Romanian citizens working abroad represent an important part of the national work force; their number has increased due to the removal of visas in the European zone and is expected to further grow once Romania becomes an accessing EU country.
According to the Barometer of public opinion elaborated by the Open Society Foundation in 2004, 10% of those who have been interviewed declared that a member of their family worked abroad in the last 12 months. This segment of the national work force is vital for the socio-economic development in Romania as well as for the accessing process in the EU, thus making the correct implementation of European regulations in this particular area a priority for Romanian authorities and the civil society.
Despite the fact that adopting and implementing the European expertise in the field of work force mobility and immigrant workers’ rights is very important, the normative accomplishments have only just started, as the State Report of the European Commission confirms (2003). Migration regulated by competent bodies of the Ministry for Work and Social Security, based on bilateral agreements, as well as by mediation through work force agents makes up a small part in comparison with the number of Romanian workers that use informal or semi-legal means coming to work in EU member states. Difficulties in implementing the legislation occur even in regulated cases. Studies focusing on immigrant seasonal workers indicate that they are often underpaid; they are not given minimal work protection measures and are left out of social security systems, thus becoming exposed to exploitation and to the risk of becoming slaves.
Normative measures to be taken by Romanian authorities are in the course of development, as confirmed by a report of the European Commission. Due to the risks and the complexity of a non-regulated migration, the European Union recommended a post-accession transitory period concerning free work force movement, in order to avoid probable disturbances in the work force market or possible disagreements of the public opinion regarding expansion. In order to reduce this period of transition and therefore to smoothen the integration into the European work force market, this project puts forward concrete steps to support competent developing of institutions (the Ministry of Work and Social Security, the Department for Work Abroad), on one hand and on the other to create an organism in the civil society (partnership) to complement the efforts led by governmental authorities in the direction of stimulating resources and the necessary means of action.
The shock caused by the transition to a market economy severely decreased real incomes and living standards of the Romanian citizens and led to a vast deindustrialization process accompanied by the raise of unemployment rates. In these conditions, along with open European borders, finding work abroad became a feasible strategy, despite legislative deficiencies. The preponderance of unregulated migration is a direct consequence of the powerlessness of the authorities to control this phenomenon and thus exposing workers to the danger of becoming victims to exploitation and human trafficking.
Along with issues generated by the preponderance of unregulated migration, the cumulative effect of Romanians’ labor abroad was the growth of national economy, authorities often recognizing the role of these emigrant agents. The total of value of transfers had risen constantly in the last few years, from 958 million de euros in 2000, to 1153 million Euros in 2001 to 1462 million Euros in 2002 (Romanian National Bank). Current estimations indicate the fact that these transfers now go between 1,5 to 2 billion Euros, exceeding the total of direct foreign investments (the Center for Regional and Urban Sociology).
Besides this, emigrant workers are sustaining the European accession process by drawing foreign investors, by building up an European identity and by developing a transnational network to promote European integration interpersonally and among institutions.