Trade unions examine gender discrimination

Women in Romania earn about 7% less than men for similar jobs, and their employment is around 10% lower than for men. On the basis of these data, the National Trade Union Bloc commissioned a research project, co-funded by the European Social Fund, to identify the nature of types of gender discrimination and to propose actions to boost women’s role in society. The first report outlines preliminary findings and conclusions on gender discrimination in Romania’s labour market.

Motivation behind project

In October 2009, the National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul Naţional Sindical, BNS) stated its interest in pursuing a package of measures, co-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF), designed to enhance the role of women in Romanian society.

Trade unions deem that gender discrimination in the labour market is reflected in at least two reference indicators: pay for equal working time and employment rates.

Trade union data showed that, in 2009, Romanian women earned, on average, 7.3% less than men. By sector of economic activity, men earned 33% more than women in the manufacturing industry, 31% in financial intermediation and insurance, more than 25% in retail trade, some 24% in hotels, restaurants and catering, and 16%–17% in healthcare, social services and education.

In Romania, the employment rate among women is significantly lower at 51.7% than that among men, which amounts to 64.9%. The significant gap in female and male employment is partly due to the fact that large numbers of women work in agriculture. Another reason for this gap is that, no matter how well trained and competent women are, they often have to accept positions below their level of qualification.

Both the employment rate, which remains well below the reference level of 60% set for 2010 by the Lisbon Strategy, and the amount paid to women are indicators mirroring wide gender gaps within the European Union (EU), which questions economic and social cohesion both in Romania and the EU labour market.

Aim of project and initial results

The main aim of the project, designed to be completed within three years, is to ‘encourage and develop the principle of equal opportunities in Romania, by eliminating gender discrimination in the labour market’.

The first Research report on gender discrimination in the labour market was published in 2009. It is based on a sociological survey on a sample of some 100,000 individuals and 200 corporate entities in various economic sectors.

First findings

Gender discrimination comes eighth in the classification of the various types of discrimination detected in the labour market, being mentioned by 9.3% of the survey respondents – 9.4% in the private sector and 8.2% in the public sector.

In the private sector, over 67% of the respondents stated that men and women enjoyed equal treatment at work, while 22% stated the opposite, compared with 74% and 17%, respectively, in the public sector.

By development region, some 2% of the respondents in the South Region of the country, and 7.5% in the South-West Region revealed that they encountered problems at work because they were women. Gender discrimination in labour issues was confirmed by 11.5% of the respondents in the South-West Region, and by 5.8% in the South Region.

Only 28% of the respondents in the South Region are of the opinion that salaries are equal and transparent, compared with 58.8% in the West Region. However, 19.9% of respondents in the West Region, where the level of quality of life parameters is higher than the national average, reported that they were at least once victims of sexual harassment, compared with 5.6% of respondents, the lowest ratio, in the South-West Region and Bucharest.

In four of Romania’s eight development regions, access to employment was the topic placed by respondents at the top of the various forms of discrimination. In the other four regions, discrimination was perceived to be highest in relation to access to professional training, communication and interpersonal relations, as well as regarding the match between the professional profile and the workplace characteristics (hiring in workplaces that requires knowledge and competences lower than the workers’ acquis).

Key conclusions

Women claim that discrimination is stronger when seeking access to vocational training and career development, but they are reluctant to disclose places and situations when they felt discriminated against or harassed at work.

The perception of the various forms of discrimination varies greatly between each development region, which requires policies designed to respond to the specificities of each of the country’s regions.


The trade unions’ initiatives to analyse the forms and causes of discrimination in the labour market as well as the financial support received from the ESF to conduct this research are both positive moves. However, major discrepancies can be seen between official statistics and individual perceptions of discrimination in its various forms.

The gap in the employment of men and women appears to be wider between urban and rural areas. This is due to the fact that, in Romania, about a third of workers are still working in subsistence farming, as self-employed workers, or as unpaid family workers, and to the fact that women outnumber men in these roles. Farm labourers are neither wage earners nor unionised workers, which explains the lack of information about their rights and the regional variance between individual perceptions of discrimination.

Luminiţa Chivu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

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