An estimated 9.9 million people were employed in 1999. Of those, 40% worked in agriculture (compared with 57.1% as of a 1966 census); 25% in industry; and the remaining 35% in the service sector. Officially, unemployment was at 9.1% in 2001. The economy is in the process of privatization, and in 2001,64.5% of the workforce was employed by the private firms. The government remained prominent in the large industrial sector.
Labor legislation adopted in 1991 guarantees the right of private sector employees to associate freely, organize and join unions, bargain collectively, and carry out strikes. Romania's trade unions belonged to the General Confederation of Romanian Trade Unions (UGSR), a state-controlled body for many years. Many of the new unions joined the umbrella organizations the Organization of Free Trade Unions and Alfa Carta. The eight major unions in Romania include Infratirca, Justice of Brotherhood Union, and the Convention of Non-Affiliated Trade Unions of Romania. In 2001, there were about 18 nationwide trade confederations plus smaller independent unions. Employees are permitted to strike, but the government occasionally interfered with striking workers. Although the law protects the right to bargain collectively, this is hampered by the tradition of central government control.
Most employees work a five-day, 40-hour week. The minimum wage in 2002 was $48 per month, but the government also subsidizes necessities such as housing and health care. Still, this does not provide a decent standard of living for a family. Children under the age of 16 years are not permitted to work, although 15 year olds may be employed with parental consent. Neither the government nor industry has the resources to enforce safety and health standards in the workplace.