National strategy regarding European year of equal opportunities

The Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family has set up a task force which would be responsible for devising Romania’s national strategy for the European year of equal opportunities for all. The aim behind such an initiative is to address discrimination on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The ministry is the national body responsible for the strategy’s implementation. The task force published a substantial document setting out its intended courses of action on the website of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.

Institutional framework

On 17 May 2006, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Decision No. 771/2006/EC (72.8Kb PDF), designating the year 2007 as the European year of equal opportunities for all.

In a memorandum adopted during the government meeting held on 6 September 2006, the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity and Family (Ministerul Muncii, Solidarităţii Sociale şi Familiei, MMSSF) was appointed the national body responsible for the coordination of Romania’s participation in the European year of equal opportunities for all. The main task of MMSSF will be to devise the national strategy and priorities to be included in line with the objectives of the European programme.

The task force set up by MMSSF to formulate the national strategy included representatives of various institutions: the National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men (Agenţia Naţională pentru Egalitate de Şanse între Femei şi Bărbaţi, ANES); the Ministry of Education and Research (Ministerul Educaţiei şi Cercetării, MedC); the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs (Ministerul Culturii şi Cultelor, MCC); the Ministry of European Integration (Ministerul Integrării Europene, MIE); the National Council for Combating Discrimination (Consiliul Naţional pentru Combaterea Discriminării, CNCD); the National Agency for Family Protection (Agenţia Naţională pentru Protecţia Familiei, ANPF); the National Youth Agency (Autoritatea Naţională pentru Tineret, ANT); the National Authority for Persons with Disabilities (Autoritatea Naţională a Persoanelor cu Handicap, ANPH); the National Agency for the Roma Community (Agenţia Naţională pentru Romi, ANR); as well as relevant directorates within MMSSF.

The task force organised regular advisory meetings with representatives of 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) experienced in the field, as well as with representatives of trade unions and employer organisations. According to MMSSF, trade unions, employer organisations and NGOs expressed less interest in these meetings than what the ministry had anticipated.

Gender dimension of national strategy

In drafting the national strategy, the task force identified the following areas and courses of action in order to highlight the gender dimension of discrimination:

  • low wages in sectors with predominantly female employees. Although in the economy as a whole women’s wages are equivalent to those of men in situations where working conditions are equal, women earned 13% less than men in 2005. This is the result of low wages in sectors where female employees prevail, namely in education and healthcare. In 2005, 33.1% of women earned wages that were higher than the national average, compared with 38.9% of men;
  • the unequal representation of both sexes in decision-making in politics. The general elections in 2004 failed to bring major changes in terms of the representation of women in parliamentary and governmental structures. Of the 469 parliament seats, women hold only 50 mandates – 11.2% of seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 9.4% in the Senate. Within the government currently in power, established following the 2004 elections, only three of the 22 ministers are women. In August 2006, although women represented 51% of the total number of employees in ministries, they held only 38% of managerial positions. In local public administration, 20% of decision-making positions were filled by women. Moreover, women hold 7% of prefect positions appointed by central government, 20% of deputy-prefect roles, 4% of mayor posts and 16% of the total number of county councillor jobs;
  • the small number of economic activities initiated by women. In2005, the Institute of National Statistics (Institutul Naţional de Statistică, INS) carried out research on the involvement of women in economic life. It revealed that women represented only 24.7% of the total number of employers, and accounted for only 29.7% of self-employed workers. According to a study conducted in 2006 by the Stanton Chase International research company, 65% of management positions in companies are held by women;
  • administrative flaws in the formulation and promotion of active measures for reconciling work and family life. In 2005, over 86% of women expressed their desire to adjust their work schedule so that they could cope better with family responsibilities, and one in six women works extra hours every day.

Commentary

Although the social partners are not explicitly concerned with equal opportunities, issues related to income, working conditions and social security are in fact constantly monitored and discussed in order to be resolved. Despite the fact that local administrations were consulted when drawing up the national strategy, equal opportunities for women and young workers are not promoted in rural areas. Approximately 45% of the country’s population live in rural areas, without any trade unions and NGOs to represent their interests.

Luminiţa Chivu, Institute of National Economy, Romanian Academy

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