Investing in our future: What work(s) for young Roma
Equality of employment opportunities for young Roma is fair and just, but also a smart economic choice: It is an effective way to improve growth prospects and respond to the demographic challenge of rapidly ageing populations in EU Member States. Investing in young Roma breaks the cycle of poverty, discrimination and exclusion. It can yield high returns and can deliver the kind of lasting change that many policies and programmes have so far failed to achieve.
Juncker’s European Commission puts strong emphasis on ‘Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change’ that resulted for instance the youth employment initiative. However, these measures have difficulties to address hard-to-reach groups, including young Roma. Different actors responsible for implementing employment policies and measures, like employment offices, training consultancies and education centres, are not equipped to reach out to Roma and/or are affected by institutional racism and shortcomings. The lack of an ‘explicit but not exclusive’ approach for this mainstream policy leads to a mismatch between needs of Roma and opportunities the services offer.
ERGO's Research on Youth Employment
In order to understand the underlying causes of the low Roma youth employment rate, but also to inspire practitioners and policy makers to invest in employment opportunities for young Roma, ERGO Network, in cooperation with its member and partner organizations, engaged in a fact-finding research in five EU countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Considering the most likely characteristics for youth getting a job, it was agreed to focus on different profiles of youngsters given a certain level of education. The profiles of young people vary 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 or promising practice examples of youth employment measures have been defined through desk-research.
The aim of this research is to provide a full picture on the youth profiles explored through the different stages of the research process but also to reality-check, both with young people and with professionals on the grassroots, whether the identified measures are indeed best practices or not. In cases in which the youngsters were continuing their studies or were not employed we tried to understand their situation and explore their employment prospects.
For ERGO Network it is essential that young Roma themselves are involved in the design of effective policies and measures that can improve their situation on the labour market, as beneficiaries know best what support they need. Therefore we asked young people in our research project to share their stories and their expectations towards governments. Furthermore participants of ERGO’s Summer Academy developed powerful messages addressing decision-makers, employers and mainstream society.