The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority group, and arguably the most discriminated-against one. Despite efforts to promote Roma inclusion over the last decades—including from the European Union institutions, governments, development organizations, and civil society organizations—a large share of the Roma remain poor, and have inadequate access to basic services.
Eight years on from the start of the global economic crisis, close to one quarter of the European Union’s population remains at risk of poverty or social exclusion. But one group in particular stands out: Europe’s growing and marginalized Roma population.
The equivalent figure for Roma children stands at 85 percent in Central and Southeastern Europe. Living conditions of marginalized Roma in this region are often more akin to those in least developed countries than what we expect in Europe.
The Roma Inclusion Mobile Innovation Lab (RIMIL) pilot initiative launched by the World Bank aims to create a forum to build capacity to improve integration of marginalized Roma in Eastern Europe through better access to productive employment. Roberta Gatti, Regional Roma Coordinator in the Europe and Central Asia region, reports from Madrid on the initiative.
A recent regional study that focused on Roma and non-Roma in nearby communities from five Eastern European countries finds between 28 and 45 percent of Roma children attend preschool in four of the five study countries. However, the Roma preschool rate jumps to 76 percent in Hungary, where targeted policies have been in place; and this is about the average for non-Roma preschool rates across the five countries. Hungary’s experience offers promise because surveys show that preschool matters greatly to completing secondary school and staying off social assistance.