Abstract

This article addresses the topic of the state obligation to guarantee the minimum economic necessary standard of living, from a double perspective – the legal and the economic one. It analyzes the extent to which constitutional law has more than a declaratory effect of the desire of the state apparatus to ensure its inhabitants a minimum economic standard of living, representing an actual obligation manifested by the regulation of the minimum wage, by providing free access to education, by ensuring proper functioning of the social security and health systems. One cannot overlook the concept of entrepreneurial social responsibility which, depending on the legislative policy on the matter, may be an obligation or an optional choice for responsible entrepreneurial conduct.

Keywords: standard of living, Constitution of Romania, human rights

In accordance with the Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language, second edition (1998), the standard of living represents the degree of development of the living conditions characteristic of a person or community, or their standard of living at a given moment.

 

MATHERIAL AND METHOD

For the elaboration of this article, the author has studied the conventions regulating human rights in light of some historic acts underlying this matter, such as Habeas Corpus and Bill of Rights (1679, 1689 – in the UK), the Declaration of Independence of the United States (1776) and especially the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789).

 

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The standard of living of the population evaluates the economic and objective dimension of the quality of life. This dimension may not be absent when presenting a complete picture of a population’s quality of life. The standard of living means all the economic and non-economic, social, cultural and political conditions which society creates for its members, but also the ability and skills of individuals to meet their needs as well as possible from their own income. The defining aspects of the standard of living are related to: level and evolution of income; level and evolution of prices of the goods and services which make up the population consumption; level and structure of good and service consumption; working and leisure conditions; housing; state of health and access to insurance services; education and access to culture and art, etc. What people believe that a “decent standard of living” represents is an essential element when living conditions are valued and satisfaction or dissatisfaction toward the various areas of the quality of life is expressed.

Although the “Human Rights” concern appears to be a question specific of the 20th century, it is not new in the history of humanity. The idea of “Human Rights” has its roots from the most ancient times such as the year 300 B.C., in the Greco-Roman philosophy founded by Zeno. Thus, every individual is encouraged to affirm their own dignity. Those documents were based on philosophies on personal freedom and political freedom of modern English philosophers.

The French Revolution in 1789 proposed another important document: The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. From the Greek historians onwards, humanity has not ceased to endeavour to formulate what we call today the rights of the individual. At the beginning, efforts were rather philosophical. Later on, the famous Habeas Corpus and Bill of Rights (1679, 1689 – in the UK), the Declaration of Independence of the United States (1776) and especially the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) became actual landmarks in our history.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on December 10, 1948, by Resolution 217 adopted within the third session of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization. By a historic act, the Assembly asked all Member States to publish the text of the Declaration which, thereafter, was to be disseminated, exposed, read and commented on in schools and other education institutions, irrespective of the political condition of countries or territories”. Throughout this document, universal human rights are presented as a legal behavioural code for promoting collective awareness and as representations of integration, as they create a link between particular to universal. The Declaration consists of a PreambleHYPERLINK „https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preambul”  and thirty articles defining the rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also the first segment of the International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol (during the last Convention) adopted by the General Assembly in 1966.

According to the first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognition of human rights and human dignity is the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.  The first two articles of the Universal Declaration state that all human beings, without distinction of any kind, are born free and equal in dignity and rights and set forth the basic principles of equality and non-discrimination in terms of the right to enjoy the fundamental human rights and freedoms. The following nineteen articles deal with civil and political rights which each person is entitled to.

These are: the right to life, liberty and security, the freedom of not being held in slavery or servitude, the right not to be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, recognition everywhere as a person before the law, equal protection of the law, the right to an effective remedy for acts violating the fundamental rights granted, the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, the right not to be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence at the time when it was committed, the right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country, the right to seek asylum, the right to a nationality, the right to marry and to found a family, the right to own property, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to take part in the government of his country,  the right to equal access to public service in his country.

The following seven articles deal with economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to social security, work and free choice of employment, the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring an existence worthy of human dignity, the right to form and to join trade unions, the right to rest and leisure, the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being (including food, clothing, housing and medical care), the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control, motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance, the right to education, parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children, the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, the right to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production.

Pursuant to Article 28, everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized.

According to Article 29, everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Therefore, this Declaration does not state, expressis verbis, among the fundamental rights and freedoms recognized to any human being of this world, neither in the category of civil and political rights, nor in that of economic, social and cultural rights, any right which, irrespective of its title, impose compliance by the international community of a level of living, if not decent, at least sufficient for each of the inhabitants of the planet. But at a closer look to the provisions of the Declaration we can identify aspects of such a right in the contents of Article 23 paragraph 1: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

It can be however stated that, by adopting this constitution, but also by defining such citizenship rights in the legal rules, the aim is to slightly draw attention on what might involve a fair or at least sufficient standard of living, identifying a content through its own provisions.

G. Vedel argues that equality is not a natural right, but the foundation itself of any natural right, as there is no natural right if people are not equal, in other words, if people do not exist, as equality is a condition itself of human being recognition. Therefore, in other words, we can say that each and every one of us, only by the simple fact that we are human, should be equal in rights, without privileges or discrimination, and this can be achieved by assuring and guaranteeing a certain level of living corresponding at least to minimum standards of living, especially of a material nature. As each human being is guaranteed the right to life by the Constitution, similarly there should be a right to require compliance with and granting of “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.

The adoption of these human rights implies focusing the efforts of each State and those of the international community, and it was accomplished as a result of the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966. The Declaration of Human Rights addresses the need for an adequate standard of living because: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”, and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights maintains a similar approach, considering that, regardless of the period from the date of entry into force of the Universal Declaration, there is no need for a regulation thereof, as the main  idea stands in the need for the right to a sufficient standard of living.

Chapter I of the Constitution of Romania – Common Provisions, Article 16 Equality of rights paragraph (1) states that citizens are equal before the law and public authorities,
without any privilege or discrimination
, while paragraph 2 states that no one is above the law. Paragraph 3 points out that the Romanian State guarantees equal opportunities for men and women to occupy such positions and dignities.

Also, paragraph 1 Article 20 International human rights treaties in Chapter I of the Romanian Constitution  sets forth that  Constitutional provisions concerning the citizens’ rights and liberties shall be interpreted and enforced in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the convenants and other treaties Romania is a party to. Also, paragraph 2 states that where any inconsistencies exist between the covenants and treaties on the fundamental human rights Romania is a party to, and the national laws, the international regulations shall take precedence, unless the Constitution or national laws comprise more favourable provisions.

Chapter II of the Constitution of Romania – Fundamental rights and freedoms, in Article 22 Right to life, to physical and mental integrity, paragraph 1 states that the right to life, as well as the right to physical and mental integrity of person are guaranteed. According to paragraph 2, no one may be subjected to torture or to any kind of inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, while paragraph 3 states that the death penalty is prohibited.

Paragraph 1 of Article 25 – Freedom of movement states that the right of free movement within the national territory and abroad is guaranteed.  The law shall lay down the conditions for the exercise of this right, while paragraph 2 states that every citizen is guaranteed the right to establish his domicile or residence anywhere in the country, to emigrate, and to return to his country.

There is a mathematical tool of objective assessment of the standard of living. Two specialists in Economic Sciences have managed to develop a mathematical expression for the calculation of what is called the Human Development Index (HDI). The contributions to the development of this index in 1990 belong to a Pakistani economics professor, Mahbub ul Haq, and an Indian, Amartya Sen. The Human Development Index – HDI is calculated at nation-level and has three dimensions: A long life and healthy life: life expectancy at birth; Education index: mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling and a decent standard of living: GNI per capita.

It is obvious that a long and healthy life is related to medical care and social assistance services of high quality, and the second dimension refers to the level of education (many educated people), while the third dimension is reflected in the revenues of the citizens necessary for every-day life or the number of hours a citizen must work to cover their basic needs.

If a person, by their own work, manages to ensure themselves a social and cultural life, sport and physical activity, physical health, entertainment and a comfortable environment, the quality of their life increases.

 

CONCLUSIONS

In general, human rights can be defined as those rights that are inherent to the nature of the human society, without which individuals cannot live.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms allow us to develop and fully use our human qualities, intelligence, talent and conscience and meet our spiritual needs. They are based on the human being’s desire to live in a world in which the inherent dignity and welfare of each individual enjoy respect and protection.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires each individual and each body of society to promote respect for human rights and to fight for their universal and effective recognition. Individually, in their community and through non-governmental organizations, each individual may promote education on human rights, encourage their observance at national level and fight for the full participation of their country to the efforts of the United Nations to protect international human rights.

The importance of the impact that simple citizens may have by acting together for peace and human rights should not be underestimated.

Over the last years, the situation of human rights in Romania has had a remarkable evolution in terms of both development and adoption of new projects of normative acts and implementation of the legal provisions in force.

 

References

Victor, Luncan, Victor, Duculesu, 1993 – Human rights – instructive study, collection of international documents and national regulations – Part I, LUMINA LEX Publishing House, Bucharest.

***Constitution of Romania, as updated in 2011.

***, 1998Romanian Explanatory Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Romanian Academy, “Iorgu Iordan” Institute of Linguistics, Univers Enciclopedic Publishing House, Bucharest.

*** – http://legeaz.net/constitutia-romaniei/articolul-16-constitutie

*** – http://legeaz.net/constitutia-romaniei/articolul-20-constitutie

*** – http://legeaz.net/constitutia-romaniei/articolul-22-constitutie

*** – http://legeaz.net/constitutia-romaniei/articolul-25-constitutie

MINIMUM STANDARD OF LIVING GUARANTEED BY CONSTITUTION was last modified: iunie 7th, 2016 by Mădălina Brezuleanu