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NGOization of school-to-work transition among Roma youth

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NGOST (NGOization of school-to-work transition among Roma youth)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-08-31

Ethnic minorities, particularly the Roma people, tend to have access to the poorest educational services and the most precarious parts of the labour market. Roma people represent Europe’s largest ethnic minority, who suffer higher than average level of marginalisation in all domains of life. NGOST research project examined how NGOization of the school-to-work transition (STWT) programmes targeting the Roma can be interpreted as a form of neoliberal governance of minorities. A neoliberal state ideally, in the name of efficiency, delegates its core functions, such as social services, to private corporations and NGOs, claiming that NGOs have direct knowledge and easier access to beneficiaries. ‘NGOization’ refers to the process through which civil society organisations professionalise themselves to deliver technical interventions, demobilising their clients and depoliticising their own action. NGOST project offers a comparative ethnographic aims to investigate how local practices of STWT shape young Roma people’s chances on the labour market and their perceptions thereof. It is important, as Roma young people are overrepresented among those who access adulthood and the labour market with lower than average education, and hence with worse than average chances to access to the labour market with optimal conditions.

To better understand Roma people's transition from school and training to work, NGOST project’s key objectives are as follow:
(1) To critically examine policies and programmes related to school-to-work transition (STWT).
(2) To conduct a cross-country comparison of the development of STWT regimes, their focus and/or outreach to Roma youth, and the role of non-state actors (NGOs) in their operation.
(3) To investigate local practices of STWT through NGOs’ actions, and gauge their impact, with a particular focus on the labour market opportunities and STWT experiences of Roma young people themselves.
(4) To elaborate theoretical and analytical frames to reflect on public policies dealing with the social inclusion of vulnerable minorities - particularly the Roma – through labour market inclusion.
Data collection was conducted in Hungary and Spain through ethnographical fieldwork. In Slovakia data collection was made online, which limited a foreseen deeper insight. In Hungary 62 interviews were conducted (38 Roma youth); in Spain 49 (30 Roma youth); and in Slovakia 35 (29 Roma youth). In all three sites, data collection was supported by local Roma people either as contracted research assistants or on a voluntary basis.

Data have partially been exploited, while further analysis is currently underway. Dissemination has been made in publications, conferences and workshops. In CPS Working Papers series, one paper was published on Career guidance inequalities in the Hungarian context (CPS WP 2020/5), and another one on Intercultural Mediation in the Spanish context (CPS WP 2021/9). The preivous was further developed and is going to be published in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Training. Results, detailed below, have been presented in several national and international conferences, such as the ECER (European Conference on Educational Research); ESA’s annual conference (European Sociological Association); AIBR annual Conference (Asociación Iberoamericana de Antropólogos en Red); REPS annual conference (Red Española de Política Social); ASAEE annual conference (Asociación de Antropología del Estado Español).

The main findings of the above mentioned outputs are the following:
- Social background and membership of minority communities strongly condition the success of one’s educational trajectory, as well as one’s transition to the world of work
- The messy set of formal and informal guidance agents, services, and activities in Hungary tends to be contingent, discontinuous, segmented and non-specialized
- The present state of guidance provision is incapable of achieving its main intended functions and leaves Roma young people in a vulnerable situation in an exploitive labour market
- Nevertheless, Roma youth creatively substitute lacking services with alternative support mechanisms, occasionally leading to successful individual outcomes

The intercultural / sociocultural mediation programme and particularly the intercultural mediator’s performance with respect to the school-to-work transition requires a broader perspective.
- The observed intercultural mediation programme in the Spanish site defines its main point of intervention in the ethno-cultural idiosyncrasy of the target group, and it aims to mediate between mainstream and Roma cultures. From NGOST project’s analytical perspective, this thinking diverts attention from the structural mechanisms that underlie the development of socio-economic inequalities suffered by the Roma population, and particularly in the poor neighbourhoods of this city.
- The double dependence and, at the same time, double complicity that is characteristic of the operation of the intercultural mediation project manages to subtly channel the expectations and logics of the public administration towards the Roma community in order to foster their “social integration”.
- Mediation project represents a transfer of responsibility from the public administrations, and the majority society, for the management of the inherent inequalities of the economic system
- This “transfer of responsibility” and its professional and emotional costs are well symbolized by the mediator’s feeling that “there’s really nothing more” she can do.
- Similarly to mediation project, school promotion project, or subcommittee on absenteeism, and other consulted services, a lack of structural and crosscutting interpretation of the problem (absenteeism, dropout, low performance) is detected. There is a tendency to individualize (centrality of the family, and the student / young person herself) both in the detection / definition and in the solutions of the problems.
- In the Spanish site, together with the Roma research assistants, we had the opportunity to transmit a series of policy recommendations to the stakeholders responsible for Social Services, Educational services, and Employment promotion services. Although Covid-19 pandemic created in a situation of urgency and less efforts remained for strategic planning, we expect that in the mid-term our recommendations may have effect in different pocliy domains.
- Further feedback and training activities are planned in the Spanihs fieldwork site organised together with a Roma NGO, particularly for Roma women.
- In the Hungarian context the project raised considerable interest among other social researchers at the university situated in the region of the fieldwork. A thematic open workshop seminar is going to be organised in February 2022, in order to consider the possible strategies of knowledge transfer to the Roma community and the civil society organisation that work with them.
- As a result of a presentation of the NGOST project, Barcelona city council’s Employment Promotion Department has commissioned a short term diagnostic study
- Beyond site-centred studies, comparative studies are to be published, following the ultimate goal of NGOST project. During the year 2022 these studies are prepared for different upcoming international conferences and thematic seminarsm and published in international indexed journals.
Painting Kata Soós