The Mid-term Review of the EU Roma Framework
With a few exceptions, it seems that the mid-term review of the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 (hereinafter MT) received little attention in the “pro-Roma” social media space. In his ERRC blog post Is the EU Roma Framework floundering? Commission reports patchy progress, limited impact and rising racism, Bernard Rorke writes about the “disinterest, perfidy and bad faith of key Member States when it comes to social inclusion”. In the EU Observer, Nikolaj Nielsen writes about the fact that EU’s Roma policy struggles to produce results.
What is of interest for me currently is to look at the Roma youth employment situation!
According to the EC midterm review highlights, Roma employment levels have risen in PT and HU, however in other member states “changes are smaller or even negative”. The neither in employment, education or training rate among young Roma “remains alarmingly high and has actually risen in several Member States (51-77 % in ES, HR, BG, SK, RO, CZ and HU, with only PT showing a clear decline)”. These results are intriguing considering the existing strategies and instruments both at the European and National level!
As you may know, on the one hand there are European youth employment initiatives which have no binding character on the Member States, however they expressed their explicit commitment in enhancing youth employment; on the other hand, at the national level, either because of these EU initiatives or because of other national priorities, problems or goals, Member States have their national strategies and measures for youth employment. In theory, Roma youth should be eligible to benefit from youth employment measures in their countries of residence (sometimes explicitly or not).
In the following, I will briefly exemplify few of them and refer to their main aims and targets.
1.1. European Level strategies and instruments
The employment rate of the population aged 20-64 should increase from the current 69% to at least 75%, including through the greater involvement of women, older workers and the better integration of migrants in the work force;
Skills Guarantee/Upskilling Pathways
It aims to help adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and/or acquire a broader set of skills by progressing towards an upper secondary qualification or equivalent. It targets adults with a low level of skills, e.g. those without upper secondary education and who are not eligible for Youth Guarantee support. They may be in employment, unemployed or economically inactive, with a need to strengthen basic skills. Member States may define priority target groups for this initiative depending on the national circumstances.
European Platform Against Poverty
At EU level, the Commission will work: To design and implement programmes to promote social innovation for the most vulnerable, in particular by providing innovative education, training, and employment opportunities for deprived communities, to fight discrimination (e.g. disabled), and to develop a new agenda for migrants’ integration to enable them to take full advantage of their potential;
An Agenda For New Skills And Jobs
At EU level, the Commission will work: To strengthen the capacity of social partners and make full use of the problem-solving potential of social dialogue at all levels (EU, national/regional, sectoral, company), and to promote strengthened cooperation between labour market institutions including the public employment services of the Member States;
Youth On The Move
At EU level, the Commission will work: To launch a Youth employment framework outlining policies aimed at reducing youth unemployment rates: this should promote, with Member States and social partners, young people’s entry into the labour market through apprenticeships, stages or other work experience, including a scheme (“Your first EURES job”) aimed at increasing job opportunities for young people by favouring mobility across the EU.
Youth opportunities initiative (aimed at cutting youth unemployment)
Your first EURES job (a job mobility scheme which helps young people to find a job, traineeship or apprenticeship in other EU countries)
European Solidarity Corps
Gives 18‑30 year olds the opportunity to do volunteer or paid work helping the community and wider society, while at the same time gaining invaluable life experience and job skills.
Youth Employment Initiative
It emphasizes support for young people not in education, employment or training in regions with a youth unemployment rate above 25 %.
Is a commitment by all Member States to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship.
1.2. At the national level (just some examples)
National Employment Strategy 2014-2020
Integrated measures aimed at increasing the employment of vulnerable groups in order to reduce the risk of poverty and social exclusion, while stimulating participation in personalized education and training programs. The provision of support services for inactive Roma people on the labor market can be achieved through the concerted efforts of all the institutions with attributions in the field, while ensuring the access to social assistance services according to the specific need of the person, especially in the marginalized communities including in rural areas.
National Roma Integration Strategy of The Slovak Republic (2012 – 2020)
Support the increase of employability of Roma community members by
– Introducing preventive measures focused on preventing unemployment of disadvantaged groups – emphasis on working with children from families where parents are long-term unemployed with the goal of bridging intergeneration reproductive poverty;
– supporting higher education and qualification levels of jobseekers from Roma communities who have not completed the elementary (ISCED 2) and secondary education (ISCED 3) – support the “second-chance” education;
– supporting transition of disadvantaged jobseekers from the Labor Office register of jobseeker onto the labor market using active measures on the labor market, and projects and programs dedicated to supporting the increase in employment;
– supporting small and medium enterprises so that they are motivated to employ Roma using subsidies.
National Social Inclusion Strategy 2011-2020
The most important goal of the Strategy in the area of employment is to increase the employment rate and promote the labour market integration of the Roma and individuals with multiple disadvantages from a labour market viewpoint.
The primary objective continues to remain to create as many jobs in the competitive sector as possible and to enable companies, via or without subsidies, to offer job opportunities to the highest possible number of employees.
The state itself wishes to make a contribution by offering employment, rather than benefits, to the largest possible number of people also in the short term, in the form of public employment.
National strategy for reducing poverty and promoting social inclusion 2020
Part of the activities should be targeted at developing a system of ongoing upskilling and improving the motivation of people involved in this field, and funding of training on work with people with specific capabilities and children and families in risk; work in multiethnic environment with focus on Roma communities; on strategic planning of service development at municipal, regional and national level; on developing, implementing and managing social inclusion programmes, etc.
Considering some of the above, one would ask: why there is so little change?
Maybe is because of the nature of EU social policy which was not give the adequate attention as compared to the achievements of the single market or the monetary union.
Maybe is because of the fate of Roma targeted policies (see the Decade of Roma Inclusion) in general.
Maybe is because of the fate of youth employment policies under the Open Method of Coordination. Studies have shown that the OMC had no direct influence on government political activities in these areas. In most of the cases, the respective government accepts to take on board certain commitments (as in the case of the Roma Framework) however, the multitude of layers (national, regional, local, institutional) and actors, and the lack of a concrete plan of actions and measures undermine the implementation process.
What scientists and economists say about Roma youth (un)employment?
Some say that training in general has little impact on employment. However when closely linked to labor market and additional schemes (e.g. internships, practice), it has a positive effect on employment. Education also shows a patchy effect: vocational education for example promotes a faster entry into the labour market; over-education can lead to a crowding-out of the low-skilled, higher educated people are more likely to be employed (in a full-time job) than lower educated workers. For the Roma case, on top of this we also have discrimination. In their 2006 article, Niall O’Higgins & Andrey Ivanov (2006), claim that:
“unemployment rates are lowest among the Roma with higher education levels, illustrating the obvious fact that the lower the education level, the higher the level of unemployment. However, it will also be observed that, among the Roma that unemployment rates fall much more slowly as education level rises than for the non-Roma population. One can thus reconcile two apparently contradictory claims – that the Roma have higher unemployment rates than the non-Roma populations living in close proximity to Roma because they have lower education levels, and that Roma have higher unemployment rates because they face discrimination in the labour market.”
Vera Messing and others (2013), in their paper “Active Labor Market Policies With An Impact Potential On Roma Employment In Five Countries Of The EU” identified the following causes behind high unemployment rates:
1) lack of general education and vocational qualification valued on the labor market;
2) residential segregation and marginalization;
3) exclusion from the primary labor market and relegation of activ ities to the grey economy;
4) significant gender gap, (i.e. besides low rate of employment among Roma man, Roma women are even more excluded from the labor market);
5) extent of labor market discrimination.
Similar findings have been found also by Gabor Kertesi and Gabor Kezdi (2011), who are talking about the:
1) low competitiveness of the Roma labour force
2) the labour market conditions in the parts of the country where Roma live (there might be fewer jobs available)
3) discrimination in general, due to the Roma ethnic affiliation
4) inadequate skills
5) BUT also the lack of educational opportunities
More from the grassroots!
In 2016, ERGO Network investigated to what extent the measures implemented under the Youth Guarantee in different countries effectively reached Roma, whether sufficient attention was given to their background and whether Roma youth was treated differently than non-Roma youth with the same background.
The findings of the study show that the public employment services (PESs) do not have sufficient capacity to help candidates properly. The information for and communication to potential beneficiaries is often scarce or unclear. The registration procedures are “complicated and cumbersome” and take for granted the skills and administrative language used in the registration process. As in the case of most Roma targeted policies, the Youth Guarantee does not encourage the participation “of those farthest from the labour market”, therefore such opportunities “are not directed towards those who need them the most”.
While some policy-makers believed that training might be a good measure to tackle Roma unemployment, ERGO research found that the training provided was either of low quality or not relevant “the training provided sometimes prepare for jobs that are not available in the beneficiaries’ regions or teach skills that are not being demanded in the labour market”. In some countries, the incentive schemes for employers were effective in creating sustainable employment opportunities for NEETs; they were treated by businesses as opportunities to cheaply add labor on a purely temporary basis. The field study further indicates that few meaningful opportunities are on offer for those with only basic education. Moreover, the field research showed that if there is a specific project reaching out to Roma beneficiaries there are irregularities in the trainings being offered, including the selection procedure of beneficiaries. Last but not least, a common problem encountered is the lack of information and dissemination of the available opportunities.
What current initiatives exist to improve the situation of Roma youth employment?
In theory many, in practice a few! I share with you what ERGO Network is doing currently, if you know more initiatives let us know!
ERGO Network wants to prepare an awareness campaign to mobilize support for investing in employment opportunities for young Roma. The message of the campaign will be centred around inspiring approaches and examples to convince people to support employment of young Roma and break the stigma that Roma do not want or can work and encourage people to act. The campaign aims to make clear that young Roma want to work and can have opportunities, if sufficient investment is done and they receive the right support.
ERGO Network wants to explore useful and promising employment measures and practices for young Roma in different kinds of contexts to inspire practitioners and policy makers to invest in employment opportunities for young Roma. For this, ERGO Network want to invest in fact-finding to map barriers, opportunities and measures in different contexts, thus exploring what employment opportunities for young Roma are realistic and fit with the (local) context. This work is done based on profiles of young people, varying from disadvantaged youngsters living in remote rural areas to highly educated young Roma in capital cities.
For each profile, the specific context of employment for Roma and good practice examples of youth employment measures will be defined through desk-research. For each profile, a number of good practice examples is selected that will then be “reality-checked” by young people and professionals on the grassroots level. The work will be done in the 5 countries with a significant number of Roma: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
Besides the field work the participating organization are doing, ERGO Network wants to make heard the voice of the young Roma and give them the chance to have their input in policies which target them, by opening an online questionnaire in 6 languages. The questionnaire will be open until the 15th of September 2017 and can be accessed here.
Last month a group of around 20 young Roma gathered in Spain to attend the ERGO Academy.The youngsters spend six days of training, debate and explore of one of the most challenging issues, namely the access to the labour market for Roma young people. The participants explored the issue from different angles and discussed how to campaign for more investment in employment measures for young Roma.