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December 7, 2019
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Karel Holomek: The fundamental problem remaining for social inclusion in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic, 13.8.2014 23:26, (ROMEA)
Karel Holomek  (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)
Karel Holomek (Photo: Lukáš Houdek)

The Social Inclusion Department at the Office of the Czech Government, otherwise know as the Agency, is preparing many new proposals for the Government as part of the program of the Strategy for the Fight against Social Exclusion until 2020. New measures and proposals are turning up that testify, at the very least, to the fact that all of the programs to date have not encountered results equivalent to the effort expended on them.  

Among the external causes for this, the official documents on record mention a demotivating social welfare system, the inefficient use of active employment policy tools, little flexibility in the area of labor law relationships, and primarily various forms of discrimination on the labor market. It is true that this determination in and of itself will represent a certain progress should it be officially recognized.  

There is no doubt that this is a useful result of the work of the Agency, who came to these findings through its several years of work in the field and gradually has released reliable testimony about its results which is being accepted in official places - but not, let's admit it, by society as a whole. However, the Government and local administrations have enough background materials available to install programs that could gradually start erasing and ultimately eliminating the deficiencies.

I would love to see municipalities involved in these efforts, but as is generally known, this point is not so clear with them. However, the crushing difficulties in social exclusion experienced by a rather large segment of the population (and at least one-third of that segment is comprised of members of the Romani community) will subsequently force even town councils to review and transform their approaches to these solutions if they haven't already done so.  

As far as social affairs are concerned, it will be of determinative significance to reduce the overwhelming unemployment among Roma, which can reach as high as 90 % in some places, and to curb the illegal labor performed by Romani work crews during the summer season, which has become all but commonplace. Without subcontracts (as is almost always the case) provided to them by the larger entrepreneurs, this amoral principle in labor law relations could not exist.  

Let's review what the Agency is propising, just in that area, that is new. Recently I participated in a debate on a similar issue at the Office of the Government.

Here is a random example:  "Introducing zoned mediation of labor", which consists of a system of assigning job applicants into pre-defined levels of labor market employability, which sounds like a somewhat screwy definition. Simply put, this is some sort of classification of applicants that could lead to more efficient direction of job-seekers into more precisely-defined kinds of labor.  

Then there is elaborating a methodology for introducing a system of "permeable employment" that makes it possible for applicants to work up from simpler tasks to more complex ones. The first rung would be community service, and after that was mastered, public benefit work, then work in a social enterprise that would include a certain level of tolerance towards staff, and the end result would be working at a normal business or undertaking entrepreneurial activity.  

"Socially responsible procurement" in the socially excluded localities probably doesn't even need to be explained. Rather, it is appropriate to ask whether this principle will have the nature of a binding directive or whether it will depend solely on decisions of entrepreneurs or town councils.

During such procurement special conditions would apply that would facilitate applicants who meet those conditions to be assigned to this supported group. I have the feelig that this directive is nothing other than an affirmative action element, which many politicians object to.

The authors of these proposals, of course, are not considering possible objections to them. There are many more such measures.

All of them are reasonable because they correspond to the actual situation and the options offered. What matters now is what kind of stance politicians will take on them.

The politicians, however, no longer have many options themselves. The key question is:  How will these measures, should they be adopted, be applied to the target group, and how will they be accepted in a situation of general resignation and a passive approach to work, given that it does not take even the slightest effort to accept welfare benefits instead?

Without this group waking up and cooperating, no corrections will ensue. That will not be either a short-term nor a simple task.

It is no secret that it is precisely the insufficient connections between the Agency and the Romani community that are its greatest handicap. This is not because the Agency is not attempting to reach the Romani community.  

This is because there still persists a deep mistrust between majority-society citizens and representatives of the authorities, and the Agency is considered such a representative in those circles, and Romani people are at the bottom rungs of society. This state of affairs has not been overcome during the last 25 years in the slightest.

The gulfs in this society are deep!  This is the fault of politicians, who have facilitated the dissemination and generalizing of populist tendencies that are the road to hell, of that there is no doubt.

Today's opinions across the political spectrum still confirm this and it is evident that the radical change that today is really an imperative of the political work targeting society has not occurred. Those who reproach Romani people for engaging in passive resistance may be right, but that is just a secondary result of what has been instituted in this society.  

Correction of this will only occur through strong Romani figures who must be trained on a larger scale and supported in their general development. They will take care of reviving the lost trust and active cooperation on both sides.

This is a task for the next 20 years. If we start now... .  

First published on Karel Holomek's blog.

Karel Holomek, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Agentura pro sociální začleňování, Karel Holomek, sociální vyloučení, sociální začleňování



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