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Roma Struggles in the Workforce

Discussion About Prejudice and Discrimination


It is difficult for members of all minority groups to start a career in today’s labor force; however, the most commonly marginalized are the Romani in the whole of Europe. All of us can make guesses of some stereotypes of why this might be the case. But truly, do we know why we have these prejudices? All rationing, argument, and theory regarding the preconceptions towards Romani individuals (and all minorities) go against the idea that all men are created equal and have freedom and rights. But then, what causes this dysmorphia of sociology? What created this inevitable bias in our society? Is it only a local problem of individual countries, or is it a pressing global issue? Let's try to find the problems and solutions and discover the topic of preconceptions of minority individuals focusing on Gypsy people in the labor force.


A Small History and Culture of Romani People

The history and origin of the Gypsies are a ground of debate among historians and scholars. However, it is commonly accepted that the group migrated from the Northern part of India and entered Europe through Persia around the late 14th century. Romani faced discrimination instantly, as their lifestyle did not meet the standards of medieval Europe. The colorful caravan mode of life and the distinct music and language made it difficult for them to assimilate into the mother country's culture. Even though in some parts of the world with aggressive laws, authorities managed to make Gypsies settle down, even today in most of Europe, they are still melting into other cultures.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in most countries, the Romani population started its integration into the home states. However, the slight advance did not survive in the presence of World War II. During the Nazi regime, Gypsy, just like Jews, were sent to labor camps and were also massacred. The aftermath of the two wars led to a severely discriminated Romani population, who today are completely marginalized and are not integrated into society. Moreover, the attitude of Gypsy people changed towards not wanting to assimilate to the home country. The rise of socialism in Eastern Europe, controlled by the Soviet Union, decreased the degree of preconceptions for a time, as Gypsy workers were pushed to be integrated into society. However, the change of regimes and the suspension of mining have led to job losses, particularly in the less developed parts of countries. The phenomenon led to an even higher natural segregation from the mother country’s population.

John Moore Museum

This small history, although lacking important steps, can show how we got to today’s point, where the situation might be worse than ever. Authorities today do little to deal with the situation, and what it causes is a heated relationship between the country’s Gypsy and non-Gypsy citizens. But what are the challenges and reasons facing young Romani individuals trying to enter the workforce?

Discrimination and Stereotyping

Using the word preconception and prejudice is usually strong and exaggerates the situation; however, in the case of the Romani population, it is certainly not. It is important to note that in this article, I am not going to write about the situation of Gypsies at full working age but rather about young people entering the labor market. It is fairly common that Gypsy people, regardless of their education or background, have a worse chance of getting the same position as anyone else. Why? If you are from Eastern Europe, you know why. The environment that we grew up in teaches us that Romani people are lazy and are worth nothing in white-collar positions, leading to the phenomenon of natural hatred towards them.  To be perfectly frank, even I, who is writing this article, cannot be completely free from short periods of preconception. Of course, it is not without reason why discrimination is present; however, to my sincere belief and hope, young people from all cultures are similarly talented, and this is what causes the great problem. The main point is that young Gypsies are discriminated against because of someone else’s mistakes and sins, which leads to social exclusion and a never-ending routine of hate.  For instance, state-level policies only make these scenarios more present. In most Eastern European countries, underage marriages are allowed, which leads to teens starting families even before finishing secondary education.

Education and Residency

It is common in all European countries that the majority of the Romani population lives in parts that are economically underdeveloped and are also breakaway areas. In these parts, education and job opportunities are poorer, and these are the reasons why a big share of Gypsy youngsters tend to leave school for manual labor. While some organizations try to deal with the problems of education, state-controlled schools still give worse opportunities than in other parts of the country. Why do I talk as if it was one country? It is because, in the whole region, the situation is fairly similar, and the playbook is often the same. While the problems arising are complicated, the situation is fairly simple and can be described in a few never-ending steps. Worse background, poor education, early school leaving/not getting the same opportunities, stuck in the region, worse pay/unemployment, and the circle continues with a new generation. This trap only strengthens the stereotypes, leading to an even harder environment for the new population.  Schools are not motivated to make Roma students attend classes, as they receive the same funding regardless of whether Gypsy kids attend school or not. These kids are simply in a system with very few controls over their education from authorities.

Healthcare Access

As can be derived from the previous section, healthcare opportunities for Romani youngsters are not the same as in other regions of the country. Hospitals and the overall state of healthcare tend to be worse in areas where most Gypsies live, leading to health disparities and earlier problems with age-related sickness. This also hinders the opportunities for breaking into intellectual careers, as having to stay at home and help aging relatives is a common withholding factor of the young Gypsy workforce. Moreover, there is a common distrust of medical personnel in these areas. Roma people receive discrimination from doctors and nurses, leading to a lower number of Gypsy patients in hospitals.  

Global focus

It is important to view the issue of Gypsy living standards globally, or at least on a European level, as the flow of the workforce is almost entirely free. Therefore, these problems not only remain local but spread out to be cross-border issues, which need to be dealt with through international policies. However, this tends not to be the case, and countries are left alone in a problem that is almost universally distributed in all parts of Europe, or at least the Eastern side of it. P

oliticians struggle to bring country-level policies and solutions for the issue; however, slight glimpses of effort might just be present.

While economic growth brings a natural improvement in education, healthcare, and social help, and it leads to an obvious increase in living standards, the gaps between minorities and the main population of the home country do not significantly change. It is, therefore, important to focus on marginalized groups alone, and in some of the following countries, this might just be the case.



The Iberian country has launched a National Roma Integration Strategy 2012-2020 program, which aims to lessen the disparities in Spanish society. The Mediterranean country has one of the highest Gypsy societies, which leads to a high need for social focus. The targets of the strategy are in the fields of education, employment, and healthcare. According to the plan, the number of Roma girls and boys attending compulsory primary education will be pushed up to 99%, and the share of Gypsies in non-compulsory adult education (universities, adult training) will be raised to 8%. The second number might not seem that high. However, the previous data only showed a 2.6% share.

Furthermore, the plan aims to increase the employment rate from 43.8% to 60%. The strategy also includes an improvement in qualified professionals in white-collar positions. Besides employment aspirations, Spanish authorities aim to improve health standards for Roma citizens. While this might be abstract, reducing the share of smokers and victims of car accidents is a good measure of the state of health.

Roma population has already been fairly accepted in Spain and did not face as high of social exclusion as in other countries. With the plan being successful, Gypsy youngsters will have a huge opportunity in hand, leading to higher integration into society and overall higher living standards.

Czech Republic

In Central European countries, there are bigger problems than in the previous case for Spain. Acceptance of the Gypsy population is utterly low, leading to a higher need for policy instruments combating this high degree of discrimination. The launch of an aggressive strategy with a timeline of 2021-2030 aims for a higher level of Gypsy integration by improving education, healthcare, and employment standards. With goals similar to those of Spain, the republic can achieve a remarkable and significant advantage in Romani acceptance in the region. Not only is it beneficial for the Gypsy population, but for economic activity.

With Portugal, Finland, Sweden, and Norway on the list, a high degree of European countries are trying to combat the social exclusion of Romas. Improving in this sense will not only create a better idea about the issue but will significantly increase opportunities for Romas. Using similar frameworks as described before, social disparities might come down to a level that can be sustainable for the future of European society.

However, other parts of the continent are not these forward in the situation of Romas and try to be sensitive to the issue. Politicians and policymakers tend not to touch or even talk about the situation, most likely out of fear of losing popularity or the votes from either side.  The vicious concepts of populism and popularity votes have their pledges on the situation of Romas as well as on any other pressing issue. Moreover, Romas tend to live in areas where the majority of individuals are uneducated, and in Eastern European countries, it is heavily used by politicians. By the abuse of power, with subsidies right before elections or food tickets, they basically buy these undecided or passive votes. But why are we not able to deal with it? Why are we so reluctant to favor the obvious needs both on a political scale and on the level of ordinary minds? I hope I’m wrong. However, it might seem that human nature is just too selfish and abundant to figure out a proper solution, and we are more prepared to blame others who may or may not be at fault.

Political Scale

Why are politicians afraid of making a proper move on the issue? As I mentioned before, some countries are more advanced than others; however, they are merely outliers in a population that represents the majority of the globe. The cause might just be the never-ending 4 or 5 or 8 years. Why is that? In countries where politicians can run for office infinitely many times, the process of law-making is much more cautious. Popularity is key in these systems, and that is what creates the concept of stagnation in pressing social policies. The fear of losing the votes of Roma creates a dead water in government actions. However, if a politician can only hold office for a limited period of time, they will not care if they seem popular towards the end or not.

But why would they lose votes from the Gypsy population when they only intend to help their situation? Positive change is beautiful in the long run, but it is a beast in the short term. Longer compulsory education for Roma teens, a lower amount of child subsidy, and a decrease in unemployment benefits would certainly help in the long run; however, in short, it would make the lives of Roma almost unbearable. This can cause a change in political systems, which no populist ever wanted. It is, therefore, much more rewarding to make policies that seem nice from the outside, but in reality, it does not help anyone. This phenomenon creates a standing position in  the Roma integration issue.

Solution? To be frank, it has always been in front of our eyes and has been in discussion for quite some time in maybe all countries. Term limit. One can argue about the pros and cons of the concept in other issues; however, in this case, it might just be the only or most suitable solution. 

Social Scale

We often get too comfortable and blame politicians for every malfunction in our countries. However, after all, who is it that elects the new members of parliament from time to time? Exactly in this manner, politicians reflect the needs of society, and there will never be a change if the population in general does not respond to the issue brought about earlier.

As I mentioned before, there is no person in this world that is free of any prejudice. In the case of Roma, the biggest argument of common society is that the Gypsy population is unwilling to let some of their cultural treasures go. I'm positive there is at least one saying in every European country that states, "If they don't want to integrate, why should we help them? “Pushing the responsibility to others, just in order to release the pressure that is coming towards us.

Moreover, there is the phenomenon of people being hateful towards Roma without any reason, just because it is trendy or funny or they heard that someone heard from someone that again heard from someone that they were hurt by a Gypsy individual. This general opinion about the Roma population will not help anyone and will make us stay in this undecided situation full of hatred and tension.

The Roma Population

Of course, the minority of the topic cannot go without blame either. Some of the prejudice from others is confirmed by the actions of individuals of those very members. Contrary to a general statistics lecture, in this case, the wrongdoings of a small sample do reflect the whole population. It is generally accepted in the Roma population that almost all sins, except for murder, can be forgiven; therefore, Gypsy people tend to deal with these situations inside their circle, trying to avoid giving the person out to authorities. This sequence is a reassuring circle in which some criminals tend to stay in circulation and will continue to poison the reputation of Roma. This causes a false role-model picture in the eyes of Roma kids, leading to the never-ending phenomenon of a sadly high number of young criminals of the Gypsy population.

The Ending Picture

Where are we on the issue, really? At the end – nowhere. While some countries fight for a solution, generally, no breakthrough happens, making the lives of young Romas miserable. For them, entering the workforce is just naturally more difficult than their fellow graduates. They face discrimination, without having a way to fight against it, having them slowly or sometimes swiftly falling behind life.

Solutions? They are all difficult, and the whole of society needs them. Impossible? Almost. But let us remember some of the great changes in history that were brought about by the public, from the bottom of lower/working classes, over-stepping the vicious and sometimes incapable circle of politics. Most importantly, at the end of the day, we have to remember that all groups of race or culture live together regardless of whether we love it or hate it . We might just help the situation, right? We, as a society, need to be more willing to adjust to the challenges of life and need to have the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in mind: 'Remember, always remember, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists’. 




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