The autumn session of the European Council approaches the unemployment of youths, which has soared lately at the scale of the whole continent. This sad reality can acquire, in time, a character that is increasingly threatening for governments, regardless of their political orientation. No matter how democratic and leftist this political orientation pretends to be, it has little impact on curbing the unemployment, whose main victims are the youths aged up to 35-38, of any professional and education background.
Romania is no exception to this rule, unless we speak about dissimulating its unemployment. As soon as they graduate from universities, many of its youths go directly into unemployment, while the percentage of high-school graduates that cannot find a job is incomparably higher. As a whole, the unemployment rate in Romania is far above the official figure of 8 pc, which only includes the jobless who still collect unemployment benefits.
But this benefit is granted over a limited time interval and when it ends, the former beneficiary is still jobless, but unaccounted for in official statistics.
Things are even worse in the rural regions of the country. Here, many youths help their families do the day-to-day farming operations, but – with most “farms” being limited to 1-2 hectares of land – this “productive” activity made by youths is not very different from that of jobless people, in terms of occupied time and resulting incomes. Plus, these young jobless are not even eligible for unemployment benefits, because they have these modest agricultural properties. This explains why the migration of the workforce and the scale of illegal labour are increasingly present in rural regions. And along with these troubles, the demographic index is free-falling in Romania.
In other European countries, also affected by the present economic and social crisis, the scale of youths’ unemployment diminishes during summer, when the activity intensifies in the construction sector, agriculture and other domains, along with the need for more employees. This explains the scale of summer immigration towards western countries. In Romania, unfortunately, things go the opposite way and unemployment reaches a peak, instead of dropping. This largely happens because of the influx of new high-school and university graduates. For example, some 20,000 jobs were available this summer, to be occupied by over 150,000 fresh graduates.
These graduates cannot even find protection by joining a trade union, because in order to do this they should have worked in a job for some time. And getting a job today depends less on the education and diplomas they received and more on having at least a minimal professional experience, which there is no way they could obtain. The traditional activity of productive practice (a form of internship) which usually was part of the annual curriculums of polytechnic universities in the past, is no longer possible today, because of the disappearance of Romania’s large industrial enterprises which were more receptive and accepted students for the formal programme of practice.
And the mishaps do not end with the possible temporary presence on unemployment lists. For such youths who lack professional and life experience – the young high-school and university graduates – temporarily receiving the unemployment benefit sometimes is equivalent to obtaining and using drugs. Drug consumption is on the rise and descends to ages as low as 10-11 years. Another attribute of unemployment is illegal labour, for 10-12 long hours a day and paid with very small wages. Of course, this also implies ever-higher tax evasion and corruption.
In the attempt to fight the illegal labour, the government usually resorts to reducing the taxes paid by employers. The measure, per se, is somehow stimulatory. But, besides such measures, employers must be aware that using illegal labour is a crime, because it undermines the national economy and discriminates employees. No economic system can prosper by using illegal labour. The apparent momentary success of this noxious practice only masks, camouflages the major social-economic contradictions that will anyway explode sooner or later, with destructive consequences that are incomparably worse than apparent benefits.
For Romanian governments, no matter their political orientation, the “rescue” comes under the form of a declining solidarity among trade unions, which reflects neither these tough social-economic realities, nor the growing social restlessness. The successive threats of unlimited general strike were tacitly replaced by limited-term protests, some of which did not gather even the minimum number of participants. The main reason for this discrediting of trade unions is the way many union leaders behaved. As they switched overnight the statute of union leaders with that of employers, following the benevolence of governments, they increased their wealth precisely by accepting fraudulent privatisations.
As we explained it on other occasions, from exponents of the people that enjoyed the least privileges in the process of professional activity, our trade union leaders migrate towards the condition of “collaborators” of ruling factors. This led to the situations when some of these union leaders limited themselves to demanding petty wage hikes, instead of curbing – if not stopping – the massive layoffs. There even were cases of such leaders accepted, even “militated” for sending some of their union members into unemployment, in exchange of higher salaries for the remaining employees. This led to the impoverishment of the Romanian labour market, where a large number of employees are paid less than the average wage on the economy. This also made it possible for the former Boc government to diminish the importance of the collective labour contract, drastically reducing the possibility of employees to defend themselves.
This is the source of yet another paradox, a tragi-comic one: when the government is confronted by a general strike, its hopes of rescue do not come from eliminating the social discrimination, but from “the wisdom of trade union leaders.” This “wisdom” derives precisely from the fact that many of these leaders made it to the top of wealthiest Romanians, exactly at a time when the unemployment of youths reaches alarming figures.