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Czech management professional on hiring of Roma

21.6.2015 2:36
Photo:  Romea.cz
Photo: Romea.cz

Right at the start of my work with the Civil Society Studies Department at Charles University in Prague I became involved in a new area in which I had not done much research, that of disadvantaged candidates and minorities on the labor market. My specialization is personnel management, and here I must state that the issue of employing people from these groups is not focused on by many experts, with the exception of those social enterprises that specifically target the employment of the disadvantaged or minorities.

There are, however, not many such experts. Personally I was interested in how the employment of minorities, Romani people specifically, is viewed by company executives and the owners of firms.  

Reasons Roma are rejected

I proceeded to conduct my own survey of opinions on this issue. I must acknowledge that I was very surprised by some of my colleagues' answers to my questions.  

Basically none of them had ever asked themselves anything about this issue. That may be the result of the general conviction that Romani people are considered "inadaptables" and, therefore, all but unemployable.

In a survey performed in 2012 ("Diversity or different behavior, social distance from Roma, gays, people with AIDS and others", Klicperová-Baker, Kostál, in Československá Psychologie [Czechoslovak Psychology]) that covered minorities and coexistence with them, Romani people came in fifth place among those whom the respondents did not want to have as neighbors. It can be inferred that this perspective might also be transferred into the work environment.

On the basis of the interviews I conducted, I determined the most frequently-given reasons for refusing to hire Romani people:

1) Low qualifications and a lack of appropriate positions for such people

2) Low motivation to work

3) A focus on short-term results and quick financial rewards

4) Different cultural habits and concern the candidate would not integrate into the collective

5) Concerns over the reactions of other employees

Low qualifications

Most employers consider Romani people to be the least qualified labor force, one for whom they do not have enough jobs available. The low qualifications of Romani people are a result of their limited options for being included into the school system.

Most children in the Czech Republic begin their preschool training in nursery schools. These may be inaccessible to Romani children, even though attendance of preschool is obligatory for Czech children.  

Currently demand generally exceeds supply when it comes to places in publicly-funded nursery schools, so not all children are able to attend them. These schools preferentially give places to working mothers, which means they do not take into consideration the children of those who are on maternity or parental leave.  

The option does exist to enroll a child into a private children's center or nursery school, but this option is unaffordable for the vast majority of Romani people. This means Romani children are not integrated into a non-Romani setting until first grade, when certain prejudices against them might already exist.

Those prejudices exist both among the other children and among instructors. This results in the further exclusion of Romani children from the collective.

This is why Romani families rather frequently prefer to enroll their children into "special schools", where there is a greater likelihood that there will be more Romani children attending and that their integration into the collective will be easier. This downward spiral is then perpetuated.  

At "special school" the requirements are not as high, so these children end their schooling with a primary education only. It is not possible for them to access a college or vocational school.  

Romani children complete their educations without acquiring enough knowledge to study further. This is how they end up at the lowest level of qualification.

Manual labor positions were once held by many Romani people here, who did well in them. However, with the influx of a cheaper labor force in the form of migrants from outside the Czech Republic, the market for such labor shrank significantly.

Another factor that plays a significant role is the fact that more and more blue-collar occupations require special knowledge and skills in order to master machinery that is very often computer-controlled. Here is where the downward spiral closes off - a lack of the necessary knowledge and a lack of jobs for less-qualified labor leads to high unemployment in the Romani community.

Weak motivation

Some respondents to my survey said they see a low motivation to work among Romani people. The least-qualified work, of course, is also the least remunerative.

Paradoxically, unemployment benefits are higher than wages for unqualified work. To work in such circumstances, therefore, really isn't very motivating.

This applies to everyone, of course, not just Romani people. Another opinion expressed by employers was that Romani people focus on the short term.  

Roma are said to live "here and now", from paycheck to paycheck. After they are paid, they reportedly go have a good time and then don't show up for work.

Here I would like to mention that living in the "here and now" is, among other things, a rather widespread doctrine that has been very well described by Eckhart Tolle in his book The Power of the Present Moment. Many people seek this capability, many people attend expensive courses to learn it.  

This mindset involves not worrying about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. According to many people, however, this is irresponsible behavior.

Yes, that is the case that if this capability results in our breaking agreements or contracts (in this case, labor contracts). We have pledged to meet certain conditions which we must uphold within the labor relations framework.

Our employers, too, are bound by contracts and obligations, and if they do not uphold them, they won't compete. If a staffer repeatedly does not come to work without giving a reason, there is only one option.  

The employment ends. "Here and now".

We don't know how to live together

Another argument, closely linked to the previous ones,  is concern that Romani people will not integrate into the collective. A different mentality, greater openness, a different perspective are what distinguishes Romani people from everyone else.

The display of emotions, whether joy or sorrow, is not a very pleasant experience for us, especially when such a display is very pronounced. That is why we do our best to insulate ourselves against such displays.

This applies to both groups. It applies to Roma because they have already built up mistrust of us, and it applies to us because we have the same mistrust.

There is existing mistrust and and unwillingness to trust. As I described at the beginning of this piece, we don't know how to live together - we haven't known each other since nursery school, we don't know how to accept each other as we are.

The final factor mentioned in the survey was concern over the reaction of the other employees to the hiring of a Romani colleague. When we accept a Rom into the business, we believe we must lock everything up, guard everything, pay attention, that the environment becomes less safe.

Unfortunately, this is because of people's bad experiences with some Roma and the generalizations of those experiences to the entire Romani population. These experiences need not have been actually personally experienced by anyone, but come from their general overview of Roma or from prejudices.

This, however, does not just concern Roma, it concerns all minorities. There is no doubt that this theme will be discussed when the issue of migrants and quotas for their reception in the EU countries is raised here.  

The issue of the employment of Romani people is a big one, and so far it has yet to be resolved. One thing, however, is completely clear.  

Both groups must take steps that are helpful. This is a long-term endeavor and it is quite certain that the situation will not change in a short time.  

There do exist good models of places where this has succeeded. What is important is not our ethnicity, but how we present ourselves and what we manage to accomplish - no one will worry about our nationality if we can present ourselves and our accomplishments well when seeking work. 


Kateřina Legnerová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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praktické školy, předškolní výchova, trh práce, Vzdělávání



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