Expats moving to Romania are sure to encounter many interesting people and places on their travels. Locals are friendly and welcoming, and it's always a good idea to be informed of any potential sensitivities. Here are some aspects of diversity and inclusion in Romania to keep in mind.
Accessibility in Romania
As an EU country, Romania is required to uphold certain levels of accessibility. In practice, the availability and upkeep of accessible buildings and sidewalks varies widely across the country. Generally speaking, larger cities will be easier to navigate.
That being said, wheelchair users are still likely to face challenges when getting around in Romania. Some sidewalks are poorly maintained, and their cut curbs may be irregular. Drivers also sometimes park on sidewalks, blocking the way. If in need of a quick lift onto or off the sidewalk, wheelchair users will find that Romanian people are generally friendly and happy to assist.
Public transport is only partially accessible, with buses being the best and sometimes only option for wheelchair users. All buses have lowered floors and are equipped with ramps. In Bucharest, the subway is unsuitable for most powered wheelchairs but can accommodate manual wheelchairs, while trams require passengers to climb several steps to board.
LGBTQ+ in Romania
In the early 2000s, Romania made significant progress in terms of improving rights and protections for its LGBTQ+ populations. During this period, homosexuality was decriminalised, the age of consent was equalised, and discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned.
In more recent years, however, the government seems to be less tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2022, the use of “gay propaganda” in schools was banned. Also in 2022, the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in public areas was banned. Both laws have been criticised as bordering on censorship, and a large-scale march took place in Bucharest to protest these laws. As of mid-2023, they still stand.
Same-sex marriage isn’t specifically banned in Romania, but there’s no legal equivalent to heterosexual marriage for gay couples. Transgender rights are limited in Romania – changing one’s legal gender is only permitted if the individual has undergone sex-change surgery.
Advocacy group ILGA-Europe ranked Romania as 26th out of 27 EU countries for LGBTQ+ rights protection, putting it below all other EU states except Poland.
Despite the difficulties faced by the LGBTQ+ population in Romania, there are still lively gay scenes in certain cities. Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca hold annual pride parades and other events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. There are also gay nightlife scenes here and in a few other cities dotted around Romania.
Gender equality in Romania
As a largely Catholic country, Romania tends towards a traditional view of women as homemakers and men as breadwinners. In 2022, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) published its annual gender equality report. Out of a possible 100, Romania scored 53.7 on the Gender Equality Index.
Though the country faces a number of challenges, one area of progress is Romania’s low gender wage gap. At just 3.6 percent, it’s well below the EU average of 12.7 percent. On the other hand, traditional gender norms continue to impact the economy in other ways. In the workplace, traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as STEM and IT, continue to attract mostly men.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) reports that, in 2022, two-thirds of university graduates in these subjects were male. Meanwhile, 90 percent of education graduates and more than 70 percent of healthcare and welfare graduates were female – both traditionally female-dominated subjects.
Women in leadership in Romania
One of Romania’s main challenges is its unequal representation in the domains of economic and political decision-making. Just 20 percent of such decision-makers in Romania’s parliament are women. Meanwhile, according to the World Economic Forum, just 17.2 percent of firms in Romania have top managers who are women, while only 11.7 percent of firms in Romania have female majority ownership.
Mental health awareness in Romania
In Romania, a stigma exists around mental illness. Any mental illness diagnosis is considered shameful and is usually kept secret. In such conditions, mental illness tends to be underdiagnosed as sufferers either refuse to seek treatment or aren’t aware of how to access care. This can present problems for expats from more open societies.
Studies show that expats are at higher risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse than the general population, with increased stress and loneliness being common precipitating factors. Tackling mental health problems early, rather than waiting to seek help, is associated with better treatment outcomes – so it's important that expats keep an eye on their mental wellbeing and take action if needed.
Resources for mental healthcare are slim in Romania’s public healthcare system, so expats will likely have to go private to receive fast and high-quality treatment. To ensure ease of access, expats should check that the health insurance provided by their employer is comprehensive, including full coverage for psychiatric and psychological services.
Unconscious bias education in Romania
Unconscious bias is an implicit set of stereotyped ideas that an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not usually purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. As a result, these perceptions are often inaccurate and based on assumptions.
Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also several online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.
The Romanian government has identified unconscious bias as one of the main obstacles towards equal gender representation in leadership positions, as men continue to hold the majority of such positions in politics, courts and the workplace. As part of the Romania Action Plan 2022–2024, the government is beginning to tackle this problem by doing a wide-scale analysis of gender balance in public administration, electoral and labour processes.
Diversification of the workforce in Romania
Those moving to Romania may struggle to find fellow expats, as just 2 percent of Romania’s population is foreign-born. The typical Romanian company won’t be particularly diverse, but multinational companies that frequently bring employees to the country may have a wide range of nationalities working there. That being said, Romania’s government intends to expand the number of non-EU workers in the country, having pledged to bring in 100,000 foreign workers throughout 2023.
Studies show that diversification of the workplace is hugely beneficial to companies and employees alike. In recognition of this, companies across the world are setting up diversity and inclusion programmes, ensuring that a wide variety of people is represented among employees.
Safety in Romania
Romania is an extremely safe country, and expats will have little to be concerned about apart from taking normal precautions against petty crime. This includes keeping valuables out of sight, being aware of one’s surroundings and avoiding walking alone at night. Expats should keep an eye out in busy places with lots of people, such as tourist areas and public transport, to avoid falling victim to petty theft.
Calendar initiatives in Romania
4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women’s Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day