The Roma people in Central and southeastern Europe suffer from "abject living conditions," falling far behind majority populations on measures such as unemployment, housing, school enrolment, literacy, access to essential drugs, running water and modern communications, according to a new United Nations survey.
"These conditions are unacceptable in countries that are part of the European Union or aspire to be," Andrey Ivanov, Human Development Adviser at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Bratislava Regional Centre in Slovakia said. "We need action now to close the appalling development gap that separates the Roma from the majority populations in this region."
Conducted in 10 countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia – as well as Kosovo, the survey, the most accurate picture ever compiled, shows that:
- Five times more Roma live below the poverty line than do the majority populations surveyed in Bulgaria and Serbia; three times more in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Romania.
- In Romania, 7 out of 10 Roma do not have access to running water, while 8 out of 10 Roma cannot afford essential prescription drugs.
- In Kosovo, only 1 out of 10 Roma aged 12 and above has finished primary school. In all other countries surveyed except the Czech Republic, fewer than 2 out of 10 Roma have completed primary education.
- The Roma in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia owe in electricity bills more than seven times what they earn in a month. And their debts to the water utility amount to more than four times their monthly income.
- In Romania, only 2 out of 10 Roma households have a telephone compared with 7 out of 10 for the majority population living in close proximity.
The data release is timed to coincide with the launch of the "Decade of Roma Inclusion," a 10-year effort to integrate the Roma into the European mainstream. The decade aims to provide a policy framework for governments to set their own goals for Roma integration. The current dataset provides a strong analytical backbone to future policies.