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Supporting the labour market integration of the Roma community in the Czech Republic
The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs hosted a Peer Review in Prague that brought together ministry representatives and independent experts from 9 peer countries (Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) as well as representatives from DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the European Commission.
Field social work and labour counselling carried out by not-profit organisations (NGOs) has developed into a generally accepted tool for combating social exclusion and long term unemployment of Roma. However, this cannot bring lasting change in its own. The Peer Review explored the barriers to employment faced by the Roma community, the role of the different stakeholders and effective approaches for their successful integration in the labour market.
The starting point of the discussion was the general consensus that, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for a target group which is in itself quite heterogeneous. Effective interventions need to be multi-faceted, taking into account the complexity of individual needs and interests, in order to maintain engagement and motivation. Addressing the conditions of Roma is challenging because it requires consideration of the interaction of the social, economic and cultural factors that influence their daily lives such as isolation, discrimination, poor access to education, services and employment. Special attention should be given not only to the scope of the policies but also their implementation, in order to ensure positive results.
The main conclusions of discussions have been summarised under the following headings:
- Improving understanding of the needs and barriers facing Roma groups in different localities. Actions should be defined at the community level, looking at the local circumstances and specific requirements.
- A number of common barriers faced by the Roma community were underlined during the discussions:
- Spatial separation. Many Roma live in segregated, isolated communities with poor access to transport and services. As a consequence, living conditions in these settlements are frequently poor, lacking basic facilities and therefore, contribute to Roma exclusion and literally as well as figuratively increasing distance to the labour market
- Low level of basic skills/education and professional experience due to frequent early drop out from school and segregation into special educational facilities
- Disincentives to work, linked not only to benefit traps for frequent high levels of indebtedness and pressure to support the extended family
- Poor quality and low paid work and competition faced from other migrant groups for low skilled work
- Stereotypes and prejudices both on the part of employers and statutory agencies
- Lack of appropriate labour market programmes
- Combination of targeted and mainstream approaches: Actions should be explicit but not exclusive. Excessively targeted and uncoordinated approaches have proven to be less effective in some countries, resulting in public services not fulfilling their responsibilities and NGOs providing marginal services. Targeting has also been found to lead to further stigmatisation. The favoured approach was therefore to provide initially basic human rights (such as freedom from discrimination, access to basic services and facilities), following by access to all to citizenship rights (including to welfare, basic healthcare and education) and finally access to specialist services to meet the needs of a particular target group.
- Holistic and person-centred approach: Successful integration into the labour market requires a comprehensive and person-centred approach that supports the individual in all aspects of their reintegration journey with their needs addressed in a holistic manner.
- Importance of community engagement in the design and implementation of the solutions and policies. Capacity building for Roma and community organisations is therefore an important approach and the involvement of Roma themselves in service delivery was particularly highlighted by a number of participants.
- Effective and inclusive partnership approach: The Peer Countries agreed that the complex nature of the problems faced by socially excluded groups requires ‘joined-up’ approaches and partnerships with statutory agencies, local authorities, NGOs, community organisations, industry and volunteer groups. It also prevents the chances of individuals missing out on support appropriate to their needs due to lack of coordination across the range of support services offered and improves reach. Understanding the local context is essential to facilitate this process. This partnership approach, providing joined-up services, is also seen as key to overcome client resistance to engaging with statutory services. All major stakeholders including the Roma community, support services/organisations and municipalities need to be involved in the design and delivery of any solutions. It is important for the key stakeholders to have common goals and work together. An integrated and strategic approach will maximise synergies and produce sustainable results.
- Role of the NGOs is crucial in filling the gaps in provision and improving outreach. However the public authorities are still responsible for the integration of the Roma community. There should be clarity of roles and responsibilities to ensure adequate provision to address the needs of disadvantage groups.
- Strengthening NGOs capacity: As NGOs play increasingly important roles in our society, it becomes even more critical for them to perform effectively. NGOs need to be financially and organisationally sustainable to make an impact and respond to changes in their environment.
- Sustainability: Long-term and sustainable commitments to increasing engagement by statutory sector agencies. Integration is a long journey so adequate funding is particularly important for this type of approach to work, as time and resources are needed to provide proper support and services.
- Evaluation and monitoring: A challenge for this type of initiatives is to develop robust monitoring systems to follow the individual’s progression after their participation in the programme. More studies and evaluations are needed to provide the evidence to underpin the investment in this type of measure.
Participating independent experts
Jose Manuel FresnoSpain
Roman KristofCzech Republic