A recent report by The World Bank has drawn attention to the need to better integrate Roma communities into society across the Western Balkan region.
The report, entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Roma Exclusion in the Western Balkans” aims to present an up-to-date picture of the living conditions and human development outcomes of marginalised Roma households.
Using data from the 2011 and 2017 rounds of the Regional Roma survey, the most comprehensive picture to date is created of the conditions in which this community live in. Unfortunately, there has been little improvement over the last eight years.
The results of the report show that Roma are significant marginalised across the region and they do not have the endowment and assets they need to intensively generate economic gains and to climb the socioeconomic ladder. Significant gaps are noted between Roma households and their non-Roma neighbours particularly in terms of education and employment.
Whist non-Roma households show increases in access to basic services such as education, electricity, water, and healthcare, this cannot be said for the Roma community. The report argues that by providing the Roma community with the same opportunities available to the general population, there are big fiscal gains to be had. It adds that the benefits of including Roma into society should be non-negotiable and would contribute to higher employment rates and labour earnings, including greater amounts of tax revenue.
“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.”
Five key areas have been identified as requiring the most urgent attention. These are education, employment, health, housing and access to basic services, and lack of documentation. Not being able to provide proof of address means that Roma individuals are unable to access services like legal aid, social and welfare aid, or other.
Results also showed that the gap in income between Roma and non-Roma is widest in Albania with a gap of 45.5% between the two demographics. The country also performed poorly when it comes to those attending secondary education, accessing state healthcare, or looking for employment.
Out of Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Serbia, Albania performed badly with the report calling progress “lackluster” and pointing out that Roma have fallen further behind their non-Roma neighbours.
— Alice Elizabeth Taylor