Department for Labour Abroad established

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In August 2004, with the number of Romanians working abroad on the rise (estimated at up to 2 million), the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family decided to set up a Department for Labour Abroad. It plans to appoint labour attachés at certain Romanian embassies and to conclude social security and cooperation agreements with a number of European countries, plus Israel.

Following 1990, a large number of private companies emerged in Romania that provided job placement services for work in other countries. The Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii, Solidarităţii Sociale şi Familiei, MMSSF) introduced a procedure for mandatory accreditation of such job placement companies in 2000, but abandoned it in 2002. The companies involved set up an Association of Employers Accredited for Employment and Job Placement (Patronatul Agenţilor Economici Acreditaţi pentru Ocuparea şi Plasarea Forţei de Muncă, ACORD), and the Labour Inspection Authority (Inspecţia Muncii, IM) was assigned to control these firms.

In December 2001, the MMSSF set up an Office for Labour Force Migration (Oficiul pentru Migraţia Forţei de Muncă, OMFM), which acts as an interface between labour supply in Romania and labour demand in other countries. Its activity is based on bilateral governmental agreements concluded with Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Hungary. In April 2004, approximately 98,000 people had found employment through the mediation of OMFM. There are also workers who have obtained jobs abroad through placement by private employment services and people illegally working abroad, but no official records are kept of these groups.

The lack of job opportunities on the home labour market (in Romania the number of employees has fallen by around 4 million in the last 14 years) and the higher wages offered abroad have led to a steep rise in the number of Romanians working abroad, especially after 2001, since when Romanians have no longer been required to obtain visas in order to travel in the EU's 'Schengen zone'.

According to a survey carried out by the Centre for Urban and Regional Sociology (Centrul de Sociologie Urbană şi Regională, CURS), 1 million Romanians were working abroad in 2003, while a study conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in November 2003 gave a rough estimate of 1.7 million people working abroad.

Trade unions in Romania have repeatedly protested at the many reported infringements of the rights of Romanians working abroad, an issue that the press has also taken up.

In August 2004, the government decided to establish within the MMSSF a Department for Labour Abroad (Departamentul pentru Muncă în Străinătate, DMS). The Office for Labour Force Migration has become a subordinate body of the new DMS.

On 28 September 2004, a press conference was held at which DMS made public its mission and vision. It aims to provide assistance to Romanian citizens working abroad and to negotiate social security and cooperation agreements with various countries. In the early stage, it plans to sign such agreements with Italy, Spain, Germany, Israel and Hungary. Furthermore, labour attachés will be appointed at Romania’s diplomatic missions abroad to resolve employment relationship issues affecting Romanians working in the countries concerns.

For the first time in Romania, DMS has attempted an estimate of the country's total 'workforce exports'. The head of the recently established department suggests a figure of around 2 million people, most of whom work in Italy (800,000 people), Spain (400,000) and Portugal (over 40,000). A significant number of Romanians also work in Greece, Israel, Ireland, Hungary, Germany and France.

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