The Roma are “virgin fertile land”
The World Bank: “Investments in Roma do have returns”
“Mango gulps down a billion a year”: this is the headline of a Telegraph article by the journalist Maria Milkova who attempts to interpret and analyze the World Bank report “Economic losses from the Roma exclusion”. The headline of this article breaches the code of ethics of the Bulgarian media and imputes a serious fault upon a diverse ethnicity that is a part of the Bulgarian society. The connotation of this headline leaves the impression that, in one way or another, every Bulgarian citizen of Roma origin earns and spends a billion per year. In the introduction, the author writes that “the unemployed dark skinned brothers should bring 526 million Euro per year if they worked and paid their liabilities to the state”. The World Bank’s report states that the vast majority of the employable Roma are insufficiently educated to be able to participate successfully in the labour market. As a result, European countries lose hundreds of millions of Euro every year from their low productivity and fiscal contributions to the governments. The lower limit of the calculations of the annual productivity losses in Bulgaria reaches 526 million Euros. However, it does not mention that all Roma do not work or all Roma do not pay their liabilities to the state. While Milkova’s article reduces the members of this ethnic group to a common denominator, the report’s assessment presents a generalization that eschews the stereotypes about the Roma community in Bulgaria.
The Telegraph’s analysis of the World Bank’s report is clearly biased. In this article, the Roma are accused of being uneducated and not integrated. The data from the report are presented in such a way as to create a faulty image of the Roma community, which is blamed for the low economic and social status of the country. The article’s conclusion is another wide generalization about Roma integration: “In order to try to stimulate the dark-skinned brethren to finally start work, the Employment Agency will organize during this year 108 employment exchanges this year altogether”. The connotation is that almost no Roma wants work and that the Employment Agency does not have anything better to do than organize employment exchanges for the Roma. That is probably how most readers would interpret it.
The data from the World Bank’s research are only partially used in the article. Another important aspect of the publication is the absence of the report’s name: “The economic losses from the Roma exclusion”. Contrary to the report’s title, Milkova takes a negative attitude towards the process of the Roma inclusion. Her word choice, style and sweeping generalizations about Roma integration indicate two things: negative discrimination and absence of professional journalistic insight.
The World Bank’s report says that the very low educational levels among the employable Roma lead to their exclusion from the labor market and, consequently, to economic and fiscal losses for society at large. Such losses could be evaded if the employable Roma would have access to a better and continuous education. The research also states that in order to increase the human capital, considerably higher investments are needed in an inclusive and higher quality education of Roma children, including early childhood education as well as opportunities for life-long education of adult Roma. Indeed, at the present time, the government does not have appropriate policies towards the Roma in order to keep them in school or to motivate them to become educated. As a consequence of that, it cannot utilize the human capital of the country to its full potential. Indeed, this is the essential message of the World Bank’s report: the lack of correct government policies for the Roma deprives the state of the opportunity to adequately and efficiently develop and reproduce its human resources. On the governmental side, this causes fatal inadequacies for the economy, for the civil society and the state budget.
According to the report, investments in Roma do have returns. Unfortunately, the state does not know what to plant in this “new virgin fertile land”.
Published at Roma Transitions