< Viewpoints < 2007
“Roma job seekers are
[02/04/07] Roma do not get jobs, they are put in a “glass box”. This
is a conclusion of a survey published by the
European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
in Budapest. In Central and South Eastern European countries employment
discrimination is still endemic and blatant. For Romani job-seekers the
vacancies are not open - they knock their heads against invisible walls
preventing them from getting any job at all.
The ERRC study was carried out in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary,
Romania and Slovakia and there are similar problems in several
other European countries. The unemployment rate is high all over the
continent. When Roma have jobs this tends to be limited to tasks providing
services to the Roma community itself.
The study also showed that in cases where Roma are employed, they run the
risk of discrimination. One in four of the working Roma reported that their
pay and other conditions were less favourable than for non-Roma doing the
However, the key problem is that Roma are discriminated against when they
try to enter the job market. The study shows that a great number of the
applicants were rejected because they could be visibly identified as Roma.
Indeed, many of them had openly been told that the reason for their not
getting the job was because of their Romani identity.
Another worrying conclusion of the survey was that the governmental labour
offices were of such limited help. In fact, the study exposes negative
prejudices and even outright racism among officials in those public
This is all the more unfortunate as economic development in recent years has
worked against the Roma. Their traditional occupations are no longer in
demand and many of them suffer from low levels of education. This is
precisely the type of problem for which we need competent and non-prejudiced
These social and socio-economic factors are real and serious but must not be
seen as an excuse for passivity against problems caused by prejudices.
Indeed, educated Roma also meet discriminatory “glass walls” when they seek
The seriousness of anti-Ziganism demonstrates that we cannot eradicate it
through measures aiming at formal equality alone. Roma must reach effective
equality of opportunity with everyone else and this clearly requires
positive measures to compensate for long-term discrimination and prejudice.
Otherwise the situation of many Roma will get worse rather than better.
Special measures are justified when they pursue a legitimate aim and are
proportionate to the objective. Governments should draw up dedicated
strategies which can effectively bring about equality of opportunity for
Roma in employment, education, housing and health care.
There is a shameful implementation deficit on Roma rights. The issue has
been put on the agenda of all major international organizations and national
governments in Europe, for example through national action plans - but this
has not had much impact. Policies have lacked adequate resources,
coordination and involvement of local authorities.
Another problem has been that all too often Roma themselves have been
excluded from the discussion on how their situation might be improved –
instead gaje “experts” have been dominating. This is not a human rights
approach. Roma must be seen as key partners in implementing the agenda for
securing their own rights.
There are now a number of Roma organisations at local, national and
international level and they should be respected by the authorities. The
Roma and Travellers Forum in the Council of Europe has the potential of
being a crucial consultative and standard setting body for Roma rights all
Inside the non-governmental Roma organizations important discussions are
ongoing about their own responsibilities and how to make themselves truly
representative for the diversity of Roma communities, including for women
and young Roma. Activists are warning against allowing the Roma
vulnerability to result in attitudes of victimization and dependency. The
challenge is to transform the vulnerability into an opportunity for equality
– human rights.
There are about ten million Roma in Europe, living in virtually every
country on the continent. There is no single type of Roma but a rich variety
of cultures, traditions and other characteristics. They speak different
languages and practice a number of religions.
Because of anti-Ziganism, many Roma have sadly been afraid to display their
Roma identity openly. This is one reason why the number of Roma in national
censuses is usually much lower than the real figure. We must break all
stereotypes which seek to reduce Roma identities and voices. The time has
come to recognise the contribution Roma have already made to European
This is also the aim of the Council of Europe campaign Dosta! (Enough! in
Romani) currently underway in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro,
Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The next step should
be to extend the campaign to all European countries. Every European state
should join in stating loud and clear that they have had enough of prejudice
Dosta! ' ''Fight
prejudices towards Roma'' Campaign
Rights Centre (ERRC)
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