Contribution to EIRO thematic feature on Youth and work - case of Romania

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În România, rata şomajului în rândul tinerilor este una dintre cele mai ridicate din Europa. Mai multe acte normative prevăd diferite măsuri de stimulare a ocupării în rândul tinerilor. Partenerii sociali sunt implicaţi doar parţial în fundamentarea şi implementarea acestor măsuri.

1. Regulatory framework

Youth employment policy in Romania is included in quite a number of regulations, the majority of which however are not targeted solely on young people. They represent a global approach to a wide range of employment relations or economic and social policies.

No law or other normative act provides a definition of youth and, depending on the goals in view, the bottom or top limits of youth age brackets targeted by one or several economic policy will vary from one regulation to the next.

The Labour Code of 2003 RO0401107F stipulates that working time in the case of young people under 18 years of age will not exceed six hours per day and 30 hours per week (compared to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week respectively as in the case of the other age brackets). Also, overtime for youth under 18 will not be extended to 48 hours as in the case of other employees. The same law stipulates that an additional 3 days of annual leave will be granted to young employees under 18 years of age.

A first in the Labour Code is the introduction of the apprenticeship contract. Under the law, this is a special individual employment contract, binding an employer licensed by the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii, Solidarităţii Sociale şi Familiei, MMSSF) to provide the apprentice with a vocational training for a specific job in addition to paying him monthly wages. Any young person lacking professional qualifications may be employed as an apprentice on condition that she or he has not turned 25 at the start of the apprenticeship period.

According to Law no. 279 of 05/10/2005, employers hiring apprentices will receive, on request, from the state unemployment budget for the duration of the apprenticeship contract, for each apprentice:

  • an amount equal to 50% of the national minimum gross wage, in force;
  • an amount equivalent to the monthly value of training services provided to the apprentice, not exceeding 20% of the national minimum gross wage, in force;

Law no. 646 of 07/12/2002 on the support provided to youth in rural areas stipulates certain facilities for under-40-year-olds willing to relocate to rural areas.

The majority of sectoral collective agreements include Labour Code provisions for youth. For example, national or branch collective agreements include only those stipulations that concern youth under 18 years of age, who are generally granted the following rights:

  • exemption from working night shifts;
  • prohibition to perform other than light tasks;
  • prohibition to work overtime;
  • additional annual leave.

Law no. 76/2002 on unemployment benefits and encouragement of employment stipulates that employers hiring school graduates with indefinite duration employment contracts, will be exempt from payment of the unemployment contribution, due for each hired graduate, to the unemployment budget over a 12-month period. Furthermore, for each hired graduate, employers will receive on a monthly basis an amount equivalent to the national minimum gross wage in force, throughout the same period of time. Employers hiring graduates under the aforementioned conditions are bound to keep them employed for at least 3 years from the date of concluding the work contract. During the 3 years, graduates may attend a form of vocational training, organised by the employer, with training expenses covered from the unemployment budget at the request of employers. Although these measures are focused mainly on youth, the law does not specify any particular age bracket.

Other normative acts include people under 40 in the youth age category (see below, paragraph no. 2).

2. National Programmes on Youth employment

Specific employment / unemployment rates
  2002 Fourth quarter 2004
Total populatione 15-29 age bracket Total population 15-29 age bracke
Total population activity rate 46.2 51.7 54.4 49.2
Total population employment rate 20.1 43.6 50.0 41.9
Unemployment rate 8.1 18.9 8.1 18.2

Source: Ancheta asupra Forţei de muncă în Gospodării, AMIGO, Institutul Naţional de Statistică, INS (Houshold Labour Force Survey, INS).

Breakdown of youth employment by employment status (%)
Employment status 1999 2002 Fourth quarter 2004
14-24 age bracket 25-34 age bracket 14-24 age bracket 25-34 age bracket 14-24 age bracket 25-34 age bracket
Employee 57.6 73.9 59.3 74.0 63.5 74.2
Self employed 7.7 10.8 8.6 12.8 8.7 12.3
Employer - 0.7 0.3 1.5 - 1.5
Unpaid family worker 34.4 14.2 31.0 11.4 27.8 12.1
Member of an agricultural holding or of a co-operative 0.3 0.3 0.8 0.3 - -
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Source: Ancheta asupra Forţei de muncă în Gospodării, AMIGO, INS (Houshold Labour Force Survey, INS).

Number of registered unemployed, by age groups and by unemployment length, as of 31 December 2004
Unemployment length Age groups
Total Under 25 years 25-29 years
Both sexes Women Men Both sexes Women Men Both sexes Women Men
Total 557,892 234,592 323,300 130,175 56,519 73,656 58,948 22,289 36,659
1 day-3 months 176,681 72,403 104,278 48,519 20,477 28,042 21,610 8,770 12,840
3-6 months 153,012 69,180 83,832 59,750 27,751 31,999 15,527 6,726 8,801
6-9 months 70,051 30,859 39,192 5,078 2,259 2,819 6,507 2,500 4,007
9-12 months 75,293 29,562 45,731 5,756 2,126 3,630 5,792 1,708 4,084
12-15 months 30,487 12,224 18,263 4,225 1,497 2,728 3,287 925 2,362
15-18 months 19,551 8,166 11,385 2,615 978 1,637 2,126 614 1,512
18-21 months 7,483 2,956 4,527 965 345 620 827 228 599
21-24 months 9,679 3,329 6,350 1,294 417 877 1,237 297 940
24-27 months 5,411 2,113 3,298 956 342 614 748 203 545
over 27 months 10,244 3,800 6,444 1,017 327 690 1,287 318 969

Source: Statistical Bulletin in the Field of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family no. 1 (49) / 2005, National Agency for Employment (Agenţia Naţională pentru Ocuparea Forţei de Muncă, ANOFM)

Number of registered unemployed, by age groups and by broad training levels, as of 31 December 2004
  Age groups
Total Under 25 years 25-29 years
Total 557,892 130,175 58,948
- out of which, women 234,592 56,519 22,289
i) Persons with less than high school degree 420,197 83,034 43,455
- out of which, women 159,026 29,852 13,676
Unpaid unemployed 275,526 58,521 33,607
- out of which, women 106,555 21,139 10,246
ii) Persons with high school degree 109,054 35,109 9,617
- out of which, women 59,178 18,714 5,282
Unpaid unemployed 42,686 18,078 4,293
- out of which, women 22,397 9,777 2,268
iii) Persons with university degree 28,641 12,032 5,876
- out of which, women 16,388 7,953 3,331
Unpaid unemployed 12,526 6,473 2,846
- out of which, women 7,319 4,279 1,545

Source: Statistical Bulletin in the Field of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family no. 1 (49) / 2005, ANOFM

The first Youth National Action Plan was launched in 2001. It was however focused not on improving youth employment but on a multitude of aspects related to the life and needs of the younger generations. The National Authority for Youth (Autoritatea Naţională pentru Tineret, ANT) plays the exclusive role of coordinating and implementing the national youth policy, as a specialised body of the central public administration, subordinated to the government. ANT controls: the National Agency for the Support of Youth Initiatives (Agenţia Naţională pentru Sprijinirea Iniţiativelor Tinerilor, ANSIT), the Agency for Student Support (Agenţia pentru Sprijinirea Studenţilor, ASS) and the county directorates for youth, as public institutions with legal entity status.

In 2005, ANT had three programmes approved by the State Budget law:

  • a programme to establish and develop youth centres,
  • an action programme to implement the Romanian Youth National Action Plan, and
  • a programme for social research on youth related issues.

The objectives of the above-mentioned programmes include among others:

  • setting up a specific infrastructure for youth-aimed services and programmes,
  • aiding young people to develop entrepreneurial skills,
  • developing partnerships and involving youth in community life,
  • developing youth activities based on social research, etc.

The plan drawn up by the government currently in power for the years to come involves more substantial and joint efforts on the part of central and local authorities to correlate and harmonise its programmes, by applying public policies with social and cultural impact on young people, to facilitate their transition in a society undergoing constant change and to strike a balance between generations. In this sense, the government has set the following goals:

  • increased youth autonomy,
  • involvement of youth in public life,
  • continuing education and vocational training,
  • eliminating compulsory military service by 2007,
  • preventing youth crime,
  • supporting young families.

Late 2002, a protocol was signed by MMSSF, ANOFM and the Ministry of Education and Research Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării, MEdC to implement a new programme and establish a network of career counselling centres: From school to work to making a career. Within the programme, young graduates of pre-university education may seek career information and counselling based on an individual counselling plan.

At national level, over the past few years, ANOFM has organised a large number of national job fairs, many of which were considered successful in that they provided direct contacts between young people and employers while encouraging the latter to employ an increasing number of young graduates with no professional experience.

At sector level, special care was exercised in improving the age structure of the population employed in agriculture. In Romania, around 20% of farmers are over 65. At the same time, very few young people are actually able to relocate to rural areas and to become managers of farmland exploitations.

Law no. 646 of 07/12/2002, on state support granted to youth in rural areas, completed by Law no. 435 of 25/10/2004, stipulates certain facilities for young people under 40, willing to move to rural areas, such as:

  • granting ownership rights, free-of-charge, of land up to 1,000 square metres for building houses and household facilities,
  • granting the use of up to 10 hectares arable land,
  • granting the financial means to set up an economically viable farmland exploitation, based on a business plan approved by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development (Ministerul Agriculturii, Pădurilor şi Dezvoltării Rurale, MADPR),
  • granting 15% financial support to buy up to 20 ha arable land.

The national plan for agriculture and rural development financed from SAPARD funds includes certain measures meant to draw young people towards agricultural activities by improving rural living and work conditions. One particular objective is to facilitate the transfer of land exploitations to young people. For instance, under measure no. 3.1., Investments in Agricultural Exploitations, the share of funds financed from the state budget or SAPARD funds out of the total value of projects approved for financing is five percentage points higher in the case of beneficiaries under 40 years of age.

Judging from result-indicators 2,400 people under 40 are expected to relocate to rural areas, 600 of which as farm owners.

Measure 4.1., Improving Vocational Training, focuses among other things, on training youth in the stage of settling-in and/or farmland or forestry exploitation ownership title transfer to the family. The set target is to have at least 30% young farmers out of the total number of trainees.

3. Role and views of the social partners on Youth at work

Social partners in Romania do participate but only to a relatively small degree in establishing and implementing youth policies.

The Economic and Social Council (Consiliul Economic şi Social, CES) plays a key role in setting policies. As members of CES, social partners debate and give advice on all draft laws and strategies on employment and implicitly youth employment.

The National Council for Adult Vocational Training (Consiliului Naţional pentru Formarea Profesională a Adulţilor, CNFPA), is a tripartite advisory body involved in formulating vocational training policies and strategies. Since 2003, CNFPA has played a decision-making role in quality assurance for the vocational training and skills evaluation system. In this sense, CNFPA has set up sector-based committees in construction, tourism, information technology, textile, food and machine-building industries. Sectorial committees are essential structures for the series of joint initial and continuing training activities:

  • identifying required competences,
  • setting occupational standards,
  • establishing the National Register of Qualifications,
  • establishing framework vocational training programmes,
  • providing common methodologies for assessment of qualifications and competences and
  • establishing common principles and mechanisms for quality assurance in vocational training.

Commissions licensing vocational training providers at county level are also tripartite structures. These commissions may make decisions only in the presence of representatives of trade union and employers’ organisations.

Social partners play a much more limited role in the implementation of youth policies, with the exception of participation in vocational training programmes for youth as well as people in other age brackets.

4. Discussions and research

Trade unions have expressed their interest in youth-related issues by supporting students’ protests, organising seminars, conferences, summer-schools for young trade union members, establishing and developing youth organisations as part of trade unions, combating youth poverty and discrimination.

In March 2005, the National Confederation of Free Trade Unions in Romania (Confederaţia Naţională a Sindicatelor Libere din România Frăţia, CNSLR Frăţia), one of the five nationally representative trade union confederations, set up a youth commission by joining the youth structures of branch trade union federations, professional federations and county trade unions.

Also, the National Trade Union Bloc (Blocul Naţional Sindical, BNS), published a study on poverty, highlighting the widespread youth unemployment and requesting a better evaluation of the impact of measures adopted for each category of unemployed. The study concludes that poverty affects the level of education and access to healthcare services; 39% of poor youth aged 15 to 24 have not attended any form of high school or vocational education. According to BNS, the relatively low expenditure on education on the one hand and the school drop-out phenomenon on the other, are just two of the major issues that negatively affect youth opportunities.

Recent statistical data indicate that in 1999, Romanian companies invested only 0.5% of their labour force spending in continuing vocational programmes, a low percentage by comparison with the old EU member states (where the share varies from 1.2% in Portugal to 30% in Denmark) or with the recently integrated EU members (ex: 1.2% in Hungary, 1.9% in the Czech Republic).

Opinion polls show that in the period 2002-4, for 66.1% of young people finding a job was a difficult task and only 25% considered that the education market in Romania meets the demands of the labour market entirely or to a great extent.

5. Commentary

Currently, Romania has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Europe (18.2% in the fourth quarter of 2004). The rate of participation in education (levels 1-6 ISCED), of young people in the 15-24 age bracket is among the lowest in current or future EU member states, namely 41.9%. (Education & Training 2010 - interim report on the implementation of the detailed work programme on the follow up of the objectives of education and training systems in Europe, European Commission press Releases COM (2003) 685 final).

Issues related to youth employment, although acknowledged and assumed by social players, continue to be overshadowed by other issues that top the list of social partners: wage increase, collective redundancies and the general impact of economic restructuring, etc.

For its part, the government has already applied several measures meant to encourage youth employment. Real progress in this direction however, requires a better coordination of efforts by launching specific programmes targeted at increasing youth employment opportunities. (Diana Preda, Institute of National Economy)

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