Social Mobility

Social Mobility

Declining social mobility was another important factor in the growing discontent among the citizenry. The economic development following the imposition of communist rule created considerable upward mobility. The fast-growing industrial sector demanded more laborers, skilled workers, and managers. The ever-expanding state bureaucracy required an army of clerks and administrators, and the regime needed thousands of writers, artists, and philosophers to help create the new socialist man and woman. The rapid development of free education created a demand for teachers. In 1969 more than 83 percent of the working population were the product of this mass social mobility and held positions of greater status than had their fathers. More than 43 percent of those in upper-level positions had working-class origins, and 25 percent had peasant backgrounds. In contrast, only 14 percent had roots in the intelligentsia.

As the economic transformation slowed, such phenomenal social mobility was no longer possible. Fewer positions at the top were being created, and they were becoming less accessible to the children of workers and peasants. The new economy demanded skilled personnel, and educational credentials became more important than political criteria for recruitment into high-status positions. Statistics showed that children of intellectuals and officials were far more likely to acquire these credentials than were children of peasants and workers. In the late 1960s, when peasants and workers constituted over 85 percent of the population, their children made up only 47 percent of the university student body, whereas children of the intelligentsia filled 45-50 percent of university slots. Moreover, members of the intellectual elite were more likely to find places for their children in the most prestigious universities and faculties, whereas students from worker and peasant backgrounds were concentrated in the less sought after agricultural and technical institutions.

Such inequalities persisted into the late 1980s, largely because children of the intelligentsia had better opportunity to acquire language facility and positive attitudes toward learning. Furthermore, these families were more able to prepare their children for the competitive selection process through private tutoring. Some resorted to bribery to obtain special consideration for their children. A child from an intellectual family had a 70 percent chance of entering the university; the child of a worker or peasant had only a 10 percent chance.

Despite the regime's repeated assaults on the intelligentsia and the ideological efforts to elevate the status of blue-collar work, most citizens continued to aspire to intellectual professions. Studies conducted in the 1970s at the height of the ideological crusade against intellectualism and the privileged class revealed that the majority of young Romanians planned to pursue higher education. Virtually none declared any desire for a blue-collar career. And yet as a consequence of the party's effort to channel more of the population into production jobs, opportunities for professional careers grew increasingly rare. Enrollment in technical schools had increased to 124,000 by the end of 1970, which provided a surfeit of low-paid, low-status engineers.

In the 1980s, it appeared that the boundaries between the social strata were beginning to harden. Research conducted in the mid-1980s suggested that some 87 percent of citizens born into the working class remained blue-collar workers. The intelligentsia showed an even greater degree of self-reproduction, and the rate of downward mobility from the intellectual elite into other social categories was remarkably low--lower in fact than in any other European member of Comecon. The hardening stratification along traditional lines gave evidence of a growing class consciousness, which was most evident among the intelligentsia, whose values, attitudes, and interests differed from those of other segments of society. Workers, too, exhibited increased class consciousness, as their aspirations and expectations went unfulfilled. Not only did social mobility in general decrease, it also declined within the working class itself, creating greater potential for social unrest.

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