The effects of emigration on the Romanian labour market

During the 1990s and early 2000s, the outflow of Romanian workers represented an opportunity to reduce unemployment and alleviate the repercussions of economic restructuring.

In spite of this initial beneficial effect on the national labour market (which is still characterised by a low level of job availability), the sheer volume of labour emigration gave rise to several negative effects: labour shortages, skill gaps, distorted wage demand; depopulated areas, deepening of regional discrepancies; social problems with dependents (especially children) left behind; inflationary pressure (due to remittances).

Since 2006-07, the business sector has registered labour shortages, especially in construction, with a direct effect on wage demands. During 2007-08, Romanian employers made efforts to attract Romanians working abroad or to reduce the “appetite” of their staff for emigration.

A study carried out in 2007 by the National Research Institute for Labour and Social Protection (Ciuca et al., 2007) showed that most Romanians are ready for international mobility with a view to attain better employment. The types of jobs that are sought differ, however, between residents of urban and rural areas: urban residents tend to look for better jobs, especially better paid, while rural residents tend to look for any type of job.

The same study revealed that emigrants left the Romanian labour market from marginal jobs/situations (daily worker, unemployed or self-employed). Another interesting finding, which partly explains the high propensity for work emigration at the expense of internal mobility, is the frequent lack of information on job opportunities at the local, regional and national level.

According to medium- and long-term labour market forecasts conducted by the Romanian Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family, in co-operation with the National Research Institute for Labour and Social Protection, the highest risk of shortage is predicted to accumulate for International Standard Classification of Occupation (ISCO) groups 3 (“Technicians and associate professionals”), 7 (“Craft and related trades workers”) and 8 (“Plant and machine operators and assemblers”). The Romanian National Agency for Employment (Public Employment Service) reported that vacancies have been repeatedly communicated by employers in clothing manufacturing, car manufacturing and building construction, with difficulties in finding suitable candidates (due to skill or location mismatch) and in placing jobseekers (due to low earnings, especially in clothing manufacturing).

Although last decade’s migration patterns were marked by the emigration of low- skilled workers, emigration of highly skilled individuals also developed at a rapid pace, mainly based on student exchange programmes and rapid recruitment after graduation. Immigrant selection policies implemented by Germany, the United Kingdom and France attracted specialised workers to these countries, especially in the field of information and communication technologies. In recent years, the migration of health care workers has gained momentum, due also to significant wage reductions and poorer working conditions in the Romanian public sectors, coupled with an increasing demand in Western Europe for medium and highly skilled workers in the health sector (physicians, specialised nurses).

Finally, the phenomenon of children and teenagers left behind by migrant parents to be cared for by relatives or institutions (“home alone”) represents a grave social problem, resulting in abuse, violation of children’s rights, delinquency, poor educational performance etc.

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