This year, more than ever, the EU is acknowledging the power of youth in shaping a better, greener, more digital, sustainable and inclusive future. Within the European Year of Youth, international organizations have come together to fill in a gap of opportunities, that was unfortunately created as a result of the pandemic. In collaboration with the public sector, the NGOs, mostly, are working towards improving and reaching 2 European Youth Goals: inclusive societies and quality employment for all.
In this article, we’re embarking on a journey to explore, in a couple of words, Romania’s situation and efforts regarding these issues.
Creating an inclusive society
According to the United Nations, social inclusion is a concept that refers to a set of actions carried out to ensure that anyone, regardless of his/her background or life story, has access to equal opportunities and rights. In Romania, migrants, people with disabilities, the poor and roma people are still far from reaching their full potential, because the general public has deep-rooted misconceptions, seeing them as a threat/burden, rather than a chance to learn from one another and benefit from mutual support and expertise.
The need of creating a more inclusive society has been urgently highlighted in the last few months, when in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, thousands of immigrants have come to Romania, looking for shelter. In order to accommodate them in our society, NGOs have set up special departments working with refugees, providing them with free language courses, creative activities and workshops for children, access to thematic events, round-table discussions with authorities and organizations fighting human trafficking, as well as support groups for those in need. This is the actual example of Bucovina Institute, lead partner within the SEPAL PRO project, who’s been working for months towards making these people feel heard and accepted here. Within its center for social emergencies, BI is offering diagnosis, evaluation, counselling and support services; emergency kits containing hygiene products and food vouchers; access to healthcare and labour market mediation; access to resources for refugees from disadvantaged groups and information services for emergency situations.
As for other aspects, there’s still a long way to go to dissolve wrong stereotypes and make people understand that diversity is a blessing and not something that drives societies apart. Not in the least, we strongly believe that volunteering is one of the best ways to tackle social exclusion, because it creates connections between people, encourages cooperation and socializing, brining together different people – united by the same goal: to make the future a better place for the next generations.
Quality employment for all
Fresh out of school, young people face many challenges when in comes to jumpstarting their careers. In Romania, their biggest fear is that they won’t find a job with zero work experience in the background. But how are youth supposed to have this experience, when almost no one is willing to take them on?
On one hand, in the recent years, Romania has gradually begun to offer internships for students, most of them coming from international organizations with offices here, who understand its value. Even though there are many opportunities, the problem is that the majority of them target the IT and digital marketing sector, whereas there’s little to no change to finding an internship in other not-so-popular industries. This somehow accounts for the recent growing number of Erasmus+ projects in the digital field, born from the urgent need to upskill young people and provide them a chance to participate in trainings, receive certification and gain experience.
On the other hand, there’s the apprenticeship programs, small in number, that give access to learning on the job stages. These are practical and really efficient solutions, as you would normally benefit from the guidance of an experienced mentor, who’s ready to pass his knowledge to other generations as well. But even though there are so many advantages, apprenticeship is still underpromoted and underdeveloped in the country and only a few people have heard of it.
Talking about other categories, we’re happy to see that many people with disabilities have found a way to produce art and show their talents, setting up their own businesses, as a powerful example that once you have something in mind, nothing can stop you from achieving it. Moreover, lately, we’ve seen many people with hearing disabilities working as food delivery drivers or cashiers, getting a lot of respect from customers who are also delighted to see such an improvement. Roma people and migrants, though, still face difficulties in finding jobs and when they do, it’s usually about the simple jobs, underpaid and not requiering too much experience.
As a conclusion, Romania still has a lot to work to change mentalities and connect with young people, no matter where they come from, what their life story looks like or what they have been through. As for the employment situation, the authorities, employers and other people in charge should be aware of the high demand for work experience, which contradicts the insufficient opportunities to gain this expertise. Diversity, consistency and a realistic expectations are highly needed.