175036 10/24/2008 6:16 08BUCHAREST818 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 08BUCHAREST789 VZCZCXYZ0001 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHBM #0818/01 2980616 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 240616Z OCT 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8806 RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000818
STATE FOR EUR/CE: ASCHEIBE ALSO FOR EUR/EX AND HR/OE
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ECON, EFIN, ELAB, AFSN, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA: LABOR SHORTAGE CRISIS AND SOARING WAGE INFLATION
REF: BUCHAREST 789
Sensitive but Unclassified, not for Internet Distribution.
1. (SBU) Summary: Romania has one of the most acute labor shortages in the European Union (EU), which has led to rapidly rising wages. The construction industry has been the hardest hit, with skills and talent increasingly moving west following Romania's EU accession. Since 2005, the overall average monthly gross wage increased by 84 percent to a national average of 1,844 RON (785 USD), with additional increases expected in the coming months. Additional raises will likely be needed before salaries rise to a level where they entice Romanian expatriates to return. End Summary.
LABOR SHORTAGE CRISIS
2. (SBU) Even under communism, Romania had a history of sending workers abroad, however, the outflow of economic immigrants accelerated following the end of communism and increased further after Romania joined the EU in 2007, creating serious labor shortages in Romania. This shortage has been exacerbated by the high rates of job creation in a booming economy, which makes it increasingly difficult for companies to find and employ skilled and highly skilled workers. According to a recent Manpower study, which covers data from temporary and permanent employment placement by Manpower branch offices throughout country, 73 percent of employers in Romania said they have difficulty filling positions, which is the highest percentage in all of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
3. (U) The top ten hardest jobs to fill include: engineers, skilled manual trades, management/executives, accounting and finance staff, sales representatives, drivers, mechanics, restaurants and hotel staff, laborers and technicians. According to Manpower's survey of several major employers in each sector, 37 percent of employers expected to increase headcounts in the third quarter of 2008, which would lead to a 26 percent increase in the overall net employment outlook for Romania. Most sectors predict booming recruitment activity with the highest demand for workers in construction, which, according to the Manpower survey, may need to add up to 50 percent more jobs in the coming months.
4. (SBU) An estimated 2 to 2.5 million Romanians live abroad, with the largest number (approximately 1 million) in Italy, and at least half a million in Spain. While many of these left Romania during or immediately after the end of communism, Romania's membership in the EU has provided new opportunities for all Romanians to move westward for work. Despite the increase in the number of jobs and rising salaries in Romania, Romanians abroad can still at least double, if not quintuple, their earnings. An additional advantage arising from work abroad is a generally higher standard of living. Poor infrastructure, rising costs, and substandard healthcare all combine to make remaining in Romania an increasingly unattractive option.
THE HARD HIT CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
5. (SBU) Romania's construction industry has among the highest growth rates in Europe. However, many skilled Romanian construction workers have left Romania to work in Italy and Spain. Local construction companies have difficulty meeting demand with the few skilled workers remaining in the country. According to the construction trade association, Romania needs at least 300,000 workers. Approximately 700,000 to 800,000 workers are needed to meet demand, but there are estimated to be only about 400,000 to 450,000 construction workers available. As a result, Romania has had to import at least 10,000 foreign workers, mostly from China. It is likely that many other undocumented workers from Moldova, Turkey and Ukraine make up some of the remaining deficit, but a substantial shortfall still exists on the market.
SOARING WAGE INFLATION
6. (SBU) Wages in Romania have increased significantly every year since 2005. According to the National Institute for Statistics, the average nominal monthly gross wage in June 2008 increased 26 percent from the previous year and over 84 percent since 2005 to reach a current national average of 1, 844 RON (785 USD). Adjusted for inflation, real wages have increased 14.5 percent last year and 46 percent since 2005.
7. (U) This trend can be seen across several sectors. For example, in the industrial sector nominal wages grew by over 24 percent in the previous year, with an overall increase of 72 percent since 2005, to reach 1,594 RON (678 USD). Similar wage gains have brought salaries in the construction sector up 25 percent this year and nearly 82 percent since 2005 to the current average of 1,436 RON (611 USD). While there was no wage growth in the finance and banking sector last year, wages have already risen nearly 68 percent since 2005 for a sector average of 4,513 RON (1,920 USD). Meanwhile, Romania's research and development and IT sectors have experienced 73 percent wage growth in the last two years to reach a present average of 3,024 RON (1,287 USD).
8. (SBU) Somewhat unusually, the public sector accounted for the highest wage growth, although wages in this sector were held artificially low throughout the 1990s and started gaining from a very low initial level. Professionals in public administration and national defense have seen incomes rise only 21 percent in the last year, but considering that they have increased 113 percent since 2005, they still average 2,964 RON (1,261 USD) per month. Education sector wages increased by nearly 41 percent since last year and are up 94 percent since 2005 to reach 2,042 RON (869 USD) this year (Comment: This is before the 50 percent raise recently approved by Parliament. End Comment). Similar trends exist in the health and social assistance sectors, where wages increased by 59 percent last year and 130 percent since 2005 to 1,844 RON (785 USD), but which still suffered from a net outflow of medical professionals seeking more lucrative careers in western Europe.
SALARIES AND BENEFITS
9. (SBU) Wages alone fail to account for the total compensation that Romanian workers expect. There has been a significant increase in all pay packages, especially for workers with high school diplomas or college degrees. Salaries and benefits for high school graduates increased 74 percent in 2007 and another 80 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, demand for highly skilled workers accelerated even faster, with pay packages for college graduates shooting up 105 percent in 2007 and 121 percent in 2008.
10. (U) However, salary raises lagged behind the increases in benefits. In 2004, for example, salaries accounted for 75 percent of the overall pay package. This fell to 65 percent in 2008 with bonuses and other benefits accounting for the remainder. At a minimum, benefits typically include: performance bonuses, lunch coupons, mobile phones, gasoline coupons, holiday gifts, life and medical insurance; with computers and cars even thrown into the mix for certain workers.
11. (SBU) Company loyalty is not seen as a highly valued trait among young Romanians, and employers complain these workers will frequently leave for higher salaries and better benefits, even after the company has invested in expensive training. The siren call of higher wages is felt even in our own Embassy, which has already suffered a loss of 70 people in 2008, which comes on top of 42 separations in 2007. The reason given for leaving is often nothing more than the ability to double or triple a salary while also receiving much better benefits from the new employers (septel).
12. (SBU) Comment: High wage growth is a normal feature of a rapidly growing economy. However, EU membership has exacerbated the problem in Romania as large numbers of Romanians seek a better quality of life in the West. The upward pressure on wages is unlikely to end in the near term, and it will have consequences for a Romania that is still heavily dependent on foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to cover the high current account deficit. Post concurs with the observation of the IMF regional director, Juan Jose Fernandez Ansola, who has repeatedly stated that the problem is less one of pay, but rather the package. Until sorely needed investments in infrastructure, health care, and education are completed, wages will have to rise to compensate workers for agreeing to accept the reduced quality of life on offer at home. End Comment.