A persisting concern: anti-Gypsyism as a barrier to Roma inclusion FRA Opinions

Discrimination, harassment and hate crime

The data indicate that the most heinous forms of anti- Gypsyism, hate-motivated crime and harassment, continue to hamper Roma inclusion. The results of the EU-MIDIS II survey, conducted in 2016, are worrying. They show that, despite several years of inclusion efforts, on average, one out of three Roma surveyed had experienced some form of harassment – either offensive or threatening comments in person, threats of violence in person, offensive gestures or inappropriate staring, offensive or threatening e-mails or text messages, or offensive comments about them online. More worryingly, four per cent experienced physical violence motivated by anti-Gypsyism – and, of those, only one in three reported this to any organisation, including the police. This shows that insufficient attention has been paid to manifestations of anti-Gypsyism in the form of hate crime against Roma. Unsurprisingly, this diminishes Roma people’s trust in their public institutions, in particular law enforcement and justice, seriously undermining social inclusion efforts.


The data collected by FRA show that, while in some Member States Roma children’s participation in education improved over time, the gap in educational attainment between Roma and non-Roma children remains high, especially beyond compulsory education. Encouragingly, between 2011 and 2016, participation in early childhood education increased in six out of the nine countries surveyed – but still lags behind the general population average. Improvements in participation in compulsory education were also encouraging, although it remains below the general population average in most countries. Also, between 2011 and 2016, the number of Roma pupils who left education at the level of secondary school on average decreased – from 87 % in 2011 to 68 % in 2016. In terms of experiences of direct discrimination, the overall share of Roma who felt discriminated against when in contact with schools has not changed since 2011 – totalling 14 % in 2016. Meanwhile, the proportion of Roma early school leavers compared to early school leavers in the general population across all countries surveyed remains unacceptably high. In respect to school segregation, the share of Roma attending classes where “all classmates are Roma” on average increased from 10 % in 2011 to 15 % in 2016 underlining the need for more decisive action in this area. Achieving this would also contribute to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal No. 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.


Poverty is both an outcome and a driver of exclusion in education, employment, health and housing. A key target of the EU 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is to lift 20 million people out of risk of poverty; addressing poverty among Roma would be an important contribution to meeting this target. The data analysed in this report show that the EU Member States are still far from coming even close to that target with respect to their Roma citizens. With few exceptions, poverty rates among Roma have not declined between 2011 and 2016. An overwhelming proportion of Roma – on average, 80 % in the nine Member States surveyed in 2016 – still live at risk of poverty. Moreover, an average of 27 % of Roma live in households where at least one person had to go to bed hungry at least once in the previous month; in some Member States, this proportion is even higher.

This calls for poverty reduction policies that blend diverse approaches to fulfilling the rights and principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights – for example, the right to adequate minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life; effective access to enabling goods and services for everyone lacking sufficient resources; the right of all children to protection from poverty; and the right of children from disadvantaged backgrounds to specific measures to enhance equal opportunities. Such policies would directly contribute to EU Member States’ commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, namely Goal No. 1: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”.


Overall employment rates for Roma remain low compared to the general population. The data show no change in the proportion of Roma who indicated that their main activity was ‘paid work’ between 2011 and 2016 – with an important gender gap. In the five years between the two surveys, EU Member States implemented a range of initiatives to increase Roma employment, mostly addressing the employability of Roma – but there is little evidence of measures to tackle anti-Gypsyism in the labour market. The proportion of young Roma aged 16 to 24 years, particularly women, who are not in employment, education or training (NEET rate) remains high – in stark contrast to the corresponding rates for the majority population. This could partly be attributed to the impact of anti-Gypsyism, as well as other factors related to persisting social exclusion, such as poor functional literacy, inadequate qualifications, or poor social skills, as well as traditional gender roles still common in Roma communities. The rates of experiences with discrimination due to being Roma when looking for work and while at work remain, on average, very high. Many Roma across the EU engage in entrepreneurial activities, but the employment potential of this entrepreneurial activity is not utilised in full.


The proportion of Roma assessing their health as “very good” or “good” increased significantly between 2011 and 2016 in most EU Member States surveyed, and is on average similar to the general population. However, self-reported health insurance coverage on average did not change significantly over the same period, totalling 74 % in 2016. There are important country differences in self-reported medical insurance coverage. In its paper on the European Semester and Roma health issued in November 2016, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) notes that, in respect to health, European Semester Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) in the social realm lack clear targets; remain largely non-binding; and, for three of the countries studied (Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia), were not particularly effective. The paper cites FRA data, arguing that Roma face disproportionate barriers to accessing health services. These barriers are exacerbated by a lack of insurance or personal identification documents but also due to distance or discriminatory attitudes. Addressing these challenges would contribute to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal No. 3: “To ensure healthy lives and to promote well-being for all at all ages”.


The data show that housing conditions for Roma did not change significantly between 2011 and 2016. For many, the right to social and housing assistance to ensure a decent existence for all who lack sufficient resources – guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights – remains unfulfilled. This means space limitations in their homes; no regular access to sanitation (potable water, toilets, showers, bathrooms inside the dwelling); and no electricity supply. The results show that some progress achieved was not uniform across all countries, with deterioration in some. A high share of Roma still have no regular access to basic sanitation or live in overcrowded conditions, hampering progress in other areas, such as education, health or employment. Moreover, the share of Roma experiencing discrimination in housing increased in a number of countries. With respect to the space available to each person in a dwelling, the results show a large, persisting difference from the general population average. A third of the Roma surveyed continue to live in housing that has no tap water inside the house; 38 % do not have a toilet, shower or bathroom inside their home – in stark contrast to the general population average recorded by Eurostat. There is no change in perceived discrimination when looking for housing between 2011 and 2016, though there are important differences between Member States.

Improving the housing situation of Roma would contribute to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal No. 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. To that end EU Member, States should make full use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). They should take stock of the European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion on the advantages of Community-led Local Development (CLLD) approach when developing housing measures in the context of integrated local and rural development, fostering the involvement of all residents, including Roma.