EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Quality in work and employment — Romania

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 28 June 2007

Constantin Ciutacu

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Abstract: The concept of ‘flexicurity’ was included for the first time in the National Reforms Programme – Lisbon Strategy 2006, opened for public debate by the Government of Romania. So far the concept has found no significant echo in social partners or the mass-media.

1. The importance of quality in work and employment

To reach the objectives of the Government Programme for 2001-2004 (increasing the level of employment, increasing labour force mobility, flexibility and adaptability), the first National Plan for Employment (Plan Naţional pentru Ocuparea Forţei de Muncă, PNAO) 2002-2003 focused on adjusting to the objectives included in the European Union employment strategy pillars. This particular document represented the first government-level joint analysis of the state of employment in Romania, together with all ministries and social partners.

PNAO 2004-2005, in line with the European Employment Strategy set three strategic objectives:

  • full employment (quantitative objective) justified by the decline by of at least 5 % of the employment rate since 1990; employment security had decreased, so had the annual length of working hours; employment showed signs of increasing fragility and precariousness;

  • work quality and productivity became practically for the first time, an employment policy objective: to reach the strategic objective – raise quality and increase work productivity – the Government of Romania, through its policy of sustaining economic growth, will encourage in the following years an increase of job offer, promote an enhanced job quality and appropriate work productivity. The macroeconomic forecast set as its main objective: reduction of the unemployment rate from 8.4% in 2002 to 6.5% in 2005 and an increase of work productivity at an annual average rate of 4.7% in the period 2004-2006, higher than the growth rate of the real wage;

  • social cohesion and inclusion.

The current Government Programme 2005-2008, focuses notably on involving social partners and promoting special employment programmes, in the context of the shift of decision-making centres to local units, aimed at competitive management which would lead to growing local responsibilities and the optimization of resource utilization.

The current PNAO 2006 is linked to the integrated guidelines of employment policies in the European Union, including guideline 17, which encompasses the improvement of work quality and productivity, and strengthening of social cohesion; integrated guideline 21, aimed at labour market flexibility combined with employment security; guidelines 23 and 24 covering investment in human capital and adjustment of education and vocational training systems.

Finally, work quality elements are also to be found in the National Employment Strategy for 2004-2010 coupled with the Continuing Vocational Training Strategy for 2005-2010.

  • Is there concern about a possible conflict between job creation and the pursuit of quality in work, or are the two aspects seen to be complementary?

Trade unions bring a twofold accusation against employment security: on the one hand, investments are required in order to ensure workplace safety and compliance with work protection regulations (Cartel Alfa National Trade Union Confederation, Confederaţia Naţională Sindicală Cartel Alfa, Cartel Alfa and Meridian National Trade Union Confederation, Confederaţia Sindicală Naţională Meridian, CSN Meridian) and on the other hand, they point to the precariousness of employment which has a major impact on the quality of work (National Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Romania Brotherhood (Confederaţia Naţională a Sindicatelor Libere din România Frăţia, CNSLR Frăţia).

  • Is the national debate being influenced by policy discussions and developments at EU level?

Yes. The National Reforms Programme – Lisbon Strategy 2006, submitted to public debate by the Government of Romania (Guvernul României) was drawn up following the recommendations of the European Commission. The third objective in the programme is the labour market, namely the job quality for all age brackets.

This particular objective comprises three chapters: flexibility and security on the labour market; improved access to and competitiveness on the labour market.

Also, the three national plans for employment were drawn up in line with the European Employment Strategy.

A relevant event in the field which attracted the active participation of both empowered institutions: the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii Solidarităţii Sociale şi Familiei, MMSSF), Ministry of Education and Research (Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării, MEdC), National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men (Agenţia Naţională pentru Egalitatea de Şanse între Femei şi Bărbaţi (ANES), National Board for Adult Vocational Training (Consiliul Naţional pentru Formarea Profesională a Adulţilor, CNFPA), Labour Inspection (Inspecţia Muncii, IM), Economic and Social Council (Consiliul Economic şi Social, CES), and representatives from the academic environment and nationally representative trade union confederations and employer organisations was the international seminar organised by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in cooperation with the Institute of National Economy (Institutul de Economie Naţională, IEN)of the Romanian Academy (Academia Română, AR) in December 2006. The event revealed the real interest expressed by social partners in recent developments at European Union level and best practices in the field.

  • Are any particular aspects of job quality (as listed above) seen as especially important?

Employment security and the sectoral distribution of employment are the main concerns of the population, the most frequent issue around which trade union activity generally revolves. In the interval 1989-2004, the employed population decreased by over 2.7 million people, in other words by 25%. The number of employees fell from approximately 8 and 8.2 million people in 1989-1990 to 4.47 million people in 2004, in other words a depletion of 3.7 million people, that is to say by 45%. Whereas in 1990 full-time employees with permanent employment contracts represented 75% of the employed population, in 2000-2005, only 50% of the employed population worked on the basis of open-ended employment contracts. The rate of employment of the total population fell from 47.3% in 1989 to 38% in 2004.

In 1989, the sectoral distribution of the employed population, was: 27.9% in agriculture and forestry, 45.1% industry and constructions, 27% in services, while in 2005, paradoxically and swimming against the historical tide of European Union countries, employment in agriculture represented 32% of the total (after being approximately 41% in the interval 1999-2001), in industry and constructions dropped steadily down to 29% and in services it reached 39%.

  • Have any major initiatives been taken by any of the interested parties, either separately or together, with respect to quality in work and employment?

Some such examples are: activities carried out by the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, OSHA together with the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii, Solidarităţii Sociale şi Familiei, MMSSF) and the Labour Inspection Office (Inspecţia Muncii, IM) under the aegis of the European Week for Health and Safety at Work; cycle of debates organised by the Meridian National Trade Union Confederation (Confederaţia Sindicală Naţională Meridian, CSN Meridian), on the sustainable development of several economic sectors and areas and the quantitative and qualitative employment issues, which brought together representatives of the Government, employer organisations, academic environment and civil society.

2. Career and employment security

The concept of flexicurity was included for the first time in the National Reforms Programme – Lisbon Strategy 2006. Romania was requested to draw up the National Reforms Programme for the Re-launched Lisbon Strategy (Programul Naţional de Reforme pentru Strategia Lisabona Relansată), in line with the recommendations of the European Commission. The National Reforms Programme – Lisbon Strategy 2006, submitted to public debate by the Government of Romania includes the concept of flexicurity. The third objective in the programme is the labour market, namely the job quality for all age brackets which comprises three chapters: flexibility and security on the labour market; improved access to and competitiveness on the labour market.

So far the concept has found no significant echo in social partners or the mass-media.

  • In your national context, is it likely to be helpful in promoting a new consensus regarding positive labour market and social policy reforms, or is there a risk of it becoming more of a verbal compromise between different interests?

  • In such discussions, is the nature of the employment contract - notably between permanent full-time job contracts, and those that are not – a central issue?

The nature of the employment contract is an issue that has given rise to debate and tensions especially on the occasion of the successive amendments brought to the Labour Code (2003, 2005, 2006).

Prior to 2003, employers could conclude civil contracts of provision of services, in the case of people with no individual employment contracts, who carried out activities not within the main scope of the company’s. They were considered a fragile form of employment, used by employers as a means of circumventing the payment of social contributions (in 2002, approximately 1.5 people worked on the basis of civil contracts). The new Labour Code enacted in 2003, abolished this form of employment, with the exception of strictly regulated cases for certain liberal professions (lawyers for instance).

Afterwards, both employers and employees voiced their disapproval of the restrictions imposed on the duration and possibilities of concluding fixed-term employment contracts, as well as of the absence of clear regulations related to temporary and occasional workers which impeded an adequate employment of people previously working on the basis of civil contracts.

With the amendments to the Labour Code in 2005, the flexibility of the labour market improved as a result of the relaxation of restrictions related to the duration and possibilities of concluding individual employment contracts; until then fixed-term employment contracts had seldom been used. In compliance with the new regulations the duration of a fixed-term employment contract was extended from 18 to 24 months; in the course of the 24-month interval, 3 successive fixed-term employment contracts could be concluded, after which an employer must fill the vacant position with an employee with a permanent employment contract (compared to the previously single fixed-term employment contract). In other words, the content of the contract can be modified 3 times within 24 months, compared to one single contract valid for 18 months as stipulated in the former Code.

Subsequently, on the occasion of a further amendment to the Labour Code in 2006, debates between social partners focused on the clear definition of rights and responsibilities of people working on the basis of fixed-term employment contracts.

  • Are there other concerns in such debates – such as appropriate levels of unemployment compensation, or the need to link flexibility and security with increased investment in human resources in order to cope with structural change?

Social partners are both aware of and keen on investments in the human factor, with a view to increasing the capacity of workers and the economy to adapt and ensuring flexibility and security on the labour market.

3. Health and well being

Manual work continues to be the major source of traditional health and safety concerns at work, despite declining employment in manufacturing and agricultural sectors.

At the same time, the progressive move towards increased employment in services, where work is generally less physical, has been accompanied by the emergence of new kinds of health concerns, from stress to back and mobility problems.

  • To what extent is there public awareness of this evolving agenda? How far are employers and trade unions – together or separately – addressing these new issues?

In Romania, agriculture and the extraction industry still account for 35% of the total employment. In other words, these are the categories where physical work prevails. As far as farmers are concerned, no work safety issues have yet been the subject of public debate.

Since 99% of farmers have individual farms, there are practically no representative trade unions or employer organisations for them.

As for stress at work and other health-related issues, precious few appear on trade union agendas. Stress however, is increasingly invoked with a twofold motivation: fear of losing jobs and stress generated by the manifold changes involved in the transition period, notably income levels and the continuous rise in prices over 10-12 years.

  • How far is the health of older workers seen to be an issue in relation to the debate about increasing the effective retirement age?

The legal retirement age has increased in Romania also. In compliance with Law 19/2000 on the public pensions system and other socila security rights, the standard retirement age is 60 years for women and 65 for men; the standard pensionable age will be reached within 13 years from the date when the law was enacted (2000), by a gradual increase of the retirement age, from 57 for women and 62 for men, as was legally decreed at the time. The reasons underpinning the retirement age increase included both the growing average life expectancy of the population and the reduction of the state social security budget. Throughout the economic transition process, the employees/pensioners ratio evolved from approximately 2.3: 1 in 1990 to 0.82: 1 in September 2006.

The legal retirement age growth is however less striking by comparison with the number of pensioners who have opted for early retirement as a result of restructuring processes and the absence of alternative employment. For fear of losing their jobs and being forced to subsist on a meagre pension, elderly employees even hold back health concerns from their employer s. The level of the average monthly social security pension in Romania evolved from approximately EUR 87 in 1989, to EUR 22 in 1992 and EUR 60 in 2004, which means approximately EUR 2/day, for 4.7 million state social security pensioners. The ratio between the average monthly state social security pension for pensionable age and the national average monthly net wage was 35.6% in September 2006.

  • How important are workplace relations for well-being? Is the main focus on violence, harassment or abuse, or are there other, more general, concerns?

Although the media will give coverage of isolated cases of abuse or even harassment in the workplace, well-being is predominantly related to earnings.

  • To what extent is there recognition that men and women may often suffer from somewhat different work-related health problems?

4. Skills development

With global economic integration, the EU’s comparative economic advantage is shifting towards sectors and activities that use more non-manual skills – not only in performing intellectual or creative tasks, but in handling inter-personal relations and contacts.

  • Has the need for life-long learning in order to cope with continuous structural change been accepted by the government, social partners and the public at large?

At national level, the government, in consultation with social partners, has drawn up the Short and medium term continuing vocational training strategy, 2005-2010, intended to increase employability, adaptability and mobility of workers.

Its strategic objectives include: facilitating access and increasing participation in lifelong learning for all categories of the population and increasing the quality and eficiency of the continuing vocational training system.

An appropriate institutional acquis is in place (National Adult Training Board, Consiliul Naţional pentru Formarea Profesională a Adulţilor, CNFPA, which includes social partners, regional centres for adult training, National Employment Agency, Agenţia Naţională pentru Ocuparea Forţei de Muncă, ANOFM, its territorial agencies, the Ministry of Education and Research (Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării, MedC), the National Qualifications Authority (Autoritatea Naţională pentru Calificări, ANC). It is also concerned with promoting youth, students and academic staff mobility through the SOCRATES and LEONARD DA VINCI programmes.

According to the results of the Report on the perception of vocational training issues (MMSSF, Bucharest, 2006), the persons in charge in CNFPA, experts, training providers, trade union and employer organisations representatives etc., covered by the survey recognised the usefulness of continuing vocational training (75% of respondents). Quite a few pointed to the difficulties in organising continuing vocational training (79%), requested financial resources and mechanisms to encourage continuing vocational training (83%) and indicated the need for a regular assessment of employee training capacity (85%).

Financing is undoubtedly one of the major issues confronting vocational training in Romania.

Annual average statistical data in Romania indicate that in terms of the economy overall, employers’ vocational training costs totalled EUR 5.2/year-employee in 2000 and EUR 6.6/year-employee in 2004. In this respect the differences between vary widely: amounts 10 times the average costs were recorded in the sector of financial transactions while in healthcare and social security the amounts are only half the average costs/employee.

  • Has the fact that demand for manual skills is falling, and demand for non-manual skills rising, been reflected in the type of support provided by the educational and training systems in your country?

Economic transition has triggered the relative and absolute decline of workplace apprenticeship, training in vocational and apprenticeship schools.

Since 1990, the number of students in universities has increased by a factor of 4.2, while enrolment in vocational schools has fallen by close to one third. The ratio between the number of higher education graduates and vocational school graduates evolved from 0.22: 1 to 1.42: 1, in 2004. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in the number of IT training courses and trainees.

  • To what extent have specific actions been developed to help those most at risk of being left behind – notably workers in areas dominated by traditional industries and agriculture?

A great many specific events and activities have been initiated seeking to provide support for redundant employees in the traditional extraction and processing industries (RO0612029Q).

Over the past few years programmes financed from SAPARD funds and national sources have been promoted to support farmers.

5. Work life balance

The low earnings of the majority of Romanian workers prevent them from thinking too much of life outside work. Many are constantly searching for sources of additional income (either for a second job or by accepting to work extra hours). These aspects leave their mark on the time spent in the workplace and implicitly on the work-family life balance.

At the same time, the low household income makes it impossible for people to resort to specialised services for caring for dependants, upsetting the balance of time dedicated to professional life and family life.

The National Institute of Statistics (Institutul Naţional de Statistică, INS) survey Reconciling work and family life revealed that in 2005, 47% of working people were able to make their work time more flexible by at least one hour per day for family reasons. Also, 54% of working people could take one or several days off from work for family reasons without having to resort to annual or sick leave. Of the people denied flexible working hours, over 37% declared that they were responsible for dependant persons.

  • In so far as new working time arrangements are being developed, are the initiatives coming from employers, or from joint initiatives with their employees and/or trade unions?

  • To what extent is public policy playing a role? What sorts of actions or initiatives have there been? Do gender or parenting policies play a particular part? Do these include childcare arrangements?

Government Emergency Ordinance no.148/2005 on childcare support entitled men to parental leave under similar conditions with women, a facility that had previously been granted only to women.

According to the data provided by the study Women and men in Romania: work and life partnership (Femeile şi bărbaţii în România: parteneriat de muncă şi de viaţă, INS, 2006), in 2005, out of the total number of people entitled to parental leave, 47% were men and 53% women.

Only 17% of those entitled to parental leave took advantage of it. Out of the total number of women entitled to the leave, 30.1% took advantage of it, compared to only 3% of men. Percentages differ depending on the level of education: 30% of higher education graduates; 20% of secondary education graduates and only 5% of graduates with a low level of education.

Actually, over 82% of those entitled to parental leave failed to exercise the right for the following reasons:

  • did not meet contribution conditions, 55%;

  • the partner took time off for parental leave, 23.1%;

  • preferred to continue working, 7,2%;

  • for fear of losing one’s job or chances of career progression, 3%;

  • other reasons, 11,7%.

  • Long, or ‘unsocial’ working hours can be a particular cause for concern, whatever the intrinsic quality of the job or the pay being received. Likewise, reasonable proximity to one’s place of work will limit the amount of time lost in travel. How do these issues rank as concerns with the public and workforce?

Employees’ concern for the duration of working hours took the concrete form of collective bargaining for the national collective work agreement for 2007-2010. With regard to the legal length of overtime employers proposed to increase from 11 (as in the previous agreement) to 13 the number of sectors and activities for which the period of reference taken into account to calculate the longer working day and week extends from three to 12 months (the additional sectors proposed were: textile, ready-to-wear and electric power industries) (RO0605019I).

In the final version of the agreement the textile, ready-to-wear and electric power industries do not appear on the list of sectors allowing this derogation. Companies in this particular sector and even some trading companies are known to encourage long, unsocial working hours, with national minimum wages as a rule. Trade unions however are less frequent in such companies and although employees are duly concerned with the working time arrangements, an atmosphere of tacit consent prevails.

Extended working hours and failure to pay overtime were among the major reasons for the first work conflict in the banking sector in Romania (RO0605029I), and the work conflict in the postal sector in 2007 (RO0702029I).

PhD Constantin Ciutacu, Institute of National Economy

Annex – Country data

Place of work and work organisation EU27 RO
q11f. Working at company/organisation premises 72.8 64.9
q11g. Teleworking from home 8.3 2.0
q11j. Dealing directly with people who are not employees (e.g. customers) 62.4 32.9
q11k. Working with computers 45.5 14.9
q11l. Using internet/email for work 36.0 9.8
q20a_a. Short repetitive tasks of <1m 24.7 26.8
q20a_b. Short repetitive tasks of <10m 39.0 41.7
q20b_a. Working at very high speed 59.6 67.1
q20b_b. Working to tight deadlines 61.8 62.0
q21a. Pace of work dependent on colleagues 42.2 45.0
q21b. Pace of work dependent on direct demands from customers, etc. 68.0 53.4
q21c. Pace of work dependent on numerical production/performance targets 42.1 51.3
q21d. Pace of work dependent on automated equipment/machine 18.8 21.2
q21e. Pace of work dependent on boss 35.7 39.4
q22a. Have to interrupt a task in order to take on an unforeseen task 32.7 24.6
q24a. Can choose/change order of tasks 63.4 61.1
q24b. Can choose/change methods of work 66.9 60.6
q24c. Can choose/change speed of work 69.2 75.6
q25a. Can get assistance from colleagues if asked 67.6 77.1
q25b. Can get assistance from superiors/boss if asked 56.1 55.8
q25c. Can get external assistance if asked 31.6 25.4
q25d. Has influence over choice of working partners 24.2 36.2
q25e. Can take break when wishes 44.6 54.2
q25f. Has enough time to get the job done 69.6 71.8
q26a. Task rotation 43.7 48.4
q26b. Teamwork 55.2 57.3
q31. Immediate boss is a woman 24.5 24.6
Job content and training    
q23a. Meeting precise quality standards 74.2 68.0
q23b. Assessing quality of own work 71.8 59.8
q23c. Solving unforeseen problems 80.8 73.3
q23d. Monotonous tasks 42.9 36.7
q23e. Complex tasks 59.4 55.0
q23f. Learning new things 69.1 58.8
q25j. Able to apply own ideas in work 58.4 61.4
q27. Job-skills match: need more training 13.1 11.5
q27. Job-skills match: correspond well 52.3 43.3
q27. Job-skills match: could cope with more demanding duties 34.6 45.2
q28a1. Has undergone paid-for training in previous 12 months 26.1 11.0
Violence, harrassment and discrimination    
q29a. Threats of physical violence 6.0 4.0
q29b. Physical violence from colleagues 1.8 1.3
q29c. Physical violence from other people 4.3 3.6
q29d. Bullying/harassment 5.1 4.7
q29f. Unwanted sexual attention 1.8 1.6
q29g. Age discrimination 2.7 3.1
Physical work factors    
q10a. Vibrations 24.2 25.6
q10b. Noise 30.1 26.2
q10c. High temperatures 24.9 45.0
q10d. Low temperatures 22.0 38.6
q10e. Breathing in smoke, fumes, powder or dust, etc. 19.1 29.1
q10f. Breathing in vapours such as solvents and thinners 11.2 11.2
q10g. Handling chemical substances 14.5 16.7
q10h. Radiation 4.6 5.2
q10i. Tobacco smoke from other people 20.1 25.0
q10j. Infectious materials 9.2 19.0
q11a. Tiring or painful positions 45.5 61.5
q11b. Lifting or moving people 8.1 11.3
q11c. Carrying or moving heavy loads 35.0 45.1
q11d. Standing or walking 72.9 78.8
q11e. Repetitive hand or arm movements 62.3 77.2
q11m. Wearing personal protective clothing or equipment 34.0 43.7
Information and communication    
q30b. Consulted about changes in work organisation, etc. 47.1 42.2
q30c. Subject to regular formal assessment of performance 40.0 40.4
q12. Well-informed about health and safety risks 83.1 78.5
q32. Consider health or safety at risk because of work 28.6 49.1
q33. Work affects health 35.4 54.4
q33a_a… hearing problems 7.2 10.5
q33a_b... problems with vision 7.8 13.3
q33a_c... skin problems 6.6 13.0
q33a_d… backache 24.7 42.4
q33a_e… headaches 15.5 29.5
q33a_f… stomach ache 5.8 13.6
q33a_g… muscular pains 22.8 39.2
q33a_h… respiratory difficulties 4.7 14.8
q33a_i… heart disease 2.4 9.4
q33a_j...injury(ies) 9.7 12.6
q33a_k...stress 22.3 35.0
q33a_l...overall fatigue 22.5 44.6
q33a_m...sleeping problems 8.7 16.7
q33a_n...allergies 4.0 7.3
q33a_o...anxiety 7.8 6.4
q33a_p... Irritability 10.5 10.0
q35. Able to do same job when 60 58.2 48.8
q34a_d. Absent for health problems in previous year 22.9 11.4
q34b_ef. Average days health-related absence in previous year 4.6 2.0
Work and family life    
q18. Working hours fit family/social commitments well or very well 79.4 73.8
q19. Contacted about work outside normal working hours 22.1 16.4
ef4c. Caring for and educating your children every day for an hour or more 28.8 38.4
ef4d. Cooking and housework 46.4 52.0
Job satisfaction    
q36. Satisfied or very satisfied with working conditions 82.3 58.8
q37a_ef. I might lose my job in the next 6 months 13.7 18.5
q37b_ef. I am well paid for the work I do 43.2 24.1
q37c_ef. My job offers good prospects for career advancement 31.0 18.4
Structure of workforce    
q2d_ef. Seniority (mean years) 9.7 10.0
Working time    
q8a_ef. Mean usual weekly working hours 38.6 46.4
q8b. % usually working five days per week 65.1 44.2
q9a. % with more than one job 6.2 5.8
q13_ef. Daily commuting time (return, in minutes) 41.6 53.9
q14e_ef. Long working days 16.9 36.3
q16a_a. Work same number of hours each day 58.4 52.1
q16a_b. Work same number of days each week 74.0 70.4
q16a_c. Work fixed starting and finishing times 60.7 45.8
q16a_d. Work shifts 17.3 21.0
q17a. % with less flexible schedules 65.3 62.4
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