Poverty in Romania on the Decline Despite the Odds

Poverty in RomaniaSituated on the Black Sea, Romania is the largest of the Balkan countries. Romania has a population of 21.4 million, one of the biggest in the EU. Unfortunately, poverty in Romania exists at one of the highest rates in the EU as well.

Poverty in Romania is stunning and widespread, affecting millions of people. Two measures of poverty in Romania are relative poverty and absolute poverty. Relative poverty is the number of citizens whose disposable income is lower than 60 percent of the population’s median income. In 2014, Romania ranked first in the EU for highest relative poverty rate, with 25 percent of its citizens facing relative poverty.

Absolute poverty is the lack of basic human needs such as food, safe drinking water, shelter, health, education, facilities and access to services. In 2000, the rate of absolute poverty in Romania was 35.9 percent and dropped to 13.8 percent in just six years, showing that progress has indeed been made in the country.

Several populations in Romania are vulnerable to poverty. More than 50 percent of children in Romania are at risk for poverty. This statistic places Romania as the country in the EU with the greatest risk of children facing poverty. Poverty in Romania is also at its highest in rural areas, where 45 percent of the population lives. This is the highest population in the EU to live in rural areas in a given country. The majority of Romanians who live in rural areas are subsistence farmers or unemployed rural workers, which is why 70 percent of the rural population in Romania lives in poverty. Finally, the populations most susceptible to poverty in terms of households are single persons, single parent families, families with three or more children and single people over the age of 65.

Romania’s history and changing governments affected change in poverty levels. After World War II, Romania became a socialist state in a communist regime, which entailed widespread social welfare. In 1990, right before the fall of communism, the poverty level in Romania was only seven percent. After the fall of communism in 1990, however, generalized social welfare was reduced.

Other causes of poverty in Romania include poor infrastructure, which affects everything from schools to medical centers. Regarding widespread rural poverty, there are more employment and educational opportunities in urban areas, as more money is invested in urban areas. Romania also suffers the consequences of bad foreign exchange rates as it does not use the euro and five to six percent of its GDP comes from remittances.

Progress has been made in decreasing poverty and growing a successful economy. Romania joined NATO in 2004 and joined the EU in 2007. Romania has enjoyed significant economic growth from 2013 to 2016 as a result of industrial exports, optimal agriculture harvests and trade within the EU.

Social welfare also benefits many poor Romanians. Today, social welfare is divided into multiple categories. Some benefits of Romania’s current social welfare system include free maternity care, an allowance for children and mothers, free education, subsidies for heat and electricity, unemployment aid and pension. It is important to note that certain benefits vary depending on the case.

The rate of poverty in Romania is very high for a country in the EU, but Romania continues to make progress in reducing poverty rates, providing social welfare and stabilizing its economy.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr