A Place for All

A Place for All – ERGO Network’s employment campaign

ERGO Network is launching its new campaign ‘A Place for All’, shedding light on the important role that employers play in supporting the employment of Roma and other ethnic minorities, as well as on the benefits that an inclusive workforce.

Roma employment – it should be obvious – is important for Roma themselves, for the employers and for society as a whole.

  • Improving Roma access to quality employment breaks the cycle of poverty, discrimination and exclusion and gives people back their dignity.
  • Getting more Roma into employment helps counter widespread stereotypes based on antigypsyism.
  • Having more employed Roma creates positive role models for the inclusion of Roma communities.
  • A diverse workforce increases emotional intelligence, creativity and productivity in any workplace.
  • A diverse workforce builds trust with minority customers and service users.
  • Hiring more Roma is a smart economic choice, improving growth and combatting demographic change.

 

Through the Place for All campaign, ERGO Network will therefore raise employers’ awareness of the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workplace as well as of the motivation and competencies of young Roma. It will also highlight employers’ good practices in diversity and inclusion and encourage others to follow their example.

How will the campaign work?

The main focus of the campaign will be on employers who have been approved by ERGO Network members as inclusive employers and who sign the Place for All pledge, reaffirming their commitment to making their workplace a place for all. These employers will be awarded a badge and will be promoted by the ERGO Network. This will include sharing of their good practices, providing further support and generally giving them visibility. In the future, once a group of employers in several countries has been awarded the badge, ERGO Network members can furthermore organize peer learning, networking and exchanges between these employers.

To not only highlight employers, but also Roma employees who overcame the huge hurdle of antigypsyism – manifesting itself in poverty, lack of education and discrimination by employers – we will at the same time feature inspiring stories of Roma employees from different countries.

Follow the campaign on its Facebook page and ERGO Network’s social media accounts to get to know the first awarded employers and inspiring stories!

Do you know an employer who fits our profile? Contact info@ergonetwork.org or ask them to sign up for the badge directly on our website: www.ergonetwork.org/employment.

 

The campaign has been made possible thanks to the financial support of the European Commission’s EaSI Programme.

European Semester – ERGO response to the country reports

European Semester: European Commission releases Winter Package
What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 26 February 2020, the European Commission published the so-called Winter Package, comprising the 28 Country Reports 2020 (including the United Kingdom), and the usual Communication on Country Reports, in the framework of the 2020 European Semester.

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network warmly welcomes the explicit mention of the European Roma in the Communication on the Country Reports, which states “Equal access to high-quality education and training from an early age is also essential to promote equality of opportunities and to foster inclusion, including of underrepresented groups such as Roma…”. However, we are disappointed that the Roma are mentioned exclusively under education and training. There are no references to the fact that Roma people in Europe face poverty and social exclusion at rates of over 80% in most Member States, that their employment, health, housing and other indicators are extremely low compared to the majority of the population, and that antigypsyism and discrimination continue to be rampant.

This approach is mirrored by the very vast majority of the individual Country Reports included in the Package, according to the review performed by the ERGO Network and its national members. Read below the Key Messages derived from this analysis and access the full report here:

  1. Only 6 Country Reports explicitly refer to the Roma, despite most of them across Europe experiencing severe discrimination, marginalisation and segregation, poverty, poor living conditions, and very low employment, education, and health outcomes.
  1. The National Roma Integration Strategies are not given enough prominence and support in the vast majority of Country Reports, evidencing a lack of effective integration of the EU Roma Framework in the European Semester and its processes.
  1. The national approach to Roma rights and inclusion continues to be piecemeal in most countries, while a comprehensive, integrated policy response, rooted in realities across all social areas and equally tackling antigypsyism, is lacking.
  1. The approach to Roma communities is consistent with an unfortunate lack of prioritizing of issues related to ethnic minorities and discrimination throughout the Country Reports.
  1. Civil society organisations are only rarely mentioned as key partners in the design, implementation, and monitoring of public policies, thus weakening the effectiveness of interventions, as well as undermining ownership and democratic decision-making processes.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, Europe 2020, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

 

Case studies of ERGO members

Case studies of ERGO Network members

During 2019, in the framework of our EaSI funded work programme ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’ (RIISE) ERGO Network members in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary conducted case studies to shed light on specific challenges relating to Roma integration in their countries.

In Slovakia, the Roma Advocacy and Research Centre looked into the challenge of indebtedness of Roma and how a change in the bankruptcy law, which was not particularly focused at Roma, greatly improved their financial inclusion. You can read the case study here.

In Hungary, Autonomia Foundation spoke to mid-sized employers in one region of the country to learn more about their attitude towards employees of Romani origin and their employment and hiring capacity of Romani workers. Read the case study here.

Our Bulgarian member Integro Association discusses the impact of EU Operational Programs on the shrinking Roma civil society in Bulgaria. Read Integro’s case study here.

Finally, our Romanian member organization Nevo Parudimos explored the phenomenon of school drop-out or early school-leaving as well as to identify its reasons among disadvantaged young Roma aged 14–22, who failed to complete lower and/or upper secondary education. Antigypsyism inside the classroom and persistent poverty and difficult living conditions are the two main causes for early school dropout, which need to be countered by positive government measures. Read the full study here.

European Commission releases Autumn Package – ERGO Response

European Commission releases Autumn Package
What’s in it for Europe’s Roma?

On 17 December 2019, the European Commission published the so-called Autumn Package, including the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2020 and its annex, the draft Joint Employment Report, thus marking the beginning of the 2020 European Semester.

In a clear attempt to revamp the cycle, the document has been renamed Strategy (from Survey) and includes the additional word Sustainable. However, disappointingly, the word Social was not added to the title, despite repeated calls of civil society to that effect. On a more positive note, the previous definition of the European Semester recommended it as a mechanism for economic policy coordination, whereas now it looks at both economic and employment policies. This mirrors the structure of the Integrated Guidelines and brings some hope that social concerns (currently dealt with in Guideline 8 of the Employment Guidelines) are officially taken on board in the process. The document equally indicates that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) are delivered through the European Semester, and that these initiatives will be the object of dedicated, separate sections (and annexes) of the upcoming Country Reports (Winter Package). However, no explicit mention is made of the Europe 2020 Strategy, or its potential successor.

ERGO Network warmly welcomes the explicit mention of the European Roma the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, where they are highlighted as one of the groups most at risk of exclusion and inequality (page 6), however laments that this preoccupation is not underpinned by a desire to improve quality of life and respect human dignity, but so that the Roma can better serve the economy. Other measures contained have the potential of being positive for Roma communities, hinging on the right implementation: warnings against energy poverty, an appeal for fair wages and open-ended contracts, supporting adequate social protection systems (regardless of employment status), investment in quality and inclusive education. Disappointingly, nothing is said about combating discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities, nor about access on behalf of vulnerable groups to essential services, such as housing and healthcare.

In what concerns the Joint Employment Report, the Roma are exclusively mentioned in the context of inclusive and desegregated education (pages 46, 76). This is a much appreciated focus, particularly as it also refers to obstacles to education attainment and completion such as severe poverty and housing exclusion. The Report reminds that “school-leaving rates of Roma are with 70% significantly higher than for other categories of pupils”, and stresses the importance of desegregation, promoting the inclusion of Roma pupils into mainstream education through financial and professional support, including educational mediators, scholarships, after school activities, language courses, free public transport, access to early childhood education and care, increased funding for schools working with vulnerable children, setting up working group on antisegregation, combatting bullying and the placing of Roma children in special needs classes or schools. These very positive steps, recorded in a number of countries and supported by the Report, are very much in line with ERGO’s own position and recommendations on quality, inclusive, and desegregated education.

On a less positive note, all the above measures are one sided and refer exclusively to educational establishments, while no mention is made of wrap-around support for families, access to adequate income, support towards quality jobs, decent housing, other services. Unfortunately, the Report contains no reference to the specific situation of ethnic minorities, racism, antigypsyism, combatting discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all (the latter, only from a gender perspective). Travellers are not mentioned anywhere in the document. Tackling structural problems, such as persistent poverty or rampant discrimination, does not seem to be a concern, nor is proposing an integrated approach to the multiple difficulties faced by Roma citizens in Europe. The Report completely overlooks the fact that they are overrepresented in unemployment and poverty rates, for instance, and face significant obstacles in accessing adequate social protection, as well as key services, such as affordable housing, or quality health- and long-term care, including childcare. This trend is consistent with the European Semester only discussing Roma rights and inclusion in relation to education, as evidenced by European Semester documents in previous years. Not even employment is highlighted, although the European Commission deemed it the worst-performing of the four thematic areas under the Eu Framework for Roma Integration Strategies (employment, education, health, housing).

The lack of coordination and complete disconnect between the implementation and monitoring of overarching social inclusion strategies, such as the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Social Pillar, and the EU Framework for Roma Integration Strategies is apparent. The latter remains marginal – and, indeed, is not even mentioned by name – in the European Semester. ERGO Network hopes that the new decade will bring closer alignment in the delivery of these initiatives, as well as concrete, measurable indicators for the dimensions of the Roma Strategy, and an alignment with the priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Encouragingly, the Joint Employment Report contains a full paragraph supporting the participation and direct engagement of beneficiaries and their civil society organisations in the design, implementation, and monitoring of policies that concern them (page 112), which is also stipulated in Guideline 7 of the Employment Guidelines. Sadly, this support is not mirrored in the actual Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, where only the vague phrasing “social partners and (other relevant) stakeholders” is employed.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on EU social inclusion and employment policy (European Semester, Europe 2020, European Pillar of Social Rights, Sustainable Development Goals etc), please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

Meeting with EC desk officers on CLLD

ERGO NETWORK DELEGATION OF NATIONAL MEMBERS AND REPRESENTATIVES OF LOCAL ACTION GROUPS MEET EUROPEAN COMMISSION DESK OFFICERS TO DISCUSS CLLD

 On 10 and 11 October, ERGO Network facilitated a meeting between its national members and representatives of Local Action Groups from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania, and the Desk Officers responsible for these countries from the European Commission Directorates- General for Regional and Urban Policy (REGIO), for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL) and for Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), to discuss the current state of implementation of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD).

ERGO Network has been working on CLLD approaches for the past seven years and considers it an essential tool for ensuring bottom-up approaches and interventions are rooted in real needs on the ground, with the full involvement of Roma communities. CLLD processes offer a great potential to engage Roma people more actively in shaping the future of their local areas, through the possibility to join local partnerships that design and implement an integrated local development strategy.

However, research conducted by ERGO Network in 2019 shows that further steps are needed to ensure the smooth implementation of CLLD initiatives, in what concerns both Roma engagement with its delivery structures, as well as prioritising Roma inclusion as a specific objection of the funded projects. Some of the key issues needing improvement, as identified by the report, are insufficient knowledge at the local level and in Roma communities about CLLD, low rate of participation of Roma communities and their NGOs in CLLD processes, and complex bureaucracy, burdensome administrative demands, and lengthy deadlines.

During the meetings with European Commission representatives on 10 and 11 October, the ERGO Network delegation presented the findings of the research report, while participants from the national level further complemented the synthesis conclusions with a wealth of detail regarding the situation in their specific countries. Additionally, the exchanges with desk officers focussed on the best way to tackle these shortcomings, specifically around three key topics:

  • How can we ensure an increased financial allocation for CLLD per country?
  • How to open the possibility for CLLD to use the multi-fund approach?
  • How to introduce a specific Roma indicator for CLLD projects?

The common discussion was followed by bilateral exchanges between the national representatives and their desk officer counterparts. All participants deemed the meeting very timely and useful in the context of upcoming negotiations with Member States on the Multiannual Financial Framework. European Commission officials thanked the ERGO Network for its involvement and hard work, which was considered extremely helpful also in preparing the Commission’s next meeting with National Governments, scheduled for November-December.

  • To know more about Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), please click here.
  • To consult an overview of ERGO Network’s activities on CLLD, please click here.
  • To access ERGO Network’s 2019 Synthesis Report on CLLD (see above), please click here.
  • For more information about ERGO Network’s current work on CLLD, please contact Director Gabriela Hrabaňová.