Published on Eurasian Perspectives

No one left behind: Promoting resilience and prosperity through Roma inclusion

This page in:
Jasmina Cretoi, Roma actress born in Romania, sharing her story as part of the World Bank #AmeSamRoma campaign. Jasmina Cretoi, Roma actress born in Romania, sharing her story as part of the World Bank #AmeSamRoma campaign.

On April 8, International Roma Day celebrates the distinct and rich Roma culture. With close to 12 million people across Europe, the Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority on the continent, half of whom reside in the European Union (EU). Roma communities are home to legendary artists like Pablo Picasso and Charlie Chaplin and continue to bring up many more talented individuals.

But often, Roma communities lack access to public services and opportunities, constraining the realization of their human capital potential. Roma tend to experience higher levels of health issues, substandard housing, and lower literacy rates compared to their non-Roma counterparts.

Over the past two decades, governments, the EU, and international partners have engaged in a variety of endeavors to transform the circumstances faced by the Roma population. Investments have yielded some improvements, such as increased early childhood education participation (e.g., from 43% to 66% in Bulgaria) and reduced housing deprivation (from 61% in 2016 to 52% in 2021 across the EU). More recently, through a joint World Bank-EU work under the Catching Up Regions Initiative in Slovakia, the regional and municipal capacities are being strengthened in three lagging regions to plan and implement investments for roads, schools, sewage systems, and to provide running water and improved healthcare for marginalized Roma communities.

While these interventions have been positive and welcome, they are small steps toward advancing the Roma inclusion agenda in Europe. Progress has been slow and fragile. For example, recent research from the Fundamental Rights Agency on the situation of Roma in ten European countries reveals that 80% of Roma remain at risk of poverty, compared to approximately 22% of the general population in those countries. On average, only four out of ten Roma children attend early childhood education compared to nine out of ten non-Roma children and only four out of every ten Roma aged 20 to 64 are employed, compared to seven out of ten non-Roma.

With often limited access to public services, Roma and marginalized communities have also experienced high exposure to external shocks. The on-going cost-of-living crisis, the lingering Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are no exceptions. Much more is needed to overcome the persistent gaps in human development outcomes and living standards that continue to scar this community.

The socio-economic inclusion of Roma is not only a moral imperative, but a prerequisite for prosperity in Europe. So where do we go from here? Based on our prior experience and work with international and local partners, governments and civil society, the World Bank is taking deliberate action along three dimensions to invest in Roma’s human capital and their access to economic opportunities.

First, we are engaging closely with Roma communities across Europe. By listening, we empower Roma, support their ideas, and use our platforms to amplify their voices and to motivate decision-makers to act. For example, in Romania, we carry out regular dialogue with the Roma communities and stakeholders on the ground through platforms such as the Roma Sounding Board.

Second, through rigorous monitoring and evaluation of ongoing programs targeting areas with predominant Roma and marginalized population, we aim to generate robust evidence to help policy makers scale up effective interventions for improving the lives of Roma and marginalized communities. We are piloting this approach in Bulgaria and Romania.

Finally, we are working to leverage behavioral science insights to improve policy design and implementation, and to tackle deeply rooted Roma exclusion. From working with marginalized communities worldwide, we have learnt that building trust is fundamental to making progress.

It is only by truly embracing diversity that societies and economies can unlock their full potential and foster economic prosperity. By prioritizing Roma inclusion, we uplift an entire community and strengthen the resilience and prosperity of the entire European continent.

This is how we enable future generations of Roma to achieve the heights of Pablo and Charlie and realize their dreams. Let's work together to empower the Roma and create a future where everyone's potential is realized, and no one is left behind.


Gallina Andronova Vincelette

Country Director for the European Union, Europe and Central Asia

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000