Romania

   

Social Policies

#38
Key Findings
With a number of problematic areas, Romania falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) with respect to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 point relative to its 2014 level.

The education system remains of poor quality overall, with serious structural problems. Performance and attainment indicators are low, and access is unequal, with low-income, Roma and rural children facing particular challenges. About one-third of the country’s population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion, with much higher rates among the Roma population. Services lack in both quality and coverage.

The healthcare system suffers from low public spending, mass migration of medical staff, corruption and inefficiency. Access to care for vulnerable groups and those living in rural areas is limited. Parental-leave benefits are generous, but a shortage of affordable childcare cuts seriously into women’s labor-market participation rates.

Pension payments have been increased, undermining the system’s sustainability. While there is no separate integration strategy, much of the policy framework needed to integrate migrants into society is in place, including counseling, language courses and services offering access to employment, housing and public education.

Education

#41

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
4
Romania’s education system continues to face serious challenges inhibiting its ability to deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training. Despite moderate improvements in recent years, Romania continues to underperform in indicators including 15-year-olds’ performance in math, science, and reading, attendance in early childhood education, tertiary educational attainment, and proportions of early leavers. At 2.8% of the country’s GDP, Romania’s public expenditure on education is the lowest in the EU, with recent legislative measures postponing a legal requirement to allocate 6% of GDP annually until 2022. Access to education is unequal, and there are particular challenges for low-income, Roma, and rural children, including but not limited to staff shortages in rural areas.

Policy developments related to education in the year under review include mandatory vocational training for eighth graders failing to achieve a certain grade on their national examination, the signing of financing contracts for nearly €100 million for two IT projects to digitalize the country’s education system, and plans for reforms shortening school vacations and reducing class hours. Plans have also been made or steps taken toward increasing training for specialized staff and teachers, improving curricula, pursuing a project identifying students at risk of dropping out, and monitoring and preventing school segregation; however, delays have hindered many of these endeavors. All told, while both the Ministry of Education and the Presidential Administration have forwarded visions for comprehensive education and training reforms, investments remain too low for these visions to be realized. This is further complicated by a lack of capacity and consistency within the ministry, with the former education minister dismissed by the prime minister in August 2019, and Monica Anisie appointed only in November.

In part because of the education system, Romania continues to have labor and skills supply that are not keeping up with the fast-changing needs of the economy.

Social Inclusion

#35

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
4
Rates of poverty and social exclusion in Romania remain among the highest of EU member states, with one in three Romanians at risk. Groups such as children, the elderly, the Roma, people with disabilities, and those living in rural areas are particularly affected: 40% of children, 45.5% of people in rural areas, and 78% of Roma are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. There is a recognized need for greater attention by the government to measures to combat gender-based discrimination, while people with disabilities continue to face systemic barriers accessing employment, public services and independent living. Further, income inequality, in-work poverty, housing deprivation and monetary poverty in Romania are among the highest in the EU. Meanwhile, social services have also struggled to foster the inclusion of disadvantaged groups. Services in Romania continue to lack in both quality and coverage, with only approximately 20% of administrative territorial areas having licensed social services. They also suffer from uneven geographic distribution, with services concentrated in richer or more urban areas, and a lack of integration with employment, education, and health services.

While the year under review has witnessed discernable efforts to prevent exclusion and decoupling from society, progress has been limited by consistent delays, a lack of coordination, and seemingly-limited political commitment. For instance, while a pilot program by the Ministries of Labour and Social Justice, National Education, and Health was recently launched to provide integrated services in some of the country’s poorest areas, ineffective collaboration by these ministries have impeded the program’s monitoring to date. Progress on the country’s National Strategy and Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction for 2015-2020 has been stunted by delays in measures sure as increasing the employment rate, reducing early school-leaving, and scaling up national health programs. Another reform with potentially major impacts, the implementation of a minimum inclusion income scheme, was initiated in 2016 and experienced repeated pushbacks, with a further postponement to 2021 in the past year. As such, legislative efforts in the year under review have continued to fall short.

Health

#38

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
4
Romania’s healthcare system continues to suffer from low public spending, mass migration of medical staff, corruption and inefficiency. As a percentage of GDP, public healthcare spending is the lowest in the EU – at about half the EU average. In those fields where there have been spending increases – for instance, in preventive care – the money has been poorly allocated. The Ministry of Health estimates that 43,000 doctors left the country in 2007-2017, with 10,000 leaving in 2017/18 alone; the effects of recent wage increases for doctors remain insignificant (150 Romanian doctors returned to the country, according to the Minister of Health). Wage increases have similarly proven largely ineffective in combating corruption within the sector, with bribery of medical staff a common occurrence. While the government has taken measures aiming to foster transparency, an assessment of these measures has yet to be released. Cost efficiency seems to remain extremely low. Access to care for vulnerable groups and those living in rural areas is also limited, while access to rehabilitative, palliative, and long-term care overall is poor. As a whole, the health of Romania’s population remains below the EU average, with a life expectancy of 75.3 years at birth in 2016, compared to 81 years for the EU.

Budgetary constraints, a lack of political commitment, and limited administrative capacity within the Ministry of Health have further hampered planned reforms in 2019. Announced projects such as the construction of additional regional hospitals, the development of integrated community care centers, and measures to increase uptake of e-health solutions, including a shift to electronic health records, have been delayed. In April 2019, the government adopted an emergency degree that has obliged the national health insurance fund (CNAS) to cover part of the costs if the insured take up private medical services, prompting debate as to whether this might boost competition and improve services to patients or simply increase healthcare costs and disparities in access.

Families

#37

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
5
Generous parental-leave benefits have been central to Romanian family policy. Parents can claim parental leave for up to two years, with job security ensured throughout this period and for six months upon returning to work. In terms of value, benefits are set at 85% of the net average income earned previously, up to a cap of RON 8,500 per month. Parental-leave benefits are complemented by child allowances, tax credits for children, and means-tested benefits in certain cases (e.g., single-parent families). All measures are intended to reduce the costs of having a family.

In spite of this, women’s participation in the labor market remains a serious concern in Romania, with women’s activity rate a full 20 percentage points below men at 63.7%. The situation is particularly dire for young and middle-aged women, as well as in certain parts of the country where women’s participation rates have fallen below 50%. This is largely attributable to the lack of childcare services in the country, with persistently low investment and availability of nurseries, as well as their uneven distribution where they do exist. Low participation rates of young children in childcare illustrate shortcomings in both the quality and quantity of these services. As a result, combining parenting and paid employment remains a significant challenge for Romanian women.

Sexual harassment in the workplace was criminalized by Art. 223 of the 2019 Penal Code, but incidents are underreported. While employers must record incidents, provide training sessions about harassment, and ensure that gender-based discrimination is rooted out, not all of them comply.

Pensions

#39

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
4
Since 2008, Romania has operated under a three-pillar pension system, with the first pillar a mandatory pay-as-you-go scheme, the second mandatory and privately-managed, and the third consisting of voluntary individual savings. The year under review witnessed substantial changes to the first two pillars, with uncertain long-term effects.

A pension reform law took effect in July 2019, with initial changes coming into effect in September. The pension point value used to calculate social insurance, old-age, and disability pensions has increased from 1,100 lei to 1,265 lei, with plans for continued increases in September 2020 and 2021 and further automatic adjustments from 2022 onwards. While these changes sought to improve pension adequacy, there have been widespread concerns about fiscal sustainability, with the IMF warning the reform could double Romania’s fiscal deficit while significantly raising external financing needs. The budgetary implications of the legislation have yet to be spelled out by the government. Another change eliminates the use of the standard full contributory period, effectively removing different contribution periods between men and women as well as between newer and older cohorts of pensioners. Replacing this is a minimum contribution period of 15 years (excluding those with certain disabilities), linking pension benefits more closely with contributions. While these more restrictive conditions might help quell concerns about the system’s sustainability, they also risk worsening the gender pension gap due to women’s shorter contribution periods, further undermining the law’s aims of pension equity.

Simultaneously, the second pension pillar has been significantly weakened. In December 2018, the government made the second pillar optional after five years of contributions, increased the minimum capital requirements for management companies, and reduced the allowed level of administration fees. These changes have prompted concerns about future pension adequacy, the local capital market, and the economy’s long-term financing. These changes, combined with those to the first pillar, call the Romanian pension system’s capacity to realize poverty prevention, intergenerational equity, and fiscal sustainability into question.

Citations:
Urse, D. (2019): Romania’s new law on pensions: addressing inequities or deepening gaps? European Social Policy Network, ESPN Flash Reort 2019/14, Brussels.

Integration

#27

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
6
Despite being primarily a country of emigration, Romania possesses much of the requisite policy and legislative framework to support the integration of migrants into society. Efforts related to integration, while shared among ministries, fall primarily within the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ General Inspectorate for Immigration. Within this, the Integration Program coordinates between NGOs, communities, and institutions to offer services including counseling, language courses, civic education, as well as access to employment, housing, medical and social assistance, and public education. There is no separate integration strategy within Romania, but the National Strategy for Immigration for 2015-2018 pursued several relevant items, including fostering the integration of immigrants, refugees, and third-country nationals. Notably, a plan carrying through 2019 has yet to be released. In addition to domestic policy endeavors, Romania also receives funding support by the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration fund, with about one-quarter of this €21.9 million fund allocated to the integration of migrants.

Safe Living

#33

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
6
Romania’s homicide and violent crime rates have remained relatively low. The dominant challenges to Romanian public safety are transnational and organized crime, as seen in various arrests related to smuggling and human trafficking. Romania continues to be a willing participant in international police cooperation with European and regional partners.

Global Inequalities

#35

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in low- and middle-income countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in low- and middle-income countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in low- and middle-income countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in low- and middle-income countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in low- and middle-income countries.
Global Social Policy
4
Romania remains a minor player on the global stage when dealing with issues of global inequality. In 2016, the Cioloș government put development assistance on a new footing when Law 213/2016 created a new Agency for International Development Cooperation, “RoAid,” which is responsible for implementing development cooperation and humanitarian aid-related activities. In 2018, Romania joined the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. Romanian bilateral development cooperation has focused mostly on Moldova, Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine and Syria. Moldova’s ailing political and economic systems, as well as its proximity to Romania and geopolitical importance to Europe vis-a-vis Russia make it an important area of political and economic engagement.
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