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Romania – Skills exodus a growing concern

17 January 2014

Romania’s Labour Minister, Mariana Campeanu, has warned that the mass exodus of qualified young workers since Romania joined the EU in 2007 will have a disastrous impact on its economy unless it is reversed, reports the Financial Times.

Dismissing claims made by anti-immigration politicians in the UK that a wave of workers from Romania and Bulgaria would move to Britain after restrictions keeping them out were lifted on 1 January 2014, she said that her government was committed to attracting émigrés back home to power the country’s revived economy.

“The problem is not people leaving… that outflow already happened a few years back. In Romania we can clearly see the negative effects of the emigration of highly qualified labour, in particular doctors and engineers…it has started to be a problem for us,” Ms Campeanu said in an interview in Bucharest.

Ms Campeanu said that the departure of many young people of working age would put significant strain on the country’s public finances in the future, leaving funders to support the nation’s pensions system.

“The problem is not only that highly qualified workers left but a lot of young people left. This trend represents a problem that we may have to deal with in the near future as the pace of population ageing is the highest in Europe,” she added.

Romania’s economy has been performing better than average on the back of near double-digit growth in the industrial and agricultural sectors, compared with the rest of Europe. Gross domestic product in 2013 is set to grow by +2.2%, while unemployment rates are nearly half the EU average of 11%, according to EU official data.

But the labour minister fears that, given the demographic crisis it faces, it will be hard to keep the momentum up without young workers.

To tackle the problem Romania’s centre-left government has recently introduced a series of measures to attract young émigrés home.

These measures include grants worth up to €100,000 to set up a new business, subsidies to lower mortgage costs for first-time home buyers, and a series of incentives for entrepreneurs keen to open an agricultural business.

Ms Campeanu said that Romania was also determined to attract investment from western European economies in an effort to convince many of the country’s emigrants to return and work for large multinationals.

The labour minister admitted that reversing the migration trend will be a tall order, as wages in Romania are comparable to those in poor developing countries, rather than EU standards.

But with the economic crisis continuing to negatively impact many of the countries where most Romanians have emigrated, mainly Italy and Spain, and following a resurgence of the domestic market Ms Campeanu is hopeful that she will see more people coming home.

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