A Lexicon of Orientation: Workers, Commuting and Internal Migration


Data visualisation

Subject: Workers, Commuting and Internal Migration
Location: Timiș County and Timișoara Metropolitan Area

An analysis of the distribution of population and employment categories in Timiș County from 1950 to 2022 compares the workforce during the Socialist Era (1950-1989) and the Economic Restructuring Period (1990-2021). Distinctions among white-collar, blue-collar, and unwaged labour are emphasised. A map charts employee distribution by residence in the Timișoara Metropolitan Area from 1995 to 2021, highlighting how suburbanisation trajectories have been influenced by capital development.

Insights by sociologist Norbert Petrovici

Pre-1968: Economic Strategy and Shift
Until 1968, Romania adopted a robust economic strategy focused on strengthening its currency reserves by exporting raw materials like cereals, timber, cement, and oil. At the same time, post-war austerity measures were implemented to control inflation and regulate domestic consumption. Initially, the proceeds from exports were allocated for the renovation of existing factories.

1968: Economic Milestone
By 1962, Romania was well-positioned to initiate its industrial programme, leveraging on export revenues and austerity measures. From 1962 to 1968, new factories were built, propelling industrial expansion and converting the agrarian population into waged industrial workers. This change encompassed not only economic supply-and-demand mechanisms but also forceful actions like land expropriation, mandatory cooperativisation, and low worker wages. In 1968, a crucial economic milestone was achieved in Romania when the number of blue collar workers equalled that of unpaid agricultural workers.

1968–1978: International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Industrial Development
By 1968, the expansion of Romania’s industrial production sectors laid the foundation for its application to the IMF. From 1968 to 1978, Romania obtained loans from over 300 banks, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. This financial support powered bold initiatives to upgrade and diversify the industrial sector, concentrating on exporting intermediate goods to West Germany. The chemical and automotive sectors emerged as new pivotal economic areas.

The 1970s in Timișoara
Timișoara gained considerable advantages from these investments, observing the growth of its chemical industry as it replaced textiles. It also evolved into a hub for manufacturing electrical components for the emerging automotive sector and adopted high-tech innovations such as domestically produced personal computers. This period marked a rise in white collar positions in management, engineering, and education, serving both blue collar and white collar workers.

1978: Second Wave of Austerity
In 1978, a second wave of austerity measures was launched in response to the global economic crisis, with the goal of obtaining new loans for Romania. This period saw a notable increase in the workforce in low-tech sectors such as food production, and a new wave of textile and footwear manufacturing, with farmers who were previously unwaged transitioning to advanced state agri-businesses.

Timișoara’s 1980s Labour Utilisation
The proliferation of factories, especially in the automotive sector throughout Timiș County and the wider metropolitan area of Timișoara, enabled this transition in employment opportunities. Timișoara possessed the most technologically advanced agri-business in Romania and the entire supply chain required for the food industry. Timișoara demonstrated its proficient internal labor force utilisation by harnessing resources from across the country, substantially contributing to its economic development.

1990s: Timișoara and FDI Success
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the industrialisation efforts of Timișoara prioritised the training of professionals to manage new machinery, leveraging international knowledge and expertise. This workforce played a crucial role in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to the technical-industrial sector in the 1990s. Consequently, both Timișoara and Timiș County emerged as key FDI targets in Romania, marking a pivotal period in the region’s economic development, especially in light of the declining regional and national supply chains of socialist factories.

AI generated visuals

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Blue Collar
Workers in manual labour or skilled trades, often in industries like construction or manufacturing.

Building Information Modeling (BIM)
A process involving the generation and management of digital representations of the physical and functional characteristics of places. 


A practice where multiple individuals share a vehicle for commuting.

Circular Migration
A form of migration in which people repeatedly move back and forth between two or more countries.

Commuter Belt
The area surrounding a city from which a large number of people travel to work each day.

Commuting Corridor
A specific route used by a significant number of commuters.

Country of Transit
A state through which individuals travel between their original residence and their employment destination.

Cross-Border Commuting
Commuting that involves travelling across national borders.

Cultural Capital
A term introduced by Pierre Bourdieu to refer to the symbols, ideas, tastes, and preferences that can be strategically used as resources in social interactions.

Cultural Exchange
Diverse cultural amalgamation due to commuters’ influx, leading to a multilingual and multicultural environment in urban centres.


The reduction in population in specific areas, often rural.

In the migration context, the reduction or loss of a migrant’s skills due to prolonged unemployment or lower-level jobs in a new country.

The movement of people from any nation or group away from their own country.

The distribution or arrangement of people or things.


Economic Migration Corridors
Paths of migration due to economic gaps and labour needs, reshaping demographics and job markets in target countries.

Employment Rate
The ratio, in percent, of the number of employed persons to total labour force.

Professionals trained in designing, constructing, and using machines, applying scientific discoveries to real-world challenges.

The application of science and mathematics to design solutions and apply innovations to real-world challenges.


Factory Managers
Individuals overseeing factory workers and ensuring efficient production of goods like electronics and cars.


A term used to describe the increasing connectedness and interdependence of world cultures and economies.


Extremely high mobility rates, often influenced by modern transportation and telecommunication systems.


Informal Economy
Economic activities, enterprises, jobs, and workers that are not regulated or protected by the state.

Internal Migration
Movement within a country, often for economic or social reasons.

International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO)
A system by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for categorising occupations globally.


Labor Force Survey (LFS)
Statistical surveys conducted in a number of countries designed to capture data about the labour market.

Liquid Labor
A term inspired by Zygmunt Bauman’s ‘liquid modernity’, suggesting the fluid, unstable nature of contemporary work.

Liquid Modernity
Zygmunt Bauman’s concept describes the condition of constant mobility and change in relationships, identities, and global economics within contemporary society.


Manufacturing Operator
A person in charge of production equipment before, during, and after manufacturing.

An urban centre with a population typically exceeding ten million residents.

Migration Flows
Patterns or movements of migrants.

Migration Policy
Government regulations that oversee the movement of people.

Mobility Paradigm
A contemporary paradigm in the social sciences that explores the movement of people, ideas, and things, as well as the broader social implications of those movements.

Modal Split
In traffic engineering, the percentage distribution of different modes of transport.


Historically, the practice of moving to new areas in search of resources; now also refers to modern workers moving frequently for job opportunities.


Occupational Distribution
The spread of people across different jobs or professions.


Pink Collar
Workers in service-oriented roles, often associated with caregiving or clerical work, such as nursing or teaching.

Population Growth
Increase in the number of inhabitants in urban areas.

Postindustrial Urban Economy
An economy that has moved past heavy industry to service and tech sectors.

Push and Pull Factors
Circumstances that either repel or attract migrants.


Quality Adjusted Labour Input (QALI)
An economic metric that considers changes in the quality and composition of labour, like skills, and education, to offer a nuanced view of labour productivity.


Reverse Commuting
Commuting from residential areas to urban work centres.

Rural-Urban Migration
Movement from rural areas to urban centres in search of better prospects.


Service-Dominated Employment
Economies where service provision is the primary sector.

Socio-spatial Dialectics
A concept that examines space as a social product and a factor in understanding social relations, following Henri Lefebvre’s ‘The Production of Space’.

Spatial Mismatch
The gap between job locations and the residence of potential workers who can’t afford to commute.

Super Commuting
Commuting exceptionally long distances, often exceeding 90 minutes each way.

Sustainable Commuting
Travel practices that minimise environmental impacts.

Surplus Value
In Marxian economics, the difference between the amount a worker is paid and the value the worker adds to the goods or services produced.


Working from remote locations using technology.

Temporal Flexibility
Variations in work hours and schedules include flexitime, overtime, shift work, zero-hours, compressed weeks, seasonal, and annual-hour contracts.

Time-Space Geography
A transdisciplinary perspective on spatial and temporal processes and events such as social interaction, ecological interaction, social and environmental change, and biographies of individuals.

Trade Union
An organised association of workers, formed to protect and promote their rights and interests.

Traffic Congestion
Overcrowding of vehicles, leading to slower movement.

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)
Urban planning that promotes developments around public transportation hubs.

Translocal Belonging
A sense of connection felt by those who move or reside in multiple localities.

Transport Infrastructure
The physical facilities for commuting, including roads, railways, and more.


Urban Sprawl
Rapid city and suburb growth with low-density housing, single-use zoning, and car dependence, causing long commutes and environmental issues.

Urban-Rural Migration
Movement from urban areas to rural regions, often due to lower living costs or job opportunities.

The process of a population shifting from rural areas to urban centres.


White Collar
Professionals, often in office settings, working in roles such as management, administration, or sales.

Data visualisations
Federico Santarini
AI generated visuals
Bianca Schink, Alex Foradori
Data sources

Petrovici, Alexe, Bejinariu, 2023. ‘Economy in Timișoara: Territorial Distribution of the Economy in the Timișoara Metropolitan Area’