According to the World Bank's Policy Advice on the Integration of Roma in the Slovak Republic [en, .pdf], published in July 2012, “there are about 320,000 people or 72,000 [Roma] families [in Slovakia] and the population is estimated to grow at about 1.8% per year, which means about 1,200 new Roma families are formed each year.”
This large and fast-growing community is marginalized, however, and its situation is critical, in many cases comparable to that in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia:
[...] only 20% of working age Roma men and 9% of Roma women have jobs, compared with 65% of working age men and 52% of working age women in the general Slovak population. These rates are low also for regional standards: they are less than half those found in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Moreover, wage levels among the Roma who do have jobs are on average half of those earned by the general population. [...]
[...] Dire employment conditions among marginalized Roma in Slovakia translate into unusually large gaps in per capita GDP between Roma and the general population. Among the general Slovak population, average per capita GDP is approximately Euro 13,000 per year, placing Slovakia among the richest 25% of countries in the world. At the same time, the average per capita output of Slovak Roma is only Euro 1,400 per year. After accounting for purchasing power, GDP levels found among Slovak Roma are, once again, equivalent to levels observed in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia belonging to the poorest 25% worldwide. Another way of seeing this gap is that monthly per capita output among the general Slovak population is similar in magnitude to the annual per capita output among Slovak Roma. [...]
The World Bank's recommendations look very simple. To put it shortly, improve the situation, and it will get better for everyone:
[...] Roma integration is indeed in the national economic interest of Slovakia. Slovak GDP would be Euro 3.1 billion higher if Roma would have the same employment opportunities and wage levels as non-Roma. [...]
The income of a Roma family (which, on the average, has more children than a non-Roma family) is €528 per month – of which €172 come from child allowance, €132 from social assistance, €130 from earnings related to employment, €46 from pensions, €44 from unemployment benefits, and €4 from labor activities other than employment.
Their non-Roma neighbors have a monthly family income of €773, which consists of €488 in earnings related to employment (the minimal monthly wage in Slovakia is €327), €111 – pensions, €101 – child allowance, €52 – social assistance, €18 – unemployment benefits, €1 – labor activities other than employment.
Among other things, the World Bank recommends “maintaining a strong safety net” for the poorest individuals. On the other hand, the report notes that “in the Slovak Republic, perceptions that the unemployed are not motivated to find work are particularly strong, with two-thirds of respondents claiming that the unemployed are not seeking employment. Furthermore, 40% report that social benefits make people lazy.”
In January 2012, Global Voices published a text on the “‘work vs money’ dilemma” in Slovakia: the netizens’ comments translated in it reflect some of the typical attitudes and thinking on the issues of unemployment and safety nets, and also offer useful insight on why the “perceptions” mentioned in the World Bank report exist in the Slovak society.
Below is another set of netizens’ views on the complex issues brought up in the World Bank report, selected from the discussion that the Oct. 7 SME article has generated.
[...] it is necessary to say that we here at the bottom have no idea how many millions of Euros from the EU funds and similar resources to address the Roma case the politicians have already poured into their own pockets.
ius resistendi et contradicendi:
What do you want to say by this? That it is necessary to give them [the unemployed Roma] more – or that it is necessary to tax normal working families more?
To make it clear, I'm a Gypsy [sk: Cigan]. In my life, I have not asked for and never got any financial aid. [...] All my life I've had to make at least twice an effort than a member of the majority would.
Statistics says that when you are working you have 250 Euros more than when you are not working – it's not very motivating.
So, for spending 320 hours per month at work together (two working persons) our state gives an extra bonus of €240 [the difference between the Roma and non-Roma family incomes]. This is, as far as I know, 6 Euros per day per worker. [...] Why would asocials go to work under these conditions? It would be stupid.
It is also necessary to add costs, not just revenues.
Rent = 0, water = 0, heating = 0, electricity = 0, gas = 0, travel = 0, garbage disposal = 0, municipal taxes = 0
So I conclude that an average Slovak family has much less money for food, clothing, hygiene and so on than an average Roma family. And yet they have to work for it.
This is completely misguided thinking. This ‘rescue’ network is the cause why many talented Roma women get no chance to study. Just when the girl is 15 – papa commands that it is necessary to earn and girl is forced to give birth to get child allowance.
My mother was teaching all her life and mentioned that she had a lot of talented Roma girls, but when they came to the age when they could give birth, family forced her instead of high school to end up on maternity leave. To support something like that is totally counterproductive.
Statistics and racist prejudices have a common foundation. When it is said that “they have a greater income from children and a smaller one from work” – this is supposed to be the statistics that helps to understand the problem. When it is said that “they live off state support and allowances” – it is racism and it should not be, because it overlooks individuals.