Roma exclusion remains a great development challenge for Europe. The vast majority of Roma live in deep poverty. Low skill levels - fewer than 1 in 4 complete upper secondary – coupled with frequent segregation and discrimination lead to extremely low employment, especially among women. Average labor productivity among Roma is comparable to that of some of the poorest countries in the world.
Demographics and labor market exclusion make Roma inclusion also a macroeconomic necessity. While majority populations are aging and the overall labor force is shrinking, Roma populations are young and growing, already making up to one-fifth of new labor market entrants in some Eastern European countries.
There is a great opportunity to close the gap. First, there is now much needed comprehensive data through a joint effort in 2011 by the European Commission, UNDP, the Fundamental Rights Agency, and the World Bank. Data that show that the vast majority of Roma parents want their children to go far in school, and want to work in steady jobs, like their non-Roma neighbors. Second, there is increasing evidence on what works such as focused efforts to close the pre-school gap. And, third, Roma integration is considered an integral part of the EU2020 Strategy, and makes considerable resources available for inclusion through its Structural Funds.
The World Bank and Roma inclusion. Since co-founding the Decade of Roma inclusion (2005) and the Roma Education Fund (2005), the World Bank continues to support Roma inclusion efforts through advocacy and evidence based analysis Decade of Roma Inclusion, and designing Roma Education Fund, sometimes coupled with investment lending.