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.

 

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.

Roma grassroots perspectives on poverty alleviation

New publication: Roma grassroots perspectives on poverty alleviation

In 2018 in the framework of ERGO’s Annual Work Programme ‘Roma Included in Social Europe’ (RIISE), ERGO Network members from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic conducted seven comprehensive local case studies that contribute to a better understanding of the impact of National Roma Integration Strategies (NRISs) and relevant mainstream measures on local Roma communities. The topic of the case studies was how access to quality education and employment as well as antigypsyism affect Roma people’s economic situation.

We have now published a synthesis report that can serve as evidence concerning implementation of the EU Roma Framework and mainstream social policies on the grassroots level, which can support the EU institutions’ work on making the European Pillar of Social Rights a reality.

The main objective is to fill the gap and bring more perceptions of Roma into Roma-related discourses. Therefore ERGO members explored Roma people’s perspectives on the causes of poverty that can potentially say more about barriers to poverty reduction efforts and implementation of the National Roma Integration Strategies and social policies (if any). Fostering participation of Roma in voicing their needs and positions about what causes their economic situation is crucial for our work.

You can read the synthesis report here.

Need for mapping of Local Roma Communities

Our Romanian member, Center of Resources for Social Inclusion CRIS in October organised two meetings in Ploiesti with the representatives of 10 Local Action Groups (LAG) from South-Muntenia and South-East Regions and of 2 newly established Urban Local Action Groups from Ploiesti and Campina, within the framework of the Annual Work Programme 2018 supported by the European Commission’s Program for Social Innovation and Employment.

The aim of the meetings was to strengthen the cooperation between Roma civil society from local level and LAGs in regards to accessing, implementing and monitoring of measures affecting Roma communities in the Local Development Strategies (LDS).

The handbook on Training for local stakeholders and Local Action Groups teams on CLLD and how to increase the access to funds available in the LEADER program for Roma developed by Nevo Parudimos, another member of ERGO from Romania, was presented to participants and it was considered to be useful for the implementation of the LDSs.

While improvements have been done since last year’s meetings with the LAGs, by having Roma communities from local level and especially the urban marginalized communities from Ploiesti and Campina included in the LDSs through specific measures, more needs to be done according to the representatives of LAGs.

For example, the Urban LAGs mentione had to refer to the official number of Roma in the two cities according to the late census in 2016 when they developed the strategy. As this number is obviously lower than the reality, the measures targeting Roma in the strategy could have been more than only one or maximum two as it is now.

Therefore one of the main conclusions of the meetings was the need for mapping of the local Roma communities to be recognized, assumed by each ministry, and to be taken into account in the future financial allocations, with Roma among the target groups.