This year, Romania conducted a new census for the first time in a decade. Panorama is showing the country’s population in a completely new light. The goal is to incite a multifaceted discussion on who Romanians are, how they live, and how much power they hold within the workings of our society. We do this through a visual project in which we compare the demographic, political, and economic dominance of each age group cluster in the country’s population structure. Finally, we take a step back and attempt to give context and meaning to these power ratios.
We carefully examined a number of significant variables that have shaped the lives of each generation of Romanians: the country’s urbanization, as well as its democratic and economic development.
This type of „census” was selected because, in recent years, the concept of generations has popped up frequently in discussions on how to understand today’s citizens and how Romania sees its future.
Millennials have received the greatest attention, from books to studies and articles, all in an effort to highlight some patterns that, in the end, might explain certain economic and social behaviors.
Today, companies compete in developing the best strategies to attract new generations. Marketing agencies go above and beyond to develop new and innovative customer loyalty plans for Millennials.
Although generations are often characterized by the same time frame, in actuality, there are significant regional variations in their behavior and characteristics.
The primary concerns we seek to address in this visual project are what generations in Romania look like from a broad social and economic perspective and what Romania looks like in the present generation.
Romania has a special category of Gen Xers. They are called „Decreții” – English meaning: those born after the Decree (Decree 770 was a decree of the communist Romanian government of Nicolae Ceaușescu, signed in 1967. It banned abortion and contraception for the sake of a new and large Romanian population).
Thus, Romania has a whole sub-generation of „children born out of patriotic duty”.
This is why Generation X, individuals born between 1965 and 1980, dominate the current demographic structure of the country. The majority of them were born shortly after the signing of Decree 770 and are 52-53 years old (in 2021).
The charts below show the country’s entire demographic structure, broken down by age and gender.
Distribution of the population by generation (number of people, in 2021):
A quarter of the resident population, or more than 4.6 million individuals, are Generation Xers. 21% are Baby Boomers, whereas 20% are Millennials. The Alpha Generation, the children of the Millennials, is the smallest population group, as a result of the low birth rates of the past years.
Moreover, the number of births has decreased drastically since 1990. The lowest number of births in the last 30 years was reported in 2021. In 1990, there were 314 thousand births, but in 2021, there were only 180 thousand.
More boys are born in Romania
Looking at the gender distribution, it is interesting to note that, with the exception of the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers, males outnumber women in all other generations.
In older generations, the answer is simple: women have a higher life expectancy, while males of a given age have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. This is why women outnumber males in these generations.
For younger generations, however, the trend in Romania contrasts with what we have been seeing globally. Romania has witnessed an increase in the number of male births during the last 30 years.
The demographic dominance of Generation X is also felt in terms of political representation. The elected representatives at both the local and national levels are mainly Generation Xers. However, the beginning of a political power transfer to the next generation, the Millennials, may be witnessed soon. Millennials have begun to actively participate in political campaigns in the last several rounds of elections, and they have garnered a large number of supporters.
The charts below depict the generational distribution in the Parliament (Senate and Chamber of Deputies), county councils, and city halls in major cities.
Distribution of MPs, heads of county councils, and mayors in major cities, by generation and gender (number):
Generation X is dominant in both chambers of the Romanian Parliament. The Chamber of Deputies was led by a Generation X majority in the last two rounds of general elections. In 2012 and 2016, Generation X had 49% of the total seats.
That being said, Millennials nearly doubled their presence in Parliament in the last general election compared to the previous legislature – despite the fact that turnout in 2020 was the lowest of the last three rounds of general elections, at 31.84%.
Women, regardless of generation, continue to be severely underrepresented. Only 19% of MPs in the current term are female.
Panorama extensively covered the emergence of the Millennial Generation in Parliament here.
Group the MPs by chamber, generation, and gender using the interactive chart below. Click/hover on the circles for the MP’s name.
2020 was unlike any election year. It brought a paradigm shift in terms of voter options. It was also most likely the year in which the younger generations were most vocal.
If young Millennials achieved a pinnacle of representativity in general elections following this electoral cycle, many old-timer leaders lost their influence in local elections after decades in office.
Marian Oprișan, the former president of the Vrancea county council for instance, was removed from power after a staggering 20 years in office. Cătălin Toma, who was 12 years younger than Oprişan, replaced him.
In Iași, Costel Alexe, a 39-year-old Millennial, succeeded Maricel Popa, a Baby Boomer who served as president of the county council from 2016 to 2020.
Maramureș county has the youngest county council president. Ionel Ovidiu Bogdan, who is 35 years of age, took over as county president after Gabriel Valer Zetea, a Generation Xer, completed his four-year tenure.
When we draw the line, 26 county councils (out of 41) are governed by Generation Xers, while just 4 are led by Millennials, but the difference is significant compared to previous elections, and it will continue to increase in the coming years.
In terms of gender representation, there are just two women who lead county councils, both of whom are Generation Xers.
Immediately after the 2020 local elections, the media outlets debated extensively the number of town halls that, for the first time ever, were led by relatively young mayors. Of course, since then, some of them have been subject to criticism and not everyone was impressed by their performance. Some also see here a possible result of the high expectations people had when they voted for a completely new generation.
In 2020, a 25-year-old man defeated a mayor who had served for more than 20 years in Cenad, a commune in Timiș county. The youngest mayor in the history of Sibiu county was also elected in 2020, at the age of 29.
In comparison to previous election years, 2020 saw a record number of Millennials win an election – in many cases, they were significantly younger than their predecessors.
In total, seven Millennials presently serve as mayors in major Romanian cities (municipalities).
Bacău has the youngest mayor of any major city. Lucian Daniel Stanciu Viziteu was 36 years old when he was elected mayor of Bacău.
Other cities with mayors who were between the ages of 37 and 39 when they assumed office include Oradea, Piatra Neamț, Botoşani, Galaţi, Slatina, and Timișoara.
Generation X has 25 representatives as mayors for major cities, whereas Baby Boomers have only nine.
Consumption patterns in Romania, like everywhere else, have evolved with the younger generations. Without a doubt, Millennials and Generation Z have impacted the retail market through differences in consumption when compared to previous generations, thus prompting manufacturers and sellers of goods and services to develop new loyalty and retention strategies.
Millennials make more money than Generation X in Romania, despite the fact that they are not yet the largest consumer group. The majority of this money is spent online.
The chart below shows and compares the gross monthly average income of the youngest and oldest members of each generation in 2020 (data source: National Institute of Statistics).
According to the National Institute of Statistics, 35-40-year-olds had the highest gross income in 2020. These groups of people are the early Millennial generation. It is also the age group with the largest income gap between men and women.
Romania actually ranks among the last places in European statistics in terms of the wage gap between women and men. What could cause such a low pay gap? One possible explanation is the fact that the labor market participation rate of women in Romania is among the lowest in the EU.
Men and women face wage disparities from the moment they enter the workforce.
Generation X, on the other hand, does not see such systematic differences between the income of women and men. On the contrary, the wage gap is essentially non-existent.
As for the Baby Boomers, women eventually end up making more money than men of similar age just a few years before retirement.
Except for Giurgiu and Gorj counties, where the majority of company owners and stockholders are Millennials, all other Romanian counties are dominated by Generation Xers.
Generation Z seems to have an entrepreneurial prowess, which is particularly prevalent in Bistrita Năsăud and Giurgiu, where 12% of shareholders and company owners are younger than 29 years old.
Covasna County is dominated by Baby Boomers. Here, 22% of shareholders and firm owners are over 60 years old, while another 22% are between 50 and 59 years old.
The graph below shows the age distribution of shareholders and company owners.
The generations left outside the labor sphere, pensioners and children, are prone to the risk of poverty.
Romania ranks first in the European Union in terms of risk of poverty, with more than 35% of the population exposed to this danger.
If we look at the strengths of each generation, things are apparently simple. Generation X is numerically dominating, younger generations are small and getting smaller, Millennials will soon dominate the political landscape, while they continue to have the highest incomes. Aside from the demographic, political, and economic profiles, each generation has its own set of behaviors and attitudes.
The environment in which each generation grew up, as well as the major events that impacted the childhood and adolescence phase of different age groups strongly influence these behaviors.
The infographics below show, comparatively, how Romania and the world changed and put an emphasis on when these changes were felt in the lives of different generations. We do this to better understand what kinds of attitudes could drive these changes.
The Baby Boomer generation grew up when three-quarters of the country’s population lived in villages. Only after the age of 40 did these Romanians find themselves in a country where the rate of urbanization exceeded 50%. With childhood and adolescence spent in the village, the first stage of their adulthood process took place in the background of Romania’s rapid industrialization. In such a setting, it was rather evident what they were going to do after graduating from school (assuming they went to school at all), because the cities were becoming major industrial hubs.
However, the following generations grew up in a much more urbanized Romania, with all the changes this implied to people’s way of life and career. Millennial children, on the other hand, grew up in an urbanized country, open to modern development.
Romania ranks last in Europe in terms of human rights and civil liberties during the Baby Boomer Generation’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. These Romanians grew up without knowing they had rights and freedoms, and even if they believed they did, it didn’t matter in the slightest. This made them more obedient citizens, who would relate differently to the state and institutions even after the fall of communism. It was after the age of 50 when they understood what it meant to have basic rights.
Millennials, on the other hand, grew up in a free society, guided by parents who had experienced and understood restrictions and limitations. They tried to explore for themselves the freedom of a democratic society free of oppression.
Generation Z is the first generation in Romania to have never lived a day under an authoritarian regime – with all that this means for human rights and the perception of the role within the state in the life of the citizen.
As Panorama also demonstrated in this interactive material, Millennials and Generation Z are living in the most prosperous era in the country’s recorded history. Although they were caught up in the 2008 economic crisis, some of them were too young to be impacted in their own finances. The subsequent economic recovery coincided with the accelerated development of technology, which, for these generations, meant an increase in opportunities.
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