How the business world could improve Roma integration and benefit

It took many years until the issue of discrimination against Roma, Sinti and members of travelling communities was acknowledged as a Pan-European phenomenon. In a new report, the European Commission assesses progress against the 2013 Council Recommendation on effective Roma integration measures. Companies could contribute as part of their Diversity work.

This year’s assessment provides, for the first time, an overview of measures put in place by Member States following the EU Framework and assesses progress in the implementation of the National Roma Integration strategies. This happens at a moment, when discrimination continues to be widespread across the EU and anti-Gypsyism, hate speech and hate crime have been on the rise across Europe. In this context, the Commission has stepped up its efforts to ensure correct implementation of anti-discrimination legislation towards Roma, including at local level, by launching infringement procedures when legislation, such as the Racial Equality Directive is not properly enforced, notably in education. The Commission is supporting the implementation of the Member States’ National Roma integration strategies by providing funding under the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) for 2014-2020.

Employment still an area that needs improvement

The report shows that Member States have achieved progress in a number of areas, e.g. education, but more efforts are still needed, e.g. in employment. The majority of Member States reported measures relevant to early childhood education and care, early school leaving, inclusive education and individualised support. But not enough measures were taken against the exclusion from the workplace and forced evictions of Roma have continued in 2015 without any offer of alternative housing.

Efforts focused on general awareness should become more concrete, including in the business world

The EU factsheet about the 2016 report explains that Member States focus on promoting intercultural dialogue, diversity, information on Roma history and culture, including the Roma holocaust. Some also run campaigns against hate crime. All these measures are considered to be essential, i.e. foundational, in order to promote equality. However, a more systematic approach is requested to see tangible change on the ground.

A key issue is that Roma participation in the labour market remains very weak. Member States adopted measures targeted at the unemployed, supported training, and subsidised jobs for the long-term unemployed or supporting a first work experience, vocational or on-the-job training, lifelong learning and skills development.

Promising practices from across the EU

The INTEGROM project mobilised a voluntary coalition of companies, civil and professional organisations in Hungary to help educated young Roma find employment in the private sector, at major companies. The partners are various large firms open to hiring more Roma employees. Roma participants are supported with training and personal coaching to be successful in the recruitment process, while the partner companies pay special attention to recruitment and provide on-the-job mentoring.

In Germany, a similar programme starts already at school, involving intense on-to-one work with future job applicants. The programme also includes career guidance, vocational training, language support, work with families, and employment services. It seems to pay less attention to the transition into a first job than the Hungarian example.

In Lithuania, a project financed by the European Social Fund and implemented by five Roma organisations aims at developing a positive attitude towards Roma and reducing stereotypes, and at changing employer/employee relations in recruiting Roma. Also here, the focus seems to be more on the jobseekers than on other stakeholders and decision makers.

A European success story it the transfer of the Spanish Acceder programme to Italy, which will be supported by the European structural and investment funds. The programme promotes the social inclusion of Roma through supporting the access to the labour market. For the moment, however, the project is in its early phase.

Funding opportunities for projects

To achieve tangible and sustainable results, the Commission encourages Member States to make full use of the new tools and European Structural and Investment Funds. They support social inclusion measures for marginalised communities, the regeneration of deprived urban areas and investments in human capital. Several Member States introduced a specific investment priority for the integration of marginalised communities, such as Roma, under the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF). It allows for explicit targeting and better monitoring of results. The programmes are an opportunity for companies to engage with other stakeholders in co-funded projects. Assessment of Roma-specific projects carried out in the previous programming period under Operational Programme Human Capital revealed that the employment project should be

  • Local-based, targeted to a limited group of people (20-60)
  • Implemented in close cooperation with local actors active in and respected by the community (Roma associations, traditional leaders, elders, Roma assistants)
  • Pay attention to existing individual skills and the needs of participants in order to guide them to the most suitable profession in the local labour market
  • Include traineeships which proved to be effective in increasing the chances for future employment/self-employment and also for addressing employers and co-workers negative stereotypes of Roma.

Future projects will therefore ensure that all identified success factors are fully incorporated. It is expected that during the 2014-20 programming period in total 3,086 Roma (approximately 18 % of the total Roma population) will be covered by this project and 28% of participants will be employed within 6 months after completing the programme.