What has the High Level Advisory Group of Experts (HLG) examined?

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The HLG examined barriers which prevent members of ethnic minorities from fully participating in the labour market and identified good practice in public policies and in business strategies which can help to overcome these barriers.

As there is no universally accepted definition of "ethnic minority" the HLG took a pragmatic approach: It focused on the overlap between belonging to an ethnic minority and facing social disadvantage. Ethnic minority was understood in the most inclusive sense and comprises recent immigrants as well as established ethnic minorities, national minorities, Roma and stateless persons.

What is the size of ethnic minorities in the EU?

As there is no universal definition of minorities, this question cannot be answered comprehensively. The biggest ethnic minority in the EU is the Roma, but estimations about their size vary widely between 8 and 15 million persons. Moreover, there are some 20 million 3rd country nationals living in the EU (some as long-term residents).

Only a few countries, such as the UK or the Netherlands, have statistics broken down by ethnicity. Although this is for many Member States and for some ethnic minorities a sensitive issue, there is a broad consensus among experts that more and better data is required in order to prepare effective policies as long as the protection of personal data is respected.

Are there differences between ethnic minorities?

It can be concluded from the data of countries which provide statistics broken down by ethnicity that some groups on average are in worse situations than others. A stakeholder survey which was carried out in 2007 for the HLG showed that the two groups which run the highest risk of being excluded are Roma and Sub-Saharan Africans. In both cases the level of risk is not only high; there is also an ongoing negative trend.

Are there concrete examples of worst labour market situations for ethnic minorities?

Empirical facts prove that membership of an ethnic minority is a labour market disadvantage per se. There are clear hints that ethnic minorities have less positive labour market participation than the majority of the population even if their qualification levels are as high as that of the majority.

UK: People of Bangladeshi background are five times more likely to be unemployed, and earn £1.70/hour less than the white majority in England.

Denmark / Netherlands: Iraqis living in Denmark are more than twice as likely not to be active in the Danish labour market, more than six times more likely to be unemployed, and earn half of the national average wage in Denmark. People of Turkish background have equally bad experiences in the Danish and Dutch labour markets, being respectively four/two times more likely to be unemployed than majority groups and earning significantly less (with an ethnic wage gap in the Netherlands between 2% and 22%). Moreover, children of Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese immigrants who are born in the Netherlands have a significantly higher risk of unemployment than the majority, but also than their parents.

France: Male and female immigrants in France are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as native French. The male children of immigrants, who were born outside of France, are not only worse off in the French labour market than their native counterparts, but they are also worse off than any co-ethnics of other generations. The daughters of immigrants to France, on the other hand, tend to be more economically active and have a lower unemployment rate than their mothers. The members of ethnic minorities who fare better than any other co-ethnics are those who have only one parent born outside of France.

Hungary: While the Hungarian Roma population scores by far the worst with regard to the participation rate (half of the rate of the majority) and unemployment rate (more than five times higher than the rate of the majority), members of national minorities, such as Slovaks, Serbians or Romanians, are in line with the Hungarian patterns. The immigrant communities of Chinese and Arab people achieve much higher participation and much lower unemployment rates.

What concretely are labour market barriers for ethnic minorities?

The HLG has identified 14 external and internal barriers which prevent members of ethnic minorities from fully mobilising their potential. The barriers are:

(1) Lack of education and training

(2) Lack of language skills

(3) Lack of recognition of skills and qualifications

(4) Lack of access to professions

(5) Lack of access to citizenship

(6) Lack of integration policies

(7) Stereotypes, prejudices and negative attitudes

(8) Lack of mobility and concentration in certain areas

(9) Industrial Change

(10) Disincentives through welfare systems

(11) Discrimination

(12) Lack of information

(13) Labour market competition

(14) Undeclared work

These barriers are relevant for all ethnic minorities. In the case of their accumulation they are mutually reinforcing and lead to virtually total exclusion from the labour market. Some of these barriers e.g. the lack of education, stereotypes, and disincentives through welfare systems – have a tendency to become higher from generation to generation.

Stakeholder experts assess that discrimination is the single most important barrier (over 50% followed by language barriers and educational deficits).

What does the HLG recommend?

The HLG makes eight recommendations which are followed by an extensive list of concrete calls for actions. The recommendations are as follows:

(1) Make the inclusion of members of ethnic minorities into society, in particular into the labour market, a priority of the political agenda

(2) Pursue equality mainstreaming and gender mainstreaming

(3) Identify and address specific barriers to inclusion of members of ethnic minorities

(4) Establish a sustainable long-term policy for inclusive labour markets, using a targeted, but not ethnically segregated approach

(5) Mobilise all relevant actors, making use of the opportunities and value the contributions from members of ethnic minorities to the society

(6) Allocate the necessary resources

(7) Support mutual learning by highlighting good practice, developing knowledge and strengthening the analytical tools

(8) Focus specifically on the implementation of policies to improve the situation of Roma in terms of education, employment, health and housing

The implementation of these recommendations is regarded by the HLG as a way to overcome the exclusion of members of ethnic minorities from the labour market, but also from many other areas of society. Overcoming exclusion is a matter of fairness, of social solidarity and, consequently, of democracy.

Do Roma have specific problems?

Yes and no: We can observe that in the case of Roma many of the barriers mentioned above are indeed accumulating and reinforce each other. An effective policy for the social inclusion of Roma has to address a broad range of problems, including those of education, employment, health and housing conditions.

Are some of the recommendations of the HLG specifically targeted at Roma?

Recommendations (1)-(7) are valid for the better inclusion of all ethnic minorities. The HLG has, however, drafted a recommendation (8) specifically on Roma which takes into account that many of the problems faced by Roma are interdependent and need a holistic and multidimensional approach.

Recommendation (8) calls, thus, i.a. for

a strong focus on education (e.g. by the abolition of segregated schools)

a better use of the European structural funds, and in particular the ESF

the full implementation of Directive 2000/43/EC implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of ethnic or racial origin

a transfer of good practice (e.g. of the Spanish ACCEDER program to Central and Eastern Europe)

What does the EU do to improve the situation of Roma?

The approach of the Community is based on four pillars: Rights, policies, financial support and awareness-raising.

Roma are fully covered by Directive 2000/43/EC which prohibits discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin in employment, social protection, education as well as access to goods and services, including housing.

The coordination of Member States' policies on employment and social inclusion provides for a framework for mutual learning and the identification of good practice.

The European Social Fund is a powerful tool to improve the employability of Roma and can be mobilised for a broad range of actions, such as tailor-made vocational training. During the last financing period 2000-2006 projects for some 300 million € have been supported which had the Roma as a direct target group. During the same time approx. 1 billion € was spent for measures targeted at vulnerable groups, including the Roma.

There is a persistent need for information and campaigning in order to highlight the right to live a life free of discrimination, but also to underline the richness which Roma contribute to European civilisation. During the 2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All 20 actions which had Roma as a target group were carried out in 11 participating countries.

Apart from this, the Commission coordinates the different policy strands which are needed for Roma inclusion internally through an Interservice Group in which all concerned Commission services (e.g. Regional Policy, Education and Culture, Justice and Home Affairs etc.) meet regularly.

Is there a kind of positive action for Roma in the Commission?

We have in partnership with the Open Society Institute an internship scheme for young Roma graduates. 10 young Roma join the Commission for five months and work with the services.

Is there good practice in terms of Roma integration?

There are a number of initiatives often in partnership with businesses, national or local NGOs, public authorities and training providers which aim at training the Roma (often already children of pre-school age) to employ them. FreeSoft in Hungary, SVIK or US Steel in Slovakia are concrete examples for sustainable projects. In Spain the ACCEDER program has concluded over 20,000 contracts with Roma for tailor-made vocational training and labour market integration.
Link to the report of the HLG



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