Integrating Roma opulation into labour market

01 Feb 2006

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Business as usual won't help curb pervasive Roma unemployment in Central and Eastern Europe. But companies, working together with government and civil society, can lead the way in engaging Roma in the workforce, concludes a new UNDP report.

New Horizons - "Employing the Roma: Insights from Business", published by UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States)* with Ernst & Young, is based on in-depth interviews with companies in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic conducted between May and September 2005. The report aims to spark dialogue in the business community on Roma employment, and offers suggestions for how companies can begin to address this challenge.

"Businesses are the real drivers of employment, and private sector engagement is critical if we are to integrate Roma into the labour market," said Ben Slay, director of UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre.

Roma are one of Europe's most vulnerable and marginalized groups, with poverty and unemployment rates that far outstrip national averages. Roma unemployment is an estimated 64 per cent in Slovakia, 51 per cent in Bulgaria, 32 per cent in the Czech Republic and 25 per cent in Hungary and Romania.

While Roma employment issues have to date been primarily a concern of social workers and civil society, demographic trends are increasing the importance of young Roma workers for continued growth in some of Central Europe's most dynamic economies. With this report, UNDP aims to bring companies into the development dialogue.

"Business can complement government and civil society efforts to combat discrimination and help find innovative solutions to Roma unemployment," said Mr. Slay. "Better recruitment and retention of Roma employees is also better business. Roma integration can raise growth through higher productivity, increased consumption and investment."

However, the report found that practical guidance for companies seeking to implement diversity policies is lacking, and more support was needed to help companies boost Roma employment and maximize the associated business benefits. "This report tries to address the gap," said Mr. Slay.

"Employing the Roma: Insights from Business" was presented in Brussels on 28-29 November 2005 at the European Commission conference, entitled "Business Case for Diversity: Good Practices in the Workplace".
UNDP's work with business in promoting Roma employment is part of UNDP's broader engagement with the private sector in the framework of the UN Global Compact, a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative that calls businesses to endorse 10 principles on human rights, labour and environmental standards. For more information about the Global Compact, please visit www.unglobalcompact.org

*CIS countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.