Creating Jobs for Roma
Barcs is a small town on the southern border of Hungary with 12,000 inhabitants, 1,500 of whom are Roma. The town, which is supported economically by a building materials factory and agricultural production, has been significantly affected by economic restructuring in the transition from communism, as well as by the war in neighboring Yugoslavia.
Difficult economic conditions fall hardest on the Roma population, which has experienced severe unemployment for reasons that include poor education, the prejudice against them within the majority population, and discrimination by employers.
The local Roma Minority Government set out to resolve these problems and contracted Partners-Hungary to bring the various stakeholders together to discuss the problems and find acceptable solutions through cooperative planning.
In April 1997, Partners-Hungary convened twelve participants representing different interests in Barcs (the labor office, the mayor’s office, a local foundation for enterprise promotion, Roma organizations, the Roma Minority Government, and employers) to discuss unemployment among the Roma in Barcs and its vicinity. Using the methods of interest-based negotiation and effective communication, the participants discussed the problem and its causes and worked out possible solutions. Partners-Hungary then worked with participants to build an action plan that assigned responsibilities for different stakeholders and set deadlines. The media, the Labor Office, the Roma Minority Government and employers were all involved in addressing the problem.
The plan devised by the stakeholders included the introduction of Roma ethnic studies, new trainings, media presentations on the customs and values of Roma culture, local government support for Roma entrepreneurs and talented students, and the dedicated involvement of employers in addressing the unemployment problem.
Further, the Roma Minority Government initiated an inquiry against employers who discriminate against Roma. They enlisted the media in presenting positive images of employers who hire Roma workers, and developed programs to support talented young Roma employees. The Minority Government cooperated with the Labor Office to set up a forum for Roma employees and employers to discuss their problems and mutual interests. Also, courses have been organized to train workers in a variety of new job skills; over 100 Roma, for example, have been trained in a forestry program.
The Minority Government is also working to keep Roma students in school, and students at risk are being identified as early as kindergarten. One of the most successful undertakings of the program has been the organization of Roma cultural events. A monthly magazine show is being aired on local television, presenting positive stories and models.