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Home > Arhiva > 2012 > Numar: 1 > Editorial: International social work or beyond borders

 Editorial: International social work or beyond borders

  • Florin Lazăr (Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, University of Bucharest, 9 Schitu Măgureanu Street, sector 1, Bucharest, Romania, phone: 021-3153122, e-mail:

The year 2012 started with street protests (also) in Romania. Without having an explicit political motivation, begun with the occasion of a resignation of a state secretary from the Ministry of Health, these protests seem to come as (quite) a late reaction of Romanian society to the actions (and lack of) of public authorities or larger the System/Establishment. Considering their vigor and consistency, the Romanian street movements are in line with those from elsewhere. At least two explanatory approaches have emerged– the first suggesting a reaction to the austerity measures imposed starting with July 2010, and the second is calling the anti-Establishment protests (see the online debates ) similar to the ”Occupy Wall Street” movement. The protests against austerity measures have been present and much more virulent (read “violent”) in other countries as well, in Romania being several meetings of the trade unions, but without any important result (some ending ridiculous with party dances). If initially the ”Occupy” movement manifested as an anti-capitalist, anti-globalization reaction or against (international) financial institutions, in Romania the note was a general discontent to local politicians and public institutions considered inefficient and clientelistic. One thing to be noticed is that often the mobilization of protesters was made via online social networks. Another particular feature of Romanian protests have been the nonconformist slogans chanted and the subtle messages posted. During these protests national topics have emerged (like those against gold mining exploitation in Roşia Montană), and some, more recent, international (like those against ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)). If we ask which explanatory approach is the wright one, we may find ourselves in situation of considering they are equally possible! It means that we find both “transnational” features of discontent with the current economic-political-social system (although more with the local one in Romania and more with the global one in the rest of the World), but also reactions to the austerity measures of the authorities. The refuse to assume a political identity of the protesters seem to suggest an alignment to the “civil society”, but also a new one. ”The January 2012 protests” (phrase used on the debate website, are confirming that borders are more relative than ever, many public debate topics being actually global.

In this context a special issue on “international social work” of Social Work Review seem almost obsolete, taking into account that often even if approaching local or specific topics, the viewpoints of authors from various geographic areas (see the special issues of the Review from 2011) can have meanings in other settings too and, of course, international interpretations. Before going to the presentation of the articles from this issue, we will mention a few of the most recent changes in the social work system from Romania.

2011 began with the issuing of The reform Strategy of the social assistance system 2011 – 2013 (Ministerul Muncii, Familiei şi Protecţiei Sociale, 2011a) and of the Action Plan (Ministerul Muncii, Familiei şi Protecţiei Sociale, 2011b) and ended with a new social assistance law (292/2011). Starting by recognizing some the shortcomings of the social assistance/work system related with the inefficient use of material resources, due to increase of expenditure on social assistance as a proportion of GDP from1.4% in 2005 to 2.86% in 2010, the Strategy aims their reduction by 0.78% from GDP in 2013. Other objectives refer to reducing fraud and error of the system, better targeting and administration, increase in beneficiaries’ involvement, improvement of human resources of the social assistance/work system. The emphasis of Strategy is on increasing conditionalities, tighter eligibility criteria for benefits and expenditure cuts. From the statistics of the Ministry of Labor as of September 30 2011 (2011c), for some cash benefits the expenditures decreased significantly compared with 2010, simultaneously with the number of claimants (for instance, the number of beneficiaries of family support allowance and the monthly expenditures decreased by almost 2.5 times, and in January 2011 it was not paid due to administrative malfunctioning). Also, people receiving social assistance measures are encouraged to participate on the labor market, regulations being approved which suggest requirements to participate in relevant programs (such as training courses, health education programs etc.) for some benefits to be granted. It is worthwhile noticing that in the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Strategy specific targets are established on employment in the social work system by qualified staff, according to job description, thus giving the opportunity for a professionalization of the system with (more) qualified social workers.

At the end of 2011, after hot parliamentary (and public) debates has been approved and issued law no. 292 of social assistance. The new law is generally in the same trend of increasing beneficiaries’ participation in overcoming the difficult situation they face and targeting of the social assistance benefits (replacing the old term “prestatii” – from the French “prestations”) to the poorest of the poor, suggesting a turn towards ”workfare” policies, with a (neo) liberal touch. These changes in the social assistance field have been accompanied by public statements (especially political) blaming the recipients of benefits, labeling them as “lazy people” who don’t like to work, dependent on State support and eventually guilty for their situation. Documented and argued viewpoints (Raţ, 2011) counteracted these perspectives, drawing attention that such a perspective is not in line with European approaches of social exclusion and expenditures on social assistance in Romania are among the lowest in the European Union. A recent report of the European Commission (Eurostat, 2012), revealed that in 2010, in Romania the proportion of those at risk of poverty and social exclusion stood at 41%, compared with an EU average of 23%, only in Bulgaria the figure being higher. To give an international dimension, we must mention that these changes of the social assistance system are not specific to Romania, other countries undergoing similar changes (for instance Hungary, (Ferge, 2012)). The argument made above stating that apparently local topics have international meaning is confirmed in the field of social assistance/work too.

The current issue of Social Work Review starts with an “invited article” from two well known scholars on the area of disability studies – Elisabeth DePoy and Stephen Gilson – who are proposing us to see disability not in the dichotomy of the medical vs. social models, but from the human rights and social justice perspective, thus contributing to the development of the social work practice. The concern for the practice is present also in the article from Annamaria Campanini, Liz Frost and Staffan Höjer, but from the perspective of education for future social workers and their professional identity after the first year or working in the field. Valeria Guliman is drawing us the attention to the need for supervision, to prevent burnout in areas of practice requiring more emotional labor, like the one of social work with people living with HIV. Very recent have been published the first preliminary results from the 2011 Census, and they are presented in brief by Professor Vasile Gheţău. The decrease in the number of population of Romania by 2.6 millions in 10 years, primarily due to migration and decreasing birth rate leads us to the concern over Romanian migrants from Italy (the main destination of Romanian migrants). Thus, Daniela Sîrghie, herself residing in Italy for a period, is signaling a new phenomenon called ”Italy Syndrome”, presenting us the results of a qualitative research among Romanian women migrating to Italy and working as care takers for elderly. Professor Stephen Cutler’s article is drawing attention to the long-term consequences of abortion banning in 1966 and the marital behavior of widowers. The other articles are treating specific areas of social work children with disabilities (Claudia Oşvat), offenders (Micle, Oancea and Săucan), elderly (Subaşu and Mureşan), children (Velicu, Stănescu and Stativă), human trafficking (Alexandru) or theoretical aspects (Ştefăroi), each bringing new perspectives of interpretation of reality.

1. A debate on the topic was launched on the website .
2. See the articles published on the website under the topic ”Social assistance – right or charity?” available online in February 2012 at:–-drept-sau-pomana/
3. For instance in November 2011 in Lisbon has taken place a meeting at European level on Peer-review in social inclusion with the topic improving the efficiency of social protection systems. Details can be found here: