Twenty years ago, Romanians stood in line in front of grocery stores. Today, it is foreigners who form the queues: here, Ukrainians waiting for distribution of food aid, there, Nepalese or Bangladeshis waiting in front of an immigration office to renew their work and residence permits.
The Romanian economy has been growing steadily for a decade. Last year the growth rate was 4.7%. In 2010, GDP per capita after price adjustments was 53% of the EU average; In 2021, it reaches 74%.
labor shortage in the construction industry
At the same time, the population has decreased from 23.2 million in 1990 to 19 million today. After the 1989 revolution the birth rate fell and millions of Romanians fled. The country is now facing a huge shortage of labourers. Hotels, bars and restaurants are looking for staff, but the shortage is being felt especially in construction.
Adriana Iftime, chief executive of the Construction Employers Federation, said the sector would need at least 100,000 workers by the end of 2024 as contractors aim to meet increased demand for infrastructure work. Federation.
17 billion euro aid
Romania should receive 27 billion euros for this, including 17 billion for construction. Foreign workers, concludes Adriana Iftime, “are solutions when there is no other”. In 2017, 3,000 work permits per year were granted to non-union workers, with the quota set to increase to 100,000 in 2022, although many worry about the renewal of permits for pre-existing workers.
Hence the strong growth of the foreign-born population. At the end of 2022, there were 113,520 non-EU citizens in the country, an increase of 110% in five years. There were also 54,765 EU citizens, 113,000 Ukrainian refugees and around 200,000 immigrants from neighboring Moldova.
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Mircea Mocanu, who heads the UN-dependent International Organization for Migration’s office in Bucharest, estimates that there will be 600,000 foreigners in Romania by the end of the decade, not counting Moldovans. A change of magnitude, and surprisingly fast.