SEATTLE — Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The country is largely reliant on the agricultural sector, but much of the rural population lives in poverty. A lack of job prospects and widespread emigration have led to extreme economic stagnation. Though some development has occurred recently, poverty in Moldova remains an issue plaguing the country.
After declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova became the poorest country in Europe. The country is still reeling from the collapse of the Soviet Union and its tumultuous transition to a market economy. Unpaved roads and abandoned buildings are commonplace. Former Soviet factories have been shut down, and many individuals are consequently out of work. Households lack electricity, heat, and access to clean water. Recent economic crises have also contributed to the economic stagnation.
Poverty in Moldova is largely concentrated in rural areas. Land privatization in these areas has prevented access to land and has contributed to underemployment. Rural infrastructure is poor and technology has not been implemented on the scale that is necessary for growth. As a result, Moldovans living in rural areas face a lack of income-generating opportunities. They lack access to the financial and support services they need to make a living.
Extreme inequality and corruption contribute to the lack of economic opportunities for the Moldovan population. The government has proven unable to implement policies to change this trajectory. Though education is largely accessible in Moldova, the lack of job opportunities causes most to rely on employment that does not make use of their education.
These systemic issues have made emigration a common phenomenon. An estimated one in three working individuals has left Moldova, hurting agricultural industries that rely on intensive labor. Young people are needed for economic growth, but they will not stay in the country if they do not see a future there. Many are forced to search for work elsewhere in the European Union or Russia.
Poverty in Moldova causes serious health problems for the population as well. Water from wells has dangerous levels of minerals, which cause stomach and kidney problems and contribute to long-term diseases. Drinking bottled water is the only solution, but many cannot afford it.
Moldova has made significant economic progress over the past few years. Poverty rates have dropped and prosperity has risen. However, Moldova faces obstacles to maintaining this level of progress. Increasing non-agricultural wages and pensions have contributed to economic growth, but these changes affect the most impoverished populations the least. Increasing productivity has fostered economic growth, but job creation remains stagnant.
The World Bank has recommended boosting the domestic labor market, targeting corruption, expanding social assistance, and developing non-agricultural industries in rural areas. However, these are the same root issues that have plagued Moldova for years. The government must implement a significant program to address widespread poverty in Moldova and improve the standard of living of its population.
– Lindsay Harris