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Announcement of Publication: Report by the European Roma Rights Centre

Budapest, 2.3.2007 10:56, (ROMEA/ERRC)

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) announces the publication of the report "The Glass Box: Exclusion of Roma from Employment". The report examines the findings and implications of research on employment discrimination against Roma carried out in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia; identifies best practice measures replicable elsewhere; and elaborates a set of recommendations for future actions. A glass box excludes Roma from gainful employment, denies Roma access to major segments of the labour market, blocks Roma from having access to well-remunerated work, isolates Roma at the workplace, and secludes Roma into segregated work arrangements dealing solely with Roma issues.

Employment discrimination against Roma is most prevalent at the job search stage and in the recruitment practices companies apply. Many companies have a total exclusion policy regarding the employment of Roma and practise across-the-board unmitigated discrimination against Romani applicants. ERRC research, based on structured narrative interviews with 402 working-age Romani individuals in 2005 and 2006, revealed that 64% of working-age Roma have experienced discrimination in employment. When asked "How do you know it was because you are Romani?", 49% said they had been openly told by the employer or someone in the company, and an additional 5% were told by the labour office.

Sophisticated forms of invisible and indirect discrimination are denying educated Roma the opportunity of labour market choice and many find that they are excluded from mainstream employment and limited to work that is in some way related to their Roma ethnicity. For example, a university-educated Roma can be a social worker for Romani families; a teacher for Romani children; or a Roma advisor in a government office, but they are almost never simply a social worker, a teacher or a public servant working in mainstream functions that provide services for the majority population.

There is strong evidence of institutional racism in the labour office structures in Central and South-Eastern Europe. The entrenched negative stereotypical views of those working in public institutions, at the front-line of dealing with Romani unemployment, call into question their capacity to deliver an unbiased and professional service not distorted by prejudiced views. In many instances, labour office officials have reportedly condoned discrimination against Roma, respecting employers' request not to offer positions to Romani job seekers.

Despite existing anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, many companies appear unconcerned to take adequate measures to ensure that they comply with the legislation. Enterprises, no matter whether they are in the private or public sector, are making very little effort to actively apply an equal opportunity or diversity policy. Even multi-national companies from Western Europe and the USA with branch offices in Central and Southeastern Europe, where the law will have required them to observe and monitor employment equality policies, seem content to hide behind national claims in Central and Southeastern Europe that it is illegal to monitor the ethnic diversity of their workforce. Some 70% of the employers interviewed during the research claim that they have an equal opportunities/diversity policy in place but none could provide a detailed explanation of how the procedures operate.

The public sector is one of the largest employers in each country, especially government ministries, but even in the public institutions there is no evidence of a proactive approach to guarantee equality of opportunity in employment.

Governments have not introduced adequate measures to encourage public and private employers to implement equal opportunity policies. Where existing at all, equality policies in the five countries are currently focused on the individual enforcement of anti-discrimination norms. This approach has severe limitations because it is dependent on individual challenging of illegal discrimination, it does not address broader causes for inequality, and it cannot remedy the situation of larger groups of people in disadvantaged position. A pro-active approach involving a positive duty on public and private bodies to identify and address inequalities is non-existent.

Active labour market policies and measures are not designed on the basis that the unemployed individuals of today - including Roma - will become part of the workforce of tomorrow. Public work programmes are the most used and least effective programmes for reintegration in the labour market. There is only a very tenuous link between work in the programmes and employment in the functioning labour market.

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