Country profile

UNICEF in Romania

Remaining challenges in social sectors


Country profile

© UNICEF/Romania021
Map of Romania


Romania joined the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2007 following a pre-accession period which saw many reforms in the fields of justice, public administration, trafficking in human beings, child protection and other areas linked to the EU’s acquis communitaire. 

This also includes promotion of social inclusion for vulnerable groups such as Roma, people with disabilities and children at risk, and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of decentralised services. EU membership has also led to the development of an overseas development assistance (ODA) strategy, and the EU expects its new member state to commit 0.17% of gross national income to ODA by 2010.

The country’s economy continued to grow at an average of some 5-6 percent, the fastest-growing in Europe. Gross domestic product (GDP) was EUR 108 million in 2007.  Inflation in 2008 amounted to 4.7%, the budget deficit was 2.4%, for a total of EUR 2.8 billion, and there was 5.3 percent unemployment.  The World Bank indicates that gross national income (GNI) per capita was $6,150 in 2007, up from $4,830 year-on-year, situating Romania firmly among middle income countries. However, GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards is only one third of the average for Europe.  In spite of strong growth in recent years, financial experts are predicting that Romania will go into recession in 2009, following the trend in other countries.  A World Bank study shows that remittances from Romanians working abroad are expected to amount to a total $9 billion in 2008, ranking Romania in 8th place among top 10 recipient countries worldwide. However, this same report forecasts a slowing in 2009 due to the international economic crisis.

The international crisis and the expected increase of food and energy prices will affect Romania’s children.  Irrespective of the scenario taken into consideration, absolute poverty in Romania is likely to rise in 2009, reaching levels comparable to those in 2006-2007. Thus, the number of poor persons is expected to increase in 2009 to 2.17 million (scenario based on the forecast of the National Bank of Romania) or 2.68 million (scenario by an independent expert).

Macroeconomic gains have led to the creation of a stronger middle class and are addressing Romania’s widespread poverty, which continues to be considerably high (with rural poverty double that of urban poverty). While poverty among children has dropped by over 30% since 2003, the risk of relative poverty continues to rise.  Some 75% of poor children live in rural areas, where the poverty risk is three times higher than for children living in urban areas.  More than one third of these poor children live in agricultural families, with a poverty ratio seven times higher than for children living in families with at least one employee. While poverty among the Roma dropped from 76% in 2003 to 58% in 2006, the poverty risk among the Roma population went from being three times higher in 2003 to four times higher than for the majority population in 2006.Low levels of labour participation and employment, a large rural sector, widening disparities between regions, and high poverty constitute significant bottlenecks to the filtering down of economic growth to vulnerable social groups. Combined with these social dimensions, important and persistent rigidities in economic and social structures are key challenges to improvements for the welfare of vulnerable populations.  There continue to be considerable gaps and new challenges regarding the realization of the rights of vulnerable, excluded and discriminated children in Romania. There are still children, especially adolescents, living and/or working on the streets, as well as children victims of trafficking, although Romania is increasingly becoming a transit rather than a source country.
The juvenile justice system still struggles with ensuring the rights of children in conflict with the law, including a lack of special facilities for pre-trial detention.
Children with disabilities, children with HIV/AIDS and Roma children are still victims of stigma and discrimination. The rights of children with mental disabilities living in public institutions are not being fully met.
In parallel, children from poor and rural areas are more likely than other children to be abandoned, institutionalised, to drop out of school, and later to be found on the streets. Furthermore, there are emerging issues such as the potential negative impact on poor rural families of the agricultural reform and on children left behind by parents migrating to other countries in search of better job opportunities.
Weaknesses in preventive and integrated community-based services, combined with poor family care practices and changing social norms and values have lead to these manifestations.

Many of the vulnerable, excluded and discriminated groups of children are linked to the same causes.


Basic Indicators

Under five mortality rate (U5MR): 15 per 1,000 live births (2007)
Level of immunization:  97% of 
1-year-olds against measles and DPT3 (2007)
Improved drinking water sources: total (88%) in 2006, although rural and urban disparity in 2004 was 16% to 91%
Improved sanitation facilities: 72% (2006)
Exclusive breastfeeding during first 6 months of life: 16% (2006)
Children living in alternative care system: 76,000 (2008)
Children living in institutions: 24,000 (2008)
Pre-school enrolment rate: 78% (2007-2008)
Primary school enrolment rate: 93% (2006)
Parents resorting to disciplinary methods involving physical abuse: 73% (2006 KAP survey)
Adult HIV prevalence rate: 0.1% (2007)



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