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Experts from FAFO and Babeș-Bolyai University have launched at the end of this year an innovative research project focusing on the process of de-industrialization that took place in Romania at the beginning of 1990 and on the long-term social and economic impact this had on the general population in the past few decades. The title of the research project is: ‘Precarious labor and peripheral housing: the socio-economic practices of Romanian Roma in the context of changing industrial relations and uneven territorial development’. The research team is a multi-disciplinary one with sociologists, anthropologists, economists and historians from Romania and Norway. The Romanian research team is coordinated by Prof. Univ. Dr. Eniko Vincze and the Norwegian team by Dr. Jon Horgen Friberg, a research professor and acting research director at Institute for Labour and Social Research. This project is financed by EEA and Norway Grants and the Romanian Government and has a duration of three years (2020 – 2023).

The research focuses on the northern part of Romania, especially on the Maramureș region and the city of Baia Mare. During the socialist period this was one of the most important centers for processing non-ferrous metals (gold, zinc, led, copper), that was connected to numerous mine exploitations from the region. At the beginning of 1990, because of privatization and economic restructurings, a big economic collapse of the region followed. The research project analyzes the living and working conditions of the population living in this area and the ways in which it was affected by these transformations. This generated big flux of migration, including to Scandinavian countries.

An important theme of research constitutes the investigation of industrial relations and the phenomenon of unequal development that resulted from the economic reforms and shock therapies applied to the Romanian industries. The project analyzes the forms of precarity that emerged after de-industrialization and the way this contributed to the formation of ghettos at the margins of cities. Special attention will be given as well to fluxes of internal and trans-national migration due to economic precarity. In the last decade a process of re-industrialization and economic revitalization of the region took place and also it was transformed into a hub for foreign direct investments. In this regard, the project aims to analyze the ways in which the precarious segment of the population is integrated into the new economy of the city.

The novelty of this research project is the attempt to connect the analysis of industrial relations with the perspective of racialized poverty of Roma during the transformations that took place in the field of work, housing and migration. The project aims, as well, to generate specific public policies proposals that can contribute to social inclusion and sustainable urban development.