Roma living conditions, inclusion and discrimination

Inclusion and equality in society can be promoted in areas such as education, employment and living conditions.

Experiences of discrimination weaken peoples’ sense of inclusion. The Roma face discrimination in public places, in dealings with the authorities, and in the search for work and housing.

Respondents to the Roma well-being survey (Roosa)

  • almost one half of respondents had experienced unfair treatment from a stranger in a public place. Such experiences were particularly common among young people.
  • Unfair treatment by the authorities was also common.
  • One in five men and one in four women had experienced unfair treatment in dealings with Kela or social services.
  • In dealings with the police, men in particular had experienced unfair treatment.
  • About one fifth of working men and women had experienced unfair treatment by their supervisor, colleague or client during the past year.

Obstacles to the employment of Roma

Unemployment is very common among the Roma population. Of those under 30 years of age who participated in the Roosa study

  • around half said they are unemployed.
  • one third had not been in gainful employment during the past 12 months.
  • The level of unemployment was around 60% among the participants in the study as a whole.

Obstacles to the employment of Roma include

  • low level of education
  • lack of work experience
  • employers' prejudices towards Roma people.

Unemployment affects health and well-being and is one of the key factors behind income difficulties. Experiences of poverty are considerably more common among those participating in the Roosa survey than among the population as a whole.

Education levels among Roma children and young people have increased

In recent decades, the education level of the Roma population has improved thanks to improved housing policy. Having a permanent residence has made it possible to go to school.
The attitudes of the Roma people towards education have changed. Nowadays, most Roma parents encourage and support their children in their schooling. The Roma have started to appreciate education as a route to obtaining a profession.

There is still inequality in education levels when compared to the general population:

  • Of participants in the Roosa study, one third had a post-basic education qualification, while less than one tenth had a higher education degree.
  • The proportion of Roma young people applying for further education is considerably lower than the proportion of young people as a whole.
  • The numbers applying to general upper secondary school are particularly low.

The past decade has seen an increase in the participation of Roma children in early childhood education and care and in basic education.

However, a Roma child may often be the only representative of their culture in the classroom. According to the National Policy on Roma, discrimination at school can be reduced by increasing knowledge of the Roma culture.

Housing problems are linked to socio-economic problems

Finding housing suitable for Roma people and Roma families is challenging due to 

  • their poor economic situation and the costs of housing
  • discrimination in the housing market.

Roma housing is also hampered by discrimination within the Roma community:

  • A permit to move is needed from the Roma who already live in the area.
  • There is a duty of avoidance between families that are in disagreement.

For those who participated in the Roosa study, rental housing is the most common tenure status. The Roma were satisfied with:

  • the size of their apartments
  • the location
  • the safety of the residential area
  • the neighbours. 

Close family ties are a positive resource for the Roma population

The Roma see close communal ties between families and relatives as a positive resource. These have a positive impact on the health and quality of life experienced by the individual.

Helping others is common within the Roma community, and respect for older people is a key principle in Roma families. Among survey participants, more than 70% of young women and more than half of young men were helping their own parents or their spouse’s parents on a monthly basis.

However, communality may also involve factors that burden and restrict the individual.