,000 workers in the Stip textile and clothing sector. According to the local employment office the largest of the companies foresee the creation of more than 1,600 workplaces until the summer of 2007. Local TV station advertises constantly open workplaces.
Where in 2002 thousands were jobless and the employment office registered 11,700 unemployed, today directors complain about a severe shortage of labour. In late 2006 net wages in the clothing sector are around 140 Euros and rising. Several companies in Stip have purchased or built additional plants outside Stip to employ cheaper labour.