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Romania Table of Contents


Rural-Urban Migration

Romania's cities swelled not from natural increase but from migration. Already by 1966, almost one-third of the population resided in places where they had not been born, and fully 60 percent of the residents of the seven largest cities had been born elsewhere. Collectivization cut ties to the land, forcing the young and able-bodied to factories in the major cities (see Agriculture , ch. 3). Industrialization proceeded apace, focusing on rapid accumulation and quick return on investment, thus favoring towns with plants and infrastructure already in place. During the period from 1968 to 1973, nearly 2 million people migrated from one location to another, with rural-urban migrants a clear two-thirds majority.

Although the rate of natural increase in urban places continued to be largely insignificant, migrant-based urban growth was sustained, and rural areas lost population. Net population loss in the countryside grew from 6.3 per 1,000 in 1968 to 9.8 per 1,000 in 1973. Most of the movement was intraregional, drawing people away from small villages in the mountains and agricultural areas in the southern and western plains. Migration losses were particularly heavy in Moldavia, Muntenia, and Maramures.

Attempts to control migration to major cities were made as early as the early 1950s. With the advent of communist power, all Romanians fourteen years of age or older were issued identity cards, which indicated place of residence. Subsequently, restrictions were placed on establishing legal residence in the larger towns. To take up residence in any new place, it became necessary to obtain a visa from the local police. Only a few reasons could justify the issuance of the necessary visa. Work could suffice as a reason to move to a "closed city" only if the applicant's commuting distance exceeded thirty kilometers--and then only if a legal resident of that city could not be found to fill the position. A few family-associated reasons were considered valid. Newly married couples could obtain visas if one of the spouses had been a legal resident before marriage. Dependent children were permitted to join their parents, and until the 1980s, pensioners could move in with their children. Later, the elderly were prevented from joining their children.

Government restrictions, however, were not effective in controlling migration to the large closed cities. On the contrary, official estimates of population growth in those cities during the 1966-77 period, as compared to growth actually realized, suggest an amazing lack of awareness, much less direct control of population movements. Predictions for 1977 populations in those cities, based on 1966 census data adjusted for births, deaths, and registered migration, were in every case underestimated--on the average by 14 percent. The population of Bucharest, where one might expect the most effective control, was underestimated by some 200,000 inhabitants.

Data as of July 1989