General framework of Employment and Social Policies Reform Programme for European Union candidate countries

 General framework of Employment and Social Policies Reform Programme for European Union candidate countries

Roma Support Measures

 

Proposer: Standing Conference of Roma Associations of the Citizens

Introduction

- The Roma have a marginalised role in the society, discrimination is almost institutionalised at all levels of government and their employment problem cannot be considered only from the aspect of economic sustainability of the system. Having in mind that the Roma are heterogenous social group, they should be approached in different ways in order to include them more actively in social and political processes.

- The state, municipalities and the National Employment Service (NES) itself do not implement, nor apply affirmative actions in the field of employment that are envisaged by Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia.

- The NES and the competent ministries do not apply the Article of the Law on Civil Servants in accordance with which the number of regularly employed Roma in the NES itself should be much higher.

- Owing to the fact that the state does not take proper care of the Roma, other social and economic issues occur. The Roma do not see any benefits of the education and they are constantly exposed to discrimination and, consequently, they do not see their future in Serbia. An insignificant – negligible number of highly-educated Roma that have been financed by Roma foundations (i.e. receive their scholarships) and that have graduated from a university in last ten years, have found a job in the public sector, and neither has the NES that "cares" about the employment of the Roma, employed them.

- Such policy contributes to an increasingly deviant behaviour and reduces the interest in education due to the fact that high number of the highly educated and those with the secondary school education who are unemployed is a clear signal sent by the government and large majority of the Serbian citizens that the Roma are unwanted and that they are a “competition” to the majority population. Consequently, the Roma have started losing hope and optimism that are so typical for them, and they become a depressive community of uneducated people susceptible to ideological manipulations who tend to embrace migration as the only solution.

Proposal of measures

1. In order to avoid misuses of affirmative action/positive discrimination, quota system for the employment of national minorities in the public administration should be introduced, in line with the proportional participation in the total population. In cases where the quota system is not applied by an employer for the employment of national minorities, sanctions should be applied.

2. The establishment of a special fund and a tax relief system for national minorities should be considered.

3. Establishment of private agencies for the implementation of active Roma employment measures should be supported, as well as the implementation of action plans for the employment of the Roma at the level of local self-government, with the assistance of municipal employment councils and the councils for local economic development. This could be done by some better Roma NGOs after being trained by the NES. And they should, of course, be completely financed from the NES’s budget.

4. A scholarship programme should be introduced for the Roma students who would consequently be obliged to work for the public administration/state-owned companies upon graduation. Vocational Training Programme for highly educated Roma should be applied as a part of affirmative measures

5. Training of the Roma aimed at raising awareness of entrepreneurship (support the establishment of enterprises by the Roma, and as regards the form of organisation of the society, regardless of its legal form, the founders should be Roma with an aim of increasing employability according to examples of good practice).

6. Funds from the state budget should be allocated for small grants aimed at supporting family businesses.

At least 5,000 EUR for a four-member family.

7. Street, stand and fair sales should gradually be turned into legal activities by providing financial resources for the purchase of the necessary equipment and registration of entrepreneurship activities.

8. Some funds from the state budget should be allocated for the mentorship in business for the establishment of private enterprises or companies, which would empower and support new entrepreneurs and assist them in managing their business and getting familiar with the rules envisaged by legislation. New business mentorship methodology should be introduced with an aim of introducing all collectors of secondary raw materials and Roma working in flea markets and fairs into legal business activities.

9. The initiated activities aimed at registration of the activities of collection secondary raw material, recycling and waste management, both individually and at the level of associations of entrepreneurs within this branch, should be continued. For this, it is necessary to establish a social dialogue between the state Trade Union of Collectors of Secondary Raw Material and the competent Ministry. There are about 8,000 collectors.

10. Public works programme should be continued. The theory that this does not provide permanent employment should be neglected owing to the fact that the situation in the practice is much more different than the attitudes and theories of the academia. People are literally sleeping because of the hunger.

11. A special programme and targeted resources should be allocated from the state budget for the Roma population, and they should ne transparently shown, and only then transferred to NES. In this way, it would be possible to see clearly how the resources from the budget allocated for Roma programmes are spent. (Unfortunately, after so many projects and budgets, the Roma really request separated records of the funds because there have been some irregularities that could be seen in the number of the employed Roma, if nothing else).

12. The Article 79 of the Budget Law should be applied in its entirety. (The Law has been amended for several times, and the number of the Article in this Law is not correct). This refers to the use of EU funds allocated for Serbia assistance programme that need to be used strictly for the purpose they are intended for and cannot be reallocated to other budgetary expenditures.

13. NES should direct certain active employment policy measures primarily to the Roma. The measures should make good results and be relevant for the employment of a significant number of the unemployed Roma, providing that the Roma are much more engaged, and they should be provided with much larger budgets.

14. Improvement of the Roma status in the labour market is expected after the reforms that are being implemented in the education system, particularly after the establishment of a system of certification of knowledge acquired through informal learning and a system of accreditation of curricula and institutions.

15. Full attention should be paid to and an urgent political decision should be made on the employment of highly educated Roma. Percentage of the Roma employed in the public sector is 0,001%, which is a violation of the Constitution and the Law on Civil Servants. Roma organisations have for years now appealed to state authorities to solve this problem, but there has been no political readiness for this.

16. It is necessary to finalise the procedures of the adoption of the Law on Social Cooperatives – Social Enterprises, as soon as possible so that local self-governments could take their part of the responsibility for employment, local economic development and enforcement of the rights of Roma as a minority community.

17. It is necessary to start new businesses in the field of revitalisation of Roma settlements, recycling and agriculture that could open new jobs and enable more efficient implementation of active employment measures aimed at the Roma.

Project model PROPOSALS – Active Employment Measures

1. New public works for the Roma

The measure of introducing training primarily targets those who have finished secondary school and are unemployed and who could be the solution for the problem regarding the pre-school education of Romani children. They will be able to assist Romani children in preparing for the school and pre-school learning. Their training would last for 10 months at most, and the state covers 100% of gross minimum wage. (The reason for this is that only 8% of Romani children participate in pre-school education and this percentage has not changed for the last 20 years).

1.2. Measure aimed at supporting NGOs engaged in economic activities. Mini-public works should enable Roma handyman from Roma settlements “Mahala” and the youth to do the jobs that are important for the community. The jobs could refer to construction consolidation of Roma settlements or assisting the elders and weak, environmental protection, waste management, and alike. 100% of gross minimum wages should be co-financed for three and up to 12 months.

2. Measures aimed at keeping young Roma who have finished secondary school or a college.

Working after having acquired vocational training enables young Roma to have a subsidised paid job in a private sector for additional year which would be co-financed with 50% of annual gross salary.

3. Measures aimed at training and education of the youth

The youth learning through practice to become entrepreneurs in various enterprises are supported financially, with about 200 EUR that would cover real costs of transport and mentorship.

4. The programme of making the youth literate involves inclusion of the youth who have dropped out of regular primary schools and the process of their completion of primary education as a prerequisite for further learning and working. Co-financing the costs of education is done together with the competent Ministry. This should be implemented in the “Mahala” itself.

5. The measure of providing support through other additional youth training and education programmes – “EU and professions of the future” targets the youth aged up to 29 with at least secondary education degree regardless of their years of service, who have been in the unemployment records for 30 days, and the education preparing the youth for the professions of the future is paid depending on the duration of each programme.

6. Additional youth training and education programmes for the young unemployed Roma, preparing them to work for a prominent employer by learning in the field, should encourage the youth to improve their knowledge and skills in a business environment, with a prominent employer, through the programme that the employer deems necessary. The costs of training are co-financed with 25% to 70% per a person together with the employer, depending on the type of the programme and the size of the employer.

7. New Roma NGOs in social entrepreneurship

This measure is also aimed at empowering Roma civil sector and the inclusion of the youth in community programmes through social entrepreneurship. It is co-financed with 50% to 75% (of gross annual salary, without any additional terms and conditions).

Conclusion

Employment support measures implemented by the National Employment Service (NES) are very much similar to the ones applied in the EU Member States. Obviously, there is a lack of financial resources and dedicated staff in the NES. The ones dedicated to the issue of Roma employment.

b) In the whole NES, there are almost no Roma who are employed in it. Representatives of Roma NGO sector should be in an advisory body of the NES. The fact that there are no Roma employed In the NES, after so many years of talking and writing about it, is a disgrace. Every political manager who is fair and humane at least a little, should ponder on this. This is also the most obvious confirmation of the fact that they care for the Roma only in theory and speeches, and this is also proved by the fact that in 2013 only a little bit over 20 cases of self-employment were supported by the NES. In the records of the NES, a bit over 20,000 Roma are registered.

c) It is humiliating that the funds allocated through projects for the employment of the Roma are re-allocated during a year for other purposes. This is why it is necessary to establish a targeted, special Fund for Social Inclusion, as envisaged by the Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion Office of the Serbian Government.

d) All support programmes and measures must be constantly evaluated in order to continue with the effective measures that have results. The programmes should be flexible and should be in line with market changes. A fast reply and informing the Roma on the existing measures is very important, as well as explaining to them what advantages they offer when searching for an employment, training or additional training. This is why it is necessary to employ highly educated Roma in NES offices and in the offices of the Social Work Centre in all major regional centres.

e) It is essential to group all strategic data in one place in line with European standards, to enable comparison.

Osman Balic

25.3.2014 Niš

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