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Investing in the Roma population is economically smart, especially if focused on deficit occupations.

Investing in the Roma population is economically smart, especially if focused on deficit occupations.

Boosting the Western Balkans' Growth

July 2024 -2 minutes read

How investments in Roma can solve the workforce problem

The Western Balkans’ economic competitiveness and survival largely depend on the region’s ability to overcome a shortage of qualified labour. The working-age population is shrinking due to emigration and ageing, and those who are able to work feel discouraged and disempowered — in part by education systems that fail to prepare them for what the labour market needs. Digitalisation and discrimination compound the problem, and cheap labour and tax cuts are no longer enough to address it.


A key part of the solution is investment in the Roma, the youngest and most vibrant ethnic population in the region, who are also multilingual, adaptable and entrepreneurial. This goes against stereotypes of the Roma as a population unwilling to work, a social problem that requires public spending. As an analysis by the World Bank shows, discrimination against the Roma causes serious economic losses for the countries of the region. Their economic inclusion, on the other hand, can lead to significant public revenues.


This brief goes further and makes a case that investing in the Roma population is economically smart, especially if focused on deficit occupations. It showcases a model that illustrates how the return on this investment makes it a self-sustaining project. Such an approach can help solve the region’s workforce problems while lifting the Roma from dehumanising poverty levels.


Opportunities to make this a reality are there: funding is available, public support among Roma and non-Roma is strong, and Roma-led expert organisations can lead the way. What is missing is recognition of this potential and a readiness to act among public authorities and the business sector.

Author(s)

Neda Korunovska

Vice President for Analytics and Results

Zeljko Jovanovic

President

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