Europe’s biggest societal problem. There has not been much progress in the last ten years,” says Andrey Ivanov, an advisor at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). In spite of an increasing awareness of the dramatic social problems related to the exclusion of the Roma and a willingness to do something about them, governments of the European Union have achieved little in alleviating the plight of Europe’s most marginalised ethnic minority.
Much more needs to be done to help Europe’s approximately 10m Roma effectively, say the authors of a new report by the UNDP, the World Bank and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). They conducted a survey in 84,000 households in 11 countries across the continent. What they found was grim: only 15% of young Roma adults surveyed finish upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with more than 70% of the majority population living nearby. Less than 30% of Roma surveyed are in paid employment. And about 45% of them live in households lacking at least one of the following: an indoor kitchen, loo, shower or bath, or electricity
Conditions in Roma settlements on the edges of town and villages rival Africa or India for their deprivation. And most Roma in eastern Europe (where the majority of Europe’s Roma live) are now worse off than under communism, which, for all its faults, at least guaranteed work, housing and welfare. It also stamped down on hate crimes that now flare up in regular intervals.
We are now seven years into Europe’s “Decade of Roma Inclusion”, launched in 2005 at a riverside hotel in Budapest. In order to reduce the gap between Roma and non-Roma, national strategies will need to be more effectively implemented. The authors of the report recommend that policymakers pay more attention to the school participation and school completion of Roma children; the skills and education of Roma jobseekers; the housing needs of the Roma and their health condition. It is also important to focus more on the combat against discrimination and anti-gypsyism and to raise Romas’ awareness of their fundamental rights.
Scientific data on Roma are scarce, notes Mr Ivanov, which was one of the reasons for the agencies to embark on their survey. The FRA is planning to repeat the survey twice until 2020 in the hope that robust comparable data that will help the EU institutions and member states in measuring progress made and comparing experiences. The report’s authors also think that promoting Roma inclusion could help the inclusion of other minorities in Europe. Efforts to solve Europe’s biggest social problem could thus have a more general beneficial effect.
May 25, 2012