The Roma myth: how much does Slovakia spend on Roma citizens

10.11.2014 | By Matúš Kontšek

The myth that Roma families cost Slovak state millions of euros is unjustified. The welfare benefit costs have been analyzed by INESS institute in their recent publication named „Roma and social benefits“. As one of the analysts Radovan Ďurana claims: „we wanted precise data to be available and Roma topics to be discussed with facts not emotions“. Study shows that the largest part of budgetary funds is not allocated to the poorest, which have been long-term unemployed, thus is not destined for Roma villages.

According to the Atlas of Roma communities there is 403 thousand Roma people living in Slovakia, which constitutes 7,4 percent of total Slovak population. Official statistics are not based on the ethnic background; two assumptions were therefore taken into consideration by analysts at INESS. First assumption is that Roma families have multiple children (four and more). The second assumption was that regions with higher Roma population were impacted more (20 departments in the south and east Slovakia were analyzed where Roma community is present in 1 070 out of 2 890 municipalities).

Results of the study showed the following: only 0,2 percent of public funds is allocated to multi-child families via social benefits. Analyzed municipalities with assumed high share of Roma citizens receive 2,2 percent of social benefits from public funds. Most of these benefits are received by families with one or two children. The number of child allowance requestors in the above mentioned municipalities is only 3 percent higher than elsewhere in Slovakia.

Three social benefits were analyzed. First of them is child allowance, which is granted to parents with child attending school and continues to study until the age of 25. The amount of the benefit is 22,54 eur and is granted to 1,16 million children (out of which 122 thousand are university students). Families with more than 5 children received 15 million eur, which according to Ďurana is a drop in the ocean of public finance. Also the regions with higher Roma population are not significant beneficiaries, due to lower higher education attendance of Roma children. Child allowance is paid out to 160 thousand assumed Roma children in the total amount of 44 million eur (out of total 312 millions eur)

The second is parental allowance, which is received by parents with child up to age of 3. In 2012 it was 194,70 eur, now 203,20 eur. Families with multiple children received six millions eur, which is 1,8 percent of the total funds. Analysts assume that 17 percent was paid out to beneficiaries of Roma nationality and total funds allocated were 57 millions eur.

Beside child and parental allowance the analysts were also inquiring into social assistance benefit in material and social deprivation. In municipalities with higher Roma population these are being received mostly by families with multiple children and by people about to retire. But in national scale it constitutes an exemption. In 2012 there was 271 million eur of social allowance benefit disbursed to almost 360 thousand people. Almost two thirds (63 percent) were allocated to individuals with no children. Families with more than four children received fewer than 17 million eur, which is less than the amount of budgetary funds assigned to the construction of National football stadium.

Analyst Radovan Ďurana claims that austerities in the welfare benefits sector would cause a social catastrophe, while decreasing the public funds deficit only by one fourth. Although he adds that social policy needs to be amended in order to create motivation to work. Another analyst Ján Dinga claims the situation of Roma people relates to a wider social issue and cannot be resolved by austerity measures.