Among the European Union (EU) nations, Romania has been considered as one of the most severely underdeveloped for a long time. Some of the worst housing conditions on the continent can be found here, along with a great risk of poverty. However, there are reports of an improving economic climate and rapidly rising incomes indicative of consistent progress. Potential challenges for the country are citizens leaving in more prosperous countries, resulting in negative population growth and threats to the nation’s economic progress. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Romania show a country grappling to maintain both its post-communist prosperity and its people.
Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Romania
- Compared to 23.5 percent of Europeans, about 25 percent of Romanians were considered to be at risk of poverty in 2016, including over half of all people living in rural areas. This rate is higher for adults supporting children at 42.5 percent, particularly single parents at 58.2 percent. An estimated 22 percent of the population already live below the poverty line.
- Factors including overcrowding, environmental disturbances like pollution, noise or violence and difficulties keeping homes heated have been measured in Romania by the European Commission. Sixty percent of Romanians live in detached houses with one room per person, with 96 percent of those owning their own home. However, in 2016, 13.8 percent of Romanians reported being unable to heat these homes and 20 percent of the population lives without an improved source of sanitation.
- Economic growth of 4 percent was recorded in 2018, down from 7 percent increase the year before, mostly due to slowing foreign investment. Consumption among the Romanian people has helped the economy, rising rapidly due to decreased taxes, alongside exports and trade with EU member states that opened up after Romania joined the EU in 2007. Corruption and slow restructuring following liberation from communism in 1989 have withheld real economic stability.
- Average household income in 2016 was about $3,300, a massive increase from about $700 in 2001. Household spending has also increased, from $1,900 in 2006 to $2,800 per capita within 10 years. These increases have likely resulted from Romania’s economic growth, successful exports to the EU and the complete removal of income tax on low-income pensioners, allowing for greater disposable income for older people in particular, who make up most of Romania’s population.
- The unemployment rate has declined to 3.7 percent in 2018 from 7.2 percent in 2010. However, the youth unemployment rate is dramatically higher, at 16.8 percent, likely contributing to massive youth migration that search work and better living opportunities. It should be noted, however, that employment does not prevent individuals from becoming at risk of poverty. Over 20 percent of Romanian men and 15 percent of women considered at risk in 2016 were employed.
- Romanians experience the fourth highest rate of severe material deprivation in Europe. In 2016, 23.8 percent of Romanians could not afford at least four out of nine necessary material items set by the EU, compared to 7.5 percent of Europeans. Necessary materials include a complete meal every two days, paying for unexpected expenses, an annual vacation, adequate heating, a car, washing machine, color television, telephone and paying for routine bills.
- Groups like the estimated 2.4 million Roma people in the country suffer a higher rate of poverty than the ethnic majority. They have been historically persecuted and enslaved and continue to suffer prejudice. Around 42 percent of Roma cannot afford health care and suffer from increased exposure to diseases of poverty. Employment for Roma is estimated at only 42 percent for males and 19 percent for females, compared to over 60 percent employment among the general Romanian population. Many Roma people are subject to human rights abuses, including forced eviction, with little social welfare assistance to fall back on.
- Only 7.2 percent of Romanians reported having bad or very bad health in 2016 compared to 8.8 percent of other EU citizens. UNAIDS estimated in 2017 that 16,000 Romanians were living with HIV/AIDS, many as a result of poor hygiene practices that led to an AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. The overall population has a life expectancy at birth of about 75 years, just below the European average of 79 years.
- Emigration to neighboring countries and more prosperous European nations like the U.K., Italy and Germany has been significant since the 1990s. An estimated 3.9 million Romanians live outside their native country, leading to a consistently declining population. The Romanian economy is currently suffering from a shortage of skilled laborers and dwindling supply of young workers, prompting initiatives by the Romanian government to draw its citizens back into the country with incentives for reintegration.
- Many nonprofit organizations have worked in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989 to help the nation restructure and better serve its people. Habitat for Humanity has worked in Romania since the 1990s, serving 58,000 families and helping to replace crumbling communist-era apartment blocks, install plumbing and access to water. UNICEF works with the Romanian government and other organizations to create support networks for Romanians living with AIDS and to fund HIV/AIDS research. Several World Bank projects are also underway, including reimbursable projects to restructure Romania’s social welfare systems and provide higher quality education and health care.
Romania is currently one of the most underdeveloped nations of the European Union. Due to this reason, many young people are leaving the country, in search of work and better living conditions. However, various nongovernmental organization and government are working to improve the living conditions for the young people and other citizens of the country.
– Marissa Field