The situation of Roma women: FRA data analysis

Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos at LIBE/FEMM Committee at the European Parliament
Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos at LIBE/FEMM Committee at the European Parliament
Findings from the FRA Roma pilot survey presented to the European Parliament’s LIBE and FEMM Committees show that on average the situation of Roma women in core areas of social life, namely education, employment, housing and health is worse in comparison to that of men.

The survey conducted in 2011 in eleven EU Member States  shows that 24% of Roma women aged 20–64 years were reported to be in paid employment, compared to 40% of Roma men. In the area of health, Roma women aged 50 or above reported their health status as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ almost twice as often as non-Roma women (55% and 29% respectively).

However there are important differences between the EU Member States surveyed that should be taken into account when developing targeted Roma inclusion policies. The analysis also highlights positive developments in some Member States. For instance, whilst Roma women generally lag behind men in education, the gap closes when looking at younger age groups.

These results were presented during a panel discussion focusing on the particular situation of Roma women during a joint public hearing on 18 September 2013 of the European Parliament’s LIBE and FEMM Committees on ‘The EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020’. The data covers the four core areas identified in the Framework – education, employment, healthcare and housing – as well as issues such as discrimination, rights awareness and early marriage.

FRA’s Roma survey was carried out in close cooperation with the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. It was conducted in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. A total of 10,811 Roma and 5,508 non-Roma respondents were interviewed face-to-face, providing information on some 61,000 household members.

Selected key findings

  • The overall educational attainment levels of Roma women are increasing in most of the EU Member States covered by the survey. For example, while Roma women have a lower literacy rate on average (77%) than Roma men (85%), the differences between age groups suggest a positive trend: young Roma women aged 16–24 years have reached similar literacy level (89%) as Roma men of the same age group.
  • Employment patterns in Roma communities are often very distinct from those of the majority population, due to restricted access to the regular labour market and, for women, the lack of childcare facilities. Only 24% of Roma women aged 20–64 years were reported to be in paid work, compared to 40% of Roma men. However, the survey also shows that of those women who are in paid work, 61% are in full-time employment, compared to 38% of Roma men. This may reflect gender roles in Roma families, where women tend to be engaged only in housework more often than non-Roma women. Therefore, the opportunity cost of taking outside employment for Roma women is higher and, if they opt for this, it would be for more secure jobs. This may also explain the self-employment rate figures: Roma men are more frequently reported as self-employed (25%) or in ad hoc jobs (28%) than Roma women (13% and 15% respectively).
  • In the area of health, Roma women aged 50 or above reported their health status as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ almost twice as often as non-Roma women (55% and 29% respectively). However, most Roma respondents did not report problems in accessing medical care when needed: only 5% of Roma women and 4% of Roma men said that although they had an urgent need for medical care in the last 12 months they could not see a doctor.
  • Almost half (42%) of the Roma households surveyed were reported as facing severe housing deprivation, which is defined as lacking running water and/or no connection to the sewage system or a sewage tank, and/or electricity. In comparison, 12% of the non-Roma households nearby said they faced similar conditions. Given the traditional gender roles in Roma households and the higher intensity of Roma women’s involvement in household work, the burden of poor housing conditions falls disproportionately on Roma women.
  • In regard to early marriages, the survey shows that some 2% of Roma girls aged 10-15 were reported as traditionally married or cohabitating with a partner, while some 24% of Roma girls between the ages of 16 and 17 were in some form of marital relationship (5% legally married, with around 19% traditionally married or cohabiting).

FRA is working closely with the European Commission and Member States to develop indicators and data collection tools that are sensitive to gender-driven differences and can regularly measure the progress of Roma integration strategies, particularly at local level. 

Downloads: 

Analysis of FRA Roma survey results by gender

[pdf]en (1.81 MB)
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