Roma in Croatia in a multiple disadvantaged position

Oct 24, 2014

PHOTO: IGOR NOBILO

UN agencies in Croatia marked the United Nations Day

ZAGREB, 24 October 2014 - With the presentation of the publication „Everyday life of Roma in Croatia: challenges and possibilities for transformation“, to the public, UN agencies in Croatia: UNDP, UNHCR and UNICEF marked the day of the United Nations, which has been celebrated on October 24 since 1948. 

The position of Roma as Europe’s largest minority has been in the focus of the United Nations for a long time, who at a global, regional and national level is working towards the eradication of poverty, discrimination and exclusion of Roma. 

„Faith in fundamental human rights, human dignity and values, as well as the equality of large and small nations, are one of the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which we are reminded of today. United Nation’s organizations support governments around the world in order to secure that these very principles become an everyday practice. We believe that the insights from this research will contribute to accomplishing the objectives of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, and other measures to improve the quality of life for Roma in Croatia“, said Valentina Otmacic, Head of Office of UNICEF in Croatia on the behalf of three United Nation agencies in Croatia. 

The publication “Everyday life of Roma in Croatia: challenges and possibilities for transformation” analyses the socio-economic situation of Roma, and it was created based on a research conducted by the Regional Centre of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 12 countries of southeast Europe, including Croatia. The publication is signed by prof. Siniša Zrinščak PhD, prof. Dragan Bagić PhD, Ivan Burić PhD, Dr. Ivana Dobrotić PhD and Dunja Potočnik PhD. 

The collected data indicates the multidimensional nature of poverty, which occurs as a series of causes and effects of the process of exclusion and discrimination in education, social and health care, employment, housing and obtaining the status of citizenships.

The data also shows that majority of Roma live in deep poverty; 92,3 percent of them live in relative poverty, and 9 percent in absolute poverty. However, 42 percent of the non-Roma population living in the vicinity of Roma settlements are twice as poor as the national average which indicates that poverty isn't related to a national or minority affiliation. The image of Roma poverty further complements the analysis of income and expenditure; both Roma and other households have equal costs of food and daily necessities, but the income of Roma households is HRK 2,000 lower.

When it comes to education, data shows that Roma are still unable to fulfill their full educational potential. Thus, twenty times more Roma have not completed primary school, then there is the case with the majority population (40 percent compared with 2 percent), where the situation of Roma women is extremely unfavorable; 23 percent of young Roma women don't have any qualifications, as well as 50 percent of Roma women between the age 25 and 64. The involvement of Roma in secondary education is 46,5 percent and twice lower compared to the rest of the population (83.3 percent). The data also shows only 29 students of Roma ethnicity at Croatian universities.

Poorer educational outcomes of Roma are reflected on their position in the labor market. Roma unemployment is three to four times higher than the unemployment rate of the non-Roma population, wherein it is especially dramatic data that 65,1 percent of young Roma are unemployed. Although, more than twice as many Roma show entrepreneurial aspirations (35,2 percent compared to 15,6 percent), only 1,6 percent of them succeed to start their own business (compared to 4 percent of the rest of the population). Unemployment more frequently affects Roma from rural areas and Roma women who face multiple marginalization.

The poor economic conditions also affect health situations of the Roma population: thereby 44,5 percent of Roma are unable to purchase medicine (compared to 13,7 percent of the rest of the population), even 27,5 percent of Roma do not have health insurance, which means that more than a quarter of Roma cannot enjoy healthcare.

Housing as another observed category shows huge discrepancies between the Roma and non-Roma population. Roma live in overcrowded and inadequate facilities, wherein 50 percent of households do not have a bathroom and 45,6 percent do not have drinking water. Only 21,8 percent of households possess a computer and only 16,3 percent have Internet connection.

Unresolved legal status furthermore contributes to Roma exclusion. The data shows that between 1,500 and 2,000 members of the Roma minority face problems related to regularization of status, i.e. they are foreign nationals or stateless people. Unresolved legal status is often transmitted generationally and hinders the exercise of rights related to health insurance, education, participation in the labor market etc.

Multiple discrimination and exclusion of Roma is a big challenge for all those who are working to improve their position in Croatia. This process includes a series of factors, from the legislation and implementation of EU guidelines to building trust and fighting prejudice, and only with harmonized and long-term action of different actors will it be possible to overcome the obstacles the Roma are faced with.