The Roma make up the largest and most vulnerable minority group in Eastern Europe. Although exact population estimates vary, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia have the highest shares of Roma within the overall population in the entire European Union. Roma communities are subject to considerable economic vulnerability, reflecting a complex set of interrelated challenges. In Eastern Europe, for example, 71% or more of Roma households live in deep poverty. Although many of these families reside in highly developed countries they nonetheless have to cope with levels of poverty and deprivation on par with the poorest areas of the world, and face bleak economic prospects due to persistent unemployment and low levels of education. The gap between a Roma family and an average European family broadens every day.
In all Roma households, household members suffer from hunger. The odds of graduating secondary school are 29 percent at the highest, and much lower in some of the countries in the region, especially among girls. In addition, less than half of all Roma men and a quarter or less of all Roma women can find jobs. At the root of these unequal outcomes lies a fundamentally unfair playing field, starting at birth and continuing throughout the lives of most Roma individuals. This spurs a self-perpetuating cycle of unequal opportunities, ethnic discrimination and stifled aspirations.
Addressing these deep inequalities for the Roma is a key human rights issue, but also a smart economic strategy for the countries concerned: with the rapidly aging populations in Eastern Europe, up to 10-20 percent of new labor market entrants in these countries are young Roma. Getting this group into jobs would increase national GDP levels as well as government revenues substantially.
The World Bank Group is working with partner organizations to redress many of the main economic and social issues faced by Roma around the globe. The World Bank focuses on three key areas to address Roma issues in the context of its work on poverty and economic development in Eastern Europe by:
- building evidence through data collection, analysis and field work, and provide evidence-based policy lessons for Roma Inclusion;
- developing partnerships and strengthening institutions;
- scaling up viable approaches and mainstreaming ethnicity into policy;
In all of its work, the World Bank emphasizes partnerships with international and local organizations, bringing diverse interests and stakeholders together. Partnerships have been established with the European Commission, UNDP, UNICEF, national governments, and civil society organizations like the Open Society Institute and REF. Many areas of engagement are also at the heart of Europe's 2020 strategy for Smart and Inclusive Growth.
The Diagnostics and Policy Advice for Supporting Roma Inclusion in Romania
Gender dimensions of Roma inclusion : perspectives from four Roma communities in Bulgaria
Diagnostics and policy advice on the integration of Roma in the Slovak Republic (Vol. 1 of 2)