Extreme poverty afflicts many of the 10-12 million Roma in Europe

Strasbourg 17 October 2019
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Photo by Arcoudis Chrisoula

Photo by Arcoudis Chrisoula

The heaviest burden of poverty is usually borne by Roma children as the most fragile members of the community. Roma children living in extreme poverty are often caught in a cycle of transgenerational poverty.

According to a recent survey carried in eleven EU member states by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)1 :

  • more than 90 % of Roma children are at risk of poverty;
  • 41 % of Roma children live in a household where at least one person in the household went to bed hungry at least once in a month;
  • 80 % of the Roma families and their children live with an income below the respective national at risk-of-poverty threshold;
  • 50% of Roma children face nutritional risk, have underlying malnutrition and exhibit stunting and inadequate child growth.

These figures, unacceptable as they are, do not relay the deep human cost of poverty, which restricts access to the most fundamental of needs. rights. Poverty is an urgent human rights concern. For those living in extreme poverty, many human rights are out of reach. It robs individuals of their dignity and increases vulnerability to hunger, malnutrition, physical and mental illnesses, human rights abuses and exclusion.

Racism, humiliation and exclusion are drivers of poverty, as well as consequences of it. Discrimination, whether based on gender, ethnicity, sexuality or other grounds can lead to exclusion and restricts pathways out of poverty. Poverty is more than just a human rights violation.

Roma children living in extreme poverty are often subjected to a life of family alienation, abuse, child labour, illiteracy, long term unemployment and homelessness. They often live in isolation and are invisible to state policies for poverty relief. Child poverty is a violation of human dignity!

The Council of Europe combats poverty in various ways. For example, the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees civil and political human rights, and it is complemented by the European Social Charter (ESC), adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996, which guarantees social and economic human rights. According to Article 30, "Everyone has the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion".

Furthermore, the Directorate for European Cooperation and Strategy and Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) fund initiatives to provide training for Roma to facilitate their access to labour markets. Access to decent work opportunities for all is the most effective way to increase participation, lift people out of poverty, reduce inequality and drive economic growth. The Council of Europe’s Roma and Traveller Team in co-operation with the Croatian Government Office for Human Rights and Rights of National Minorities have organsed an expert seminar on the transition of Roma young people from education to employment and working life.


1Roma survey - Data in focus, Poverty and employment: the situation of Roma in 11 EU Member States, EU Fundamental Rights Agency, 2014

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