The Roma Community

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The Roma people in Spain[editar]

Currently, Spanish society is a mosaic of historical and cultural realities with their own peculiarities, languages and peoples. In this multicultural context, it is necessary to make known that the Roma reality in Spain has six centuries of history and is very diverse.

The Roma people have been assimilating many of the cultural elements that have been found in the different territories that they have crossed in their way from India and, thanks to this, the current common culture is full of their contributions made both in the language, as trade, music, literature and many other arts.

Roma people are fully right citizens, in Spain and in the European Union. They have cultural features that are their own and share a common identity, which does not detract anything from their citizenship, but rather on the contrary, it implies wealth and added value for the society of which we are all part.

But despite the achievements in Spain since the establishment of Democracy in improving the living conditions of the Roma population, there are still situations that require the attention of public authorities and society as a whole to get once and for all that Roma exercise their citizenship on equal terms as the rest of the citizens.


The Spanish Roma population has been incorporated into the educational system just 30 years ago. In such a short time, the progress has been enormous, and it has gone from exclusion to schooling, previously going through separate schooling through the bridge schools. 

But the great educational gap is still there. In the last decade (2012-2022) there has been no significant progress in improving the educational situation of Roma students: six out of ten Roma students do not graduate from compulsory secondary education. Forty per cent of Roma students leave school when they turn 16 years old. Early abandonment occurs, among other reasons, due to the greater repetition of courses and the progressive educational gap. The school failure rate (young people between 16 and 24 years old who do not graduate from compulsory secondary education) continues to be much higher than that of the general population (62.8% compared to 4%).

The situation of inequality that affects Roma students occurs for different reasons, including the social context in which Roma households live, with poverty rates of 87.4% and child poverty of 86.8%; the lack of response of the educational system to offer inclusive education; and the high concentration and segregation of Roma students in certain schools.

Here you can find a study on the situation of Roma students in Spain.

School segregation is also a key topic that affects Roma students. Five in ten Roma students in Spain attend segregated centres and four in ten attend severely or extremely segregated centres. The disproportionate impact of school segregation on Roma students and the negative impact it has on their education: affects the educational performance and quality and has a clear impact on the school failure of boys and girls.

Here you can find an exploratory pilot study on school segregation on Roma students in Spain

It is necessary the progress to reach equity in education with the implementation in Spain of a specific plan for guidance, support and educational reinforcement with national coverage, continued and in the long term to reverse the situation of school failure and early abandonment of Roma students. Likewise, the free incorporation of the entire Roma population into early childhood education is a must to combat inequality at an early age. Corrective mechanisms to reverse and prevent the situation of school segregation are also highly demanded. 

The importance of the role models.

Despite the overall educative situation of the Roma youth, there are more and more young Roma that are reaching high level education and becoming lawyers, teachers, engineers, scientists, doctors... They are acting as role model for the coming generations that would feel they could also become anything they dream.

Read our campaign "Have a look at your dreams"


Employment is nowadays one of the key aspects to guarantee equal opportunities and the full development of citizenship. But historical reasons, traditions and lifestyles, coupled with low levels of education and qualification, have influenced access to the paid employment of the Roma people, much lower than the average. In any case, it is necessary to point out the important changes that are taking place in recent decades in the incorporation of Roma women and men into employment.

Although it can be affirmed that there are Roma women and men in all types of professions, even in the most qualified, a very high percentage suffer from unemployment rates that are much higher than the rest of the population, so they are relegated to underemployment or informal economic activities and long periods of unemployment.

In September 2019, Fundación Secretariado presented the "Comparative study on the situation of the Roma population in Spain in relation to employment and poverty". This is the third specific study prepared by the FSG (the previous ones are from 2005 and 2011) following the Spanish Labour Force Survey methodology, which allows comparison with the general population.

The study reveals the low presence of the Roma population in the labour market, marked by precariousness and weak protection, with an unemployment rate that reaches 52% (which is more than 3 times that of the population overall, 14.5%), and where Roma women suffer a clear disadvantage in all areas due to their double status, such as women and Roma, with an employment rate that only reaches 16%. 
You can find the summary here


Access to decent housing is a constitutional right for all citizens. Although many Roma and non-Roma families have benefited from social housing policies in recent decades, there are still a significant number of Roma families living in slum and and substandard housing settlements. There have recently been emerging new problems related to housing among the most disadvantaged Roma (concentration in neighborhoods, deterioration of housing and environment, overcrowding).

In 2012, the spanish government elaborated the National Roma Integration Strategy 2012-2020, which includes actions in four key areas (education, employment, housing and health) with year objectives reviewed by the European Commission. To accomplish these objectives, in the area of housing a replication of the Study Map on Housing and the Roma Community 2007 was set to be made in 2015. In this context, the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality (MSSSI) issued a tender and awarded the contract to carry out the study to the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (FSG), which developed the task in collaboration with Daleph. This nationwide Study-Map was conducted under the supervision of the Directorate-General for Family and Children's Services of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, with the support, on a consultative basis, of representatives of the Housing Working of the State Council of the Roma People, of the Ministry of Public Works and invited experts.

The methodology used was similar to that used in the previous studies in 2007 and 1991 (also undertaken by the FSG), in order to be able to compare the information obtained and observe the changes occurred over the last years.

Some of the conclusions of the study-Map 2015 are as follows (executive summary can be downloaded here):

  • Despite the cliché that links Roma population with slum housing and segregated settings, results show that a 92.88% of the Roma population live in standard housing.
  • The slum housing rate of Roma households has decreased (from 10% in the first study carried out in 1991 to 3.9% in the 2007 study and 2.1% in the 2015 study). The same trend is observed as regards substandard housing (down from 21.4% in 1991, to 7.8% in 2007 and 6.46% in 2015). The Study-Map shows that in those municipalities where interventions for residential inclusion of Roma families were carried out, progress and improvements  occurred at all levels: living conditions, access to employment, children’s education, etc.).
  • Despite this positive trend, still more than 9 000 Roma families in Spain live in sub-standard housing conditions without the minimum standards of habitability (of them, still more than 2,000 live in shacks).
  • The Study-Map shows that the economic crisis has affected the socio-residential situation of the Roma population: there is a downward trend in the access to free-market housing (which is considered an important element of standardadisation in social inclusion processes); an increase in subsidised housing (which means that many families had to resort to public support) and an increase in other forms of access to housing (an indicator that housing needs have not been fully covered and families and families are forced to look for non-standard options like self-construction or living in other types of constructions).
  • The Study-Map also shows that in the past few years, as a consequence of the economic crisis, the most vulnerable neighborhoods have been the most neglected in terms of public investment, which leads to a clear risk of deterioration of utilities, facilities and services.

More recently, on 2023, Fundación Secretariado Gitano publishes the Study of the characteristics and circumstances of people living in slum and substandard housing settlements in Spain, which shows that 92% of people living in these settlements belong to ethnic or racial minorities, with the Roma people predominating (77% of the total). Another very striking element in relation to the profile of the population of the settlements is the very high percentage of children under 16 years of age, which amounts to 50%, 40% of whom are under 6 years of age. On the other hand, poverty is a chronic phenomenon in the settlements. Specifically, 93% of people living in the settlements live at risk of poverty, a figure that rises to 99% in the case of child poverty. Despite this, only 35% of people have access to the Minimum Income or other public assistance.


Health is one of the main evidences of welfare and life quality of people, groups and communities. Roma Community, as disadvantaged social and economic minority, is one of the population groups more susceptible of suffering from poor health. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inequality refers to differences in Health, which are unnecessary, avoidable and unfair. To confront it, the WHO proposes the concept Health equity. Health equity doesn't intend the same health condition for everyone, but aims the supply of the same opportunities for evreyone, so they can enjoy all its potential health. 

Roma people in Spain, in general, have worse health than the majority population (link to news). This conclusion is drawn from the latest national survey on Health and Roma population carried out by the Spanish Ministry of Health in 2014 and published in 2016 (link to study in Spanish). Specifically the levels of health, obesity, smoking and access to health services are worse in the Roma population than in the majority population. These data coincide with those extracted from the first National Roma Community Health Survey , 2006, carried out by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (link to report).

These are worrying data, especially considering that between 2006 and 2014, the Action Plan for the Development of the Roma population 2010-2012, was aproved by Spanish Council Of Ministers on 9th of April 2010. Subsequently, in line with the European Framework Strategy for Social Inclusion of the Roma population (European Commission on 5 April 2011) The National Strategy for the Social Inclusion of the Roma population in Spain 2012-2020 was approved by the Council of Ministers on 2nd March 2012. Despite these policies and programmes put into action, inequalities have not been significantly reduced. Therefore, it is necessary to review and evaluate the interventions and to implement, in the context of inter-sectoriality, new or more intensive, more effective, more equitable policies at all levels of governance - local, autonomous, national, European - to improve the health status  and reduces the inequity gap.

Social image

The negative image of the Roma community persists in mainstream society, beliefs and prejudices that lead to discriminatory attitudes clearly remains one of the main obstacles to the full exercise of citizenship of the Roma.
Despite the significant progress achieved in recent years in the social promotion of the Roma community, this negative image that stigmatizes continues to be deeply rooted in all social layers.

The media play an important role in spreading the image of the Roma people. However, it is common that the term Roma/ Gitano continues to be associated with facts related to either the folkloric image or the marginal. Therefore, it is essential to refer to the professional responsibility of the media for the dissemination of a real image and that does not contribute to perpetuating the stereotypes and prejudices that have fallen on Roma people for centuries.

Practical guide to prevent discrimination against the Roma community for media professionals:

Roma women and gender equality

Talking about Roma women means talking about diversity. This diversity has to do with the different starting points and attitudes in relation to education and training, paid and domestic work, and social participation.

Roma women today in Spanish society, as an ethnic-cultural group, face a different situation with respect to a majority, are still affected by multiple discrimination: as women in a patriarchal society and belonging to an ethnic minority that according to studies on social prejudices receives the worst social evaluation. Another factor that cannot be forgotten is their belonging to a culture whose gender values have traditionally been associated above all with the social function that they must fulfill as mothers and wives.

Here you can read a book we made showing the diversity of the Roma women almost 20 years ago. 50 Roma women in the spanish society (in Spanish) 50 mujeres gitanas en la sociedad española (FSG, 2003)

The time of Roma women

Through dialogue, reflection, effort and their increasing participation in society, Roma women are bringing new meanings to the Roma identity, they are becoming references and generating positive changes, not only within the Roma community itself, but in all of society.
Analyzing the relevance that the issue of Roma women begins to have in recent years and the changes that are taking place, very similar to those that occur in society as a whole, Roma women are still one more example of the normalization of the Roma community and its growing incorporation into Spanish society in all areas.
There are aspects in which the advancement and normalization of Roma in the diverse society is becoming very evident: their growing motivation towards training, employment and leisure; the increase in the number of enterprising Roma women, the greater coexistence in open and intercultural spaces ... All this is giving rise, not only to changes within their own community, but also throughout society.

Facing triple discrimination

Despite all these advances, it is necessary to highlight the barriers that Roma women still face today. An example of this is the multiple discrimination that they suffer as an ethnic group within Spanish society, being affected in a triple facet:

  • For being women in a patriarchal society
  • For belonging to a minority that receives the worst social value
  • For belonging to a culture whose gender values ​​are associated with the role of mother and wife, reducing their chances of promotion.

Due to the heterogeneity that characterizes them, Roma women respond to a great diversity of situations, ages, concerns and ways of life. To work for equal opportunities between women and men responding to this diversity, the Fundación Secretariado Gitano develops projects focused on achieving gender equality, an equality that is present, transversally, in all its activity.