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Excluded Roma in Slovakia have died of COVID-19 more than non-Roma due to low rates of vaccination, their employment rates have also stagnated

9.2.2022 14:33
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO:  Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)

In excluded localities populated by Roma in Slovakia, COVID-19 deaths during previous waves happened twice as fast as they did in the majority population, the pandemic ended a rise in employment rates among Roma, and the crisis could have more pronounced results for the population of Roma, as up to four-fifths of them were already at risk of poverty before the pandemic. Analysts for the Government have published these results.

Last year, deaths in what are called marginalized Roma communities (MRC), according to the analysis, increased by 44% compared to the average of deaths there between 2015 and 2019, while in the majority population the increase was by about 20%. According to analysts, the difference would be even greater if the average population of Roma was not younger than the average population in Slovakia.

"If the proportion of people over the age of 60 in this population [of Roma] had been similar to that of the majority, then the number of [Roma] deaths would have been three times that of the majority," the analysis said. According to the Healthy Regions organization, during the pandemic's second wave there were approximately twice as many deaths per capita in communities experiencing exclusion compared to those of the same age in the general population.

Excess deaths - as multiples of the average deaths for 2015-2019, up to Week 34 in 2021 - excluded localities populated by Roma on the left, majority population on the right

Last year just 20 % of adult Roma in Slovakia were vaccinated. That rate is considerably less than the average for Slovakia as a whole, which still ranks among the countries in the EU with the lowest proportion of people vaccinated against COVID-19.

The analysts are recommending increasing rates of vaccination. The pandemic has reportedly stopped the significant progress that had been underway in the employment of Romani men and women from MRCs in Slovakia.

"The number of MRC workers has doubled in the last 10 years, and the gap between their employment rates and of those of the majority has narrowed significantly. However, the current crisis is having effects that may be more pronounced for MRC residents, as up to 80% of them were facing the risk of poverty even before the pandemic," the analysis said.

In 2010 there were 24 000 MRC residents employed compared to 50 000 in 2019. "The trend of the MRC population benefiting significantly from economic growth in recent years has been confirmed," the analysis said.

"Roma employment grew faster than that of the majority population during that [pre-pandemic] period," the analysis said, adding that the pandemic has halted this trend. Excluded Roma have long struggled with poor access to adequate living conditions and health care in Slovakia.

According to the analysis, the COVID-19 epidemic has shortened Roma life expectancy even more. Last year authorities ordered quarantines for Roma settlements in Slovakia for some time, which they eventually lifted.

ryz, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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COVID-19, Employment, integration, Slovakia



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