August 13, 2009 / 12:42 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX: Eastern Europe's Roma people

(Reuters) - Eastern Europe has a significant and growing Roma or Gypsy population. Long-standing tensions between Roma and others have intensified as economic crisis bites.

Many Roma do not show up in censuses as they try to hide their ethnicity, and in some countries it is illegal to identify the Roma in legal documents.

The lack of hard data is a problem, making it difficult to tackle problems from employment to education and social services as well as policing, local experts have said.

BULGARIA

* Roma form 4.7 percent of the population, or about 370,000 people, according to the 2001 census.

* The proportion is expected to swell to 6.5-7.0 percent, or 520,000-550,000 people, by 2020, said Alexey Pamporov, a sociologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

* 2004 unemployment rate among the Roma was 56.2 percent, dropping to 48.3 percent in 2007 (reflecting those who quit seeking work as well as those who found employment).

* There has been no recent reported violence. The last instance was in 2007, when about 200 Roma smashed a cafe and attacked four people they said looked like skinheads after a Roma was reportedly beaten by skinheads.

* The nationalist party Ataka (Attack) scored a steady 9 percent in the last two elections, in 2005 and in 2009.

CZECH REPUBLIC

* Government estimates Roma population at around 2 percent of the population, or 200,000 people, but some organizations use figures of up to 450,000.

* A government study expects the Roma population to grow by 50 percent, to 300,000, by 2050.

* No official Roma unemployment figure exists (it is illegal to collect such data).

* Government spent 117 million crowns ($21.18 million) in 2008 to create jobs for the Roma.

* Roma population heavy in northern areas of the country, where violent attackers have used petrol bombs at least once.

* The far right Workers’ Party has not won representation and polls show it is unlikely to succeed in the upcoming elections in October.

HUNGARY

* Roma population is around 660,000, or 6.6 percent of society, research studies show. Official census figures are not available, and many Roma hide their identity.

* The proportion of Roma could reach 8 percent by 2020 and exceed 10 percent by mid-century, according to the Central Statistics Office KSH.

* Roma employment has been below 20 percent consistently since 1993, research studies show. Some areas, especially in the north of the country, have nearly 100 percent Roma populations and virtually total unemployment.

* Violent clashes have been frequent in the last 18 months, including attacks using petrol bombs, hand grenades, and rifles. More than half a dozen people have been killed.

* The far right party Jobbik has made substantial gains using stark anti-Roma rhetoric. It won 15 percent of votes at the June European Parliament elections and could take 50 of 386 Parliament seats next year.

ROMANIA

* Roma population at 535,000 according to official government estimates, but rights groups put it as high as 2.5 million, making it the largest Roma community in Europe.

* Romanian Roma have migrated elsewhere in Europe more than other nationalities, seeking opportunities in Ireland and Italy, where there are 500,000 Romanian citizens.

* In a 2005 study by the UNDP, the Roma unemployment rate (defined as those seeking work) was at 24 percent. Self-perceived unemployment (including the chronically jobless) is close to 80 percent, the UNDP said.

* Localized violent clashes have been sporadic. In July, ethnic Hungarians clashed with local Roma in Transylvania, prompting fears that Hungary’s troubles might spill over into Romania.

SLOVAKIA

* Roma population at 380,000 people, or about 7 percent of society, according to government estimates.

* Some 44 percent of the Roma are below 14 years of age, signaling an oncoming population boom, the government says. Most Roma families have 10 or more members.

* Less than 10 percent of Roma work regularly, according to the government.

* No violent unrest has happened since Roma revolts in the mid-1990s, and recently political parties have not singled out the Roma issue.

* A few housing projects and labor programs have eased conditions in some parts of the country.

Reporting by Reuters bureaux, writing by Marton Dunai

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