PRISHTINA, March 22, 2019 — Compared to the other countries in the Western Balkans, Kosovo has less inequality and ethnic gaps for the Roma communities, but the access to services and economic opportunities for these communities is quite low, according to the recent World Bank report Breaking the Cycle of Roma Exclusion in the Western Balkans.
Roma is used to refer to a number of groups, including Ashkali and Egyptians, without denying the specificities of these groups. These groups are all considered under the wider Roma umbrella in the European Union (EU) Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.
The overall message of the report – which examines Roma inclusion in the Western Balkans in five priority areas: education, labor markets, health, housing, and documentation - is that a more integrated approach is needed to break down the numerous barriers that Roma face through the provision of essential services, social benefits, and focused interventions.
“We are committed to support this agenda and some of the recommendations coming from the analysis could be internalized in the work program and in the policy dialogue we have in the Western Balkans”, says Carlos Silva-Jauregui, World Bank Practice Manager for Poverty and Equity. “A collective action by all stakeholders is needed to enhance the position of Roma in Kosovo and rest of the region”.
The report has found that the Roma community in Kosovo has relatively narrow ethnic disparities in pre-primary enrollment, but access is nonetheless low. At the same time, it has found very low health insurance coverage among marginalized Roma and their non-Roma neighbors— the lowest in Western Balkans and covering only about 10 percent of both groups. Also, Roma in Kosovo have weak labor market indicators, which however is consistent with poor employment performance in the country.
“Gaps between Roma and their non-Roma neighbors remain wide, particularly in education and labor market participation. This is particularly concerning because the gaps are between Roma and non-Roma neighbors, that is, households and individuals living within 300 meters of each other,” says report co-author, Monica Robayo.
The report argues that providing Roma with the same opportunities available to the general population is associated with potential fiscal gains - like greater tax revenue and lower social assistance spending - and that Roma inclusion is smart economics.
“Roma are a young population, and this youth bulge can be turned into a demographic dividend through proper investment in education and basic services,” says report co-author, Natalia Millan. “Closing the gaps found across the priority areas calls for a broader inclusion agenda that includes Roma-specific policies throughout the life-cycle from early childhood education to improved access to adequate housing and health services and labor market participation.”
High-quality data and research on Roma inclusion to inform evidence-based policies is scarce and this regional report aims to fill this knowledge gap and inform policy making. The report was funded through the Europe 2020 Trust Fund by the European Commission Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and was produced using data from the Regional Roma Survey (RRS), which was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
For more information on the World Bank’s work in Kosovo please visit: www.worldbank.org/kosovo
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