All change as recession wreaks havoc on job market

Newsroom 07/02/2010 | 14:33

With the recession having left many jobless, the workforce looks set to be significantly remodeled. The unemployed are moving to domains where work is still available, either because these positions are newly created or they require high levels of specialization, and training may sprout up to meet the new demand.Official data show that on December31, 2009, more than 700,000 people were looking for a job, and the layoffs are continuing this year. A new career path may be the answer for many.

By Otilia Haraga

Data from the National Agency for Labor Force Occupancy (ANOFM) show that on December 31, Romania had 709,544 people looking for a job, of whom 709,383 were unemployed and 161 fell into other categories. Last year, 951 people secured work contracts elsewhere in the European Union, through the EURES network. They generally went to work in Spain, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Finland, Cyprus and Sweden. The main positions on offer were unskilled jobs in agriculture, childcare, welders, and roles in the services and forestry.

Meanwhile, as a result of free movement of labor agreements, some 110,074 people took up jobs in Germany, Switzerland and France in agriculture, hotels and restaurants, industry and medical assistance last year. The overwhelming majority of these people – 110,041 – found work in Germany.

While every job loss brings individual woes, some sectors bore the brunt: the car industry, production, agriculture, textiles, the leather industry and construction, especially in the private sector, according to Monica Dona, human capital consultant at Lugera&Makler and member of the HR Club. “Domains such as the auto industry and construction have frozen employment and the chances of finding a job here are minimal. The only option for those who have been made redundant from these sectors is to retrain,” she says. While in 2008, professional re-conversion training, both public and private, had very low take-up rates, last year the situation changed dramatically, and in 2010 it is expected that demand and availability of this type of training will increase further, says Florin Ochiana, HR operations manager at Lugera&Makler. More than half of young people want to change career, though the proportion decreases to one third of people up to 45 and less than 10 percent above that age.

“The high level of unemployment pushes the jobless willy-nilly towards professional re-conversion. The number of people who attend these courses depends, in the public sector, on the money the government grants to institutions in charge of it. There is also the possibility of accessing funds from the EU, as some private companies are already doing, says Ochiana. He names as primary options for re-conversion domains like tourism, customer services, HR, sales, marketing and distribution.

However, those who retrain still represent a small proportion. Most will use networking, which is “probably the first and one of the most important sources when searching for a job,” says Dona, meaning not just one’s circle of friends and acquaintances but also professional networking websites. Typically, those who do go down the career change path choose industries close to those which they are leaving. “There are some professions that a person can work in no matter what industry he or she comes from – IT, finances and accounting, sales, management, marketing and PR,” says Mihaela Perianu, managing partner in AIMS Human Capital, a company that does the recruiting for multinationals.

Laid-off construction workers are most likely to go into the administration of buildings and offices, those in IT programming switch to the administration and maintenance of networks and technical support, people made redundant from the sales sector will reconvert to collection, says Dona. “However, the transition from the status of specialist in one domain to that of beginner in another is not the easiest decision to make, and many need a longer period of time to reconfigure their options.”

According to ANOFM data, 36,378 people took part in professional training programs organized last year. Of these, 33,184 did so for free – as 32,329 were unemployed and 855 fell into other categories that benefit from these services at no cost. The remaining 3,194 paid for their training. Of these, 1,585 had already undergone such programs organized by the Regional Centers for Professional Training of Adults (CRFPAs) and another 494 people participated in ECDL courses and other training as part of competency appraisal. Within 12 months of their graduation from these courses, by December 31, 15,844 had found a job. Of these, 3,443 had started and finished training in 2009 and another 8,254 had started and finished by December 31, 2008. Some 2,451 trainees began classes in 2008 and completed them in 2009 while another 1,696 who had begun in 2007 concluded them in 2008. Electronics and IT were popular topics, since computer skills are now essential in most jobs. There were 253 courses for data introduction, validation and processing and 78 for computer and network operators. Others trained to go into the HoReCa industry. Some 116 programs for chefs were available along with 53 for waiters and vendors in food units. Trade was also a popular option, with 163 courses. So too was construction, with 76 courses for bricklayers and 54 for plumbers.

While the labor market will continue to look bleak for the first half of this year as the lay-offs continue, there is still demand for specialized personnel. “We might yet see demand for project managers, SAP consultants, IT specialists, speakers of rare foreign languages and engineers,” says Dona.

Some jobseekers may look further afield. “Currently, jobs abroad are very attractive, one example being working as an au pair. There are also posts in production, outsourcing, the accounting-financial domain, distribution and IT,” says Ochiana.

Things should pick up in the second half of 2011. “Romania will keep on attracting investors but at a slower pace compared to previous years,” says Perianu. For now, there is still a great deal of lay-offs at the level of middle and top management and this is predicted to continue into 2010. During this period, most companies have re-thought their organizational structure and gone for ‘damage control budgets.’ On average, salaries have nosedived 10-20 percent. While precise numbers are hard to

come by, an unskilled worker can start on EUR 190 (RON 800)-EUR 238 (RON 1,000) gross salary a month while an entry-level IT professional would be on EUR 400 or above net salary a month.

The bonus and benefit tap has also been switched off. “These perks included corporate subscriptions to gyms, medical insurance and vacancy bonuses. Additionally, telephone calls and fuel consumption for company cars are being closely monitored,” adds Dona.

Even in top management, salaries are not what they used to be, having been slashed by as much as 30 percent in some domains, according to Olivia Franculescu, senior consultant at SC Kilpatrick Executive Search and member of the HR Club. Right now, the focus is to offer performance bonuses reflecting the quantifiable achievements of the managers as well as other benefits such as funding MBA programs, training and exclusive certification, top medical insurance for the entire family as well as generous compensation packages if the company makes an exit from the market or if the position undergoes restructuring, she says. There is a trend in the Western world for top managers to consider downshifting as a way to change their lives for the better. “The philosophy behind this trend consists of the idea ‘I work to live’, which replaces the dominant ideology of ‘I live to work’, which had its origins in the protestant work ethic. This concept was noticeable globally and is most prevalent in the states where the religion is predominantly protestant,” says Franculescu.

In Romania, downshifting is mostly associated with the exit of successful managers from corporations and switching their focus to entrepreneurship. Often this is a greenfield or a niche business, which, however, does not include all the elements of downshifting, but rather meets the need for more freedom in decision-making and in general. Therefore, in Romania, few managers can be really considered true downshifters, concludes Franculescu.

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