Tensions Are Rising in Romania and No One’s Talking About It

This week, on Tuesday morning, a state of disturbance appeared in Romania due to the new public wage law and the fiscal changes brought about as a result of this. The law was introduced despite the promises made by the ruling coalition that it would only have positive effects for the working population, leading to complaints from employees about how the new measure negatively impacted their income, asking the politicians to resolve the matter and the news quickly became the only topic discussed. Radio stations throughout the country were bombarded with calls in order to have a few minutes on air to present their own situation, and many times one person had to be cut off while speaking due to the volume of calls. Some of those employees raised the question of Europe’s silence over the matter, leading to questions of Romania’s status within Europe.

Things have been chaotic in Romania for the past few years, but recently things have escalated. People started rioting in the streets in January last year, after the Government secretly passed a measure which aimed for the decriminalization of corruption among the hundreds of politicians caught up in criminal investigations. Millions of people have taken to the streets in response to this, thus making the movement the largest in the history of Romania.

Right now, the biggest concern that Romanians have is related to the application of the above-mentioned new public wage law. The law was proposed as something that would only affect those with large salaries in order to improve conditions for employees, but has become detrimental and has a far greater impact on workers than originally proposed, affecting up to two million workers, including part-time workers from both the state and private sector, IT companies, disabled people, seasonal workers and researchers. Especially problematic is the impact on part-time workers, since following the changes in the Tax Code, some low-income part-time employees are forced to bring money from home to pay their social contributions.

The Ministry of Justice offered a positive (yet reserved) opinion on the Emergency Ordinance, which was adopted on Thursday, that would correct some of the effects of the “Tax Revolution“.  This was issued by the Romanian Government aimed at adopting a series of measures to keep the net monthly income at least at the level of December 2017 for private sector employees benefiting from income tax exemptions. Another provision of the Emergency Ordinance ensures maintenance of the net income for both public and private employees working part-time. Romania’s Prime-minister, Viorica Dăncilă, declared that efforts are made in order to ensure that the law ‘will achieve its objective of making order and equity in the pay system’.

Although this is the most important and talked about issue in Romania, it is not the only worrying thing taking place. Another topic raising concern is the possibility that a number of schools, especially in rural areas, will be closed in the near future due to lack of funding. This raises a question of education for the children displaced from closing schools, as it is unlikely that there will be sufficient funding for transport to other schools. This is massively detrimental to education, and could see a change in the constitution, that permits eleven years of free education for all children.

Romanians have struggled greatly in recent years, with the latest reports showing that more than four million Romanians are working abroad, with many of them working in poor conditions. Apart from physicians, nurses, advertisers, engineers and IT professionals, tens of thousands of workers leave the country in the hope of securing better work abroad, as little is being done domestically to benefit employees. This is why there are at least tens of thousands of children growing up without their parents, who normally come back to Romania once a year. Young people are becoming increasingly active in trying to change the current system – they protest, and voice their concerns and opinions – but the government seems to offer them little support and an intervention is needed from Europe to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and step in to improve the situation. Romanians have been dealing with these issues on their own for way too much time.

Romanians feel abandoned by the European Union, as the EU has done little in response to this situation – possibly due to their relatively recent addition to the union in 2007. Romanians work hard both at home and abroad in attempts to secure better living conditions, but taking into account measures such as the new public wage law, the lack of funds for the new generations, and a general lack of interest for the nation’s well-being, Romania’s overall situation remains of concern.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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