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MODULE 5 - Unit 1



Past and Current state of the women workforce in Romania

To understand the causes of women underrepresentation in the labour market in Romania, we have to first take a look at the historical and socioeconomic context that led to this situation.Historical ContextBefore the establishment of the communist regime Romania was a country with a strong agricultural tradition and rigid social norms: even though women worked just as hard as men and in the same fields, they were still under the expectation of a patriarchal society, hence the man was supposed to be the head of the family and the woman to follow his leadership. After the communists took power, shortly after World War II, women had to struggle between a state that forced them to adjust to a new social order and a family life where the same values as always still held true. This new state of things did not automatically result in a change of beliefs and so women were more educated and expected to find an occupation but only in certain “traditionally feminine” fields and rarely in the upper echelons (e.g. in 1989 women constituted 100 percent of preschool and primary school teachers but only 36 percent of college teachers). The majority of women ended up occupying the low-paying, low prestige sector of the economy. Between 1989 and 1996 there were no women in the Romanian cabinet.


Socio-economic context in the modern to present dayA very large portion of the economy still being state owned and a lack of interest in women’s issues in the first free electoral campaign right after the 1989 revolution meant very little change for women, but a newfound fear for unemployment. A slow process of democratization and joining the European Union triggered varying degrees of change in gender equality; a process of establishing equal opportunities started, along with combating discriminations based on sex and more legislation on domestic violence. Slowly women started covering more relevant roles in politics too, nonetheless they are still poorly represented in the senate; a better balance in politics may lead to a legislative framework more supportive of gender equality. Moreover, despite its role in starting a new wave of legislative changes aimed towards gender equality, the EU integration, maybe because of its strong focus on economic issues, has not be a stable source of change.


In Romania the conservative discourse is the primary ideology; the support for traditional gender roles and stereotypes has to be challenged by policies in support of work-life balance; unfortunately, these were the policies to have been amongst the first impacted by the 2009 financial crisis. Those same gender roles performed in their personal life are translated into the workplace: men and women work in different occupations, economic sectors and have different salaries, with women often being the less valued and less paid. There’s a limited capacity to enforce anti-discrimination legal provisions. This sort of labour market segregation is closely linked with the role of the media and the education system; a system that transmits traditional gender roles through textbooks and teachers. The higher number of female university graduates is still not reflected in their ease of access to the labour market. Besides, as a consequence of the lack of state support, children can become an obstacle to women’s access to the labour market; the higher the number of young children the lower the presence of women in the market.


In 2021 the rate of active employment in the population was 69.1%, based on European Commission studies, with a higher rate for men (72.2%) compared to women (65.5%). The 2021 Gender Equality Index (European Institue for Gender Equality) shows that Romania consistently scores below the European average in all areas examined by the Institute (work, money, knowledge, time, power, health); the index scores are mostly based on 2019 data, thus being unable to show the full impact of the health crisis on the country, but it provides enough evidence to demonstrate the pandemic’s negative repercussions on women’s life and wellbeing. Since 2010, Romania’s score has decreased in the domain of work (-0.4).

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