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Slovak companies team up to fight anti-Roma discrimination

Bratislava, Slovakia – Around 120 Slovak companies and businesses have joined a campaign to fight prejudices and discrimination against the Roma community on the labour market.

Launched two months ago by civil organization Dive Maky, the campaign called Prijateľní.sk ( aims to increase the awareness and tackle the issue of employment discrimination against Slovakia’s sizable Roma community, which remains largely marginalized and excluded from the official labour market.

“When we were planning this initiative, our greatest concern was whether enough firms would join the list of responsible employers. A few days after its launch, however, the list has begun to swell quickly, making it clear that there’s a great number of responsible companies in Slovakia that embrace the idea of providing employment without prejudice”, argued Barbora Kohutikova from the NGO that launched the campaign.

The companies that joined the initiative, however, are not bound nor obliged to take any specific action.

The employment of Roma people in Slovakia stands at only one-third of the employment rate of the rest of the population. Most analysts also argue that this represents a significant loss and untapped resource for the Slovak economy. “The OECD’s latest analysis established that if the employment and productivity of Roma rose to the level achieved by the majority population, Slovakia’s GDP would grow by more than 12% by 2060”, according to the TASR news agency.

Roma children in a slum in Jarovnice, eastern Slovakia. Credit: Sorin Furcoi / Al Jazeera

According to the OECD, Slovakia ranks as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world but should ensure that growth is more inclusive and “shared by all, including the Roma” community, , which officially numbers at half a million people (but estimated to be at least twice as large).

As the Slovak Spectator points out, only 37% of Slovak employers dare to respond to a CV application from an applicant with a Roma name, according to an experiment carried out by the Finance Ministry’s Institute for Financial Policy (IFP).

NGO’s and civil rights group, including Amnesty International, have repeatedly pointed out Slovakia’s failure to address the systemic segregation and discrimination suffered by Roma people, including in employment, education, housing and health care. Predominantly located in Slovakia’s east, Roma people also suffer from higher rates of poverty, illiteracy and crime.

The initiative, backed by the presidential office of Andrej Kiska, aims to urge the private sector and employers to evaluate Roma job applicants based on their merits, skills and qualifications, rather than their ethnicity.

Last week, the first Slovak TV station dedicated to the country’s Roma community launched to celebrate International Romani Day.

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