Roma affairs underwent a sea change in 2010 when the government started to create a work-based society in place of a benefits society, the government commissioner for Roma relations said on Friday.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Mária Kopp Institute for Demography and Families (KINCS), Attila Sztojka said Roma had been “the biggest losers” of the change of political system in 1990, most of them having lost their jobs, while government programmes had failed to create jobs at the time. But in 2010 the government introduced a radically new approach by incorporating Roma into an active, work-based society instead of making them the passive recipients of state benefits, he noted. Sztojka said that Hungary is home to the largest Roma workforce in Europe, with the employment level of Roma men at 81 percent, while the European average is 58 percent. For women, this ratio is 44 and 28 percent, respectively, he added.
He said the government would continue to see Roma policy as a question of a resource and to maximise the Roma workforce so that it becomes a player in the economy. The commissioner said fight against poverty was going in the right direction, but EU funds would be highly important to make further gains in this area. Zsofia Nagy-Vargha, the deputy state secretary for youth at the ministry of culture and innovation, highlighted the importance of nurturing talent over the long term, which she called “a richly fruitful investment in the future”.
Among the government programs, she referred to the National Talent Programme which thousands of young people of Roma origin have been beneficiaries of in the past two years, and mentioning the Snetberger Music Talent Centre in Felsoors in particular, which, she added, helps disadvantaged, talented young people by providing musical training while building a community.