Roma Rights 1-2, 2007: Social Assistance

This issue of Roma Rights takes a critical look at the current efforts to retool the nature of the welfare state across Europe, and how these efforts affect Europe's Romani population. The welfare state attempts to enact social justice for citizens by mitigating unfairness created by market economies through proactive social assistance schemes. In the past, these have consisted of unemployment benefits, public health care, and other social services. Recent labour market reforms have also introduced "market-friendly" activation policies, which aim to reduce public costs for social assistance by re-integrating the excluded into the labour market. While these policies seem promising in some respects, their real effects on the most vulnerable groups have been mixed, and in some cases harmful. For Roma, who as a group, are most in need of the assistance and the re-integration promised by the welfare state, these new social assistance schemes may pose a serious danger. Due to the interplay of multiple exclusionary factors as well as open discrimination, Roma are often unable to access and benefit from these measures. When these measures fail to lead to jobs, as they often do, Roma are left with no work and no social assistance, victims of more "efficient," but less just, welfare policy.

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