The Labour Market of the Others: Economic strategies in Four Eastern European Roma communities in Campania, Italy

The paper focuses on the participation of Roma in the informal labour market in the light of some widely used concepts like the East-West migration, the Roma migration as such and the North-South distinction in public discourses. In certain contexts the boundaries of informal-formal, legal-semi-legal and illegal that are strongly context-based and driven by cultural and social factors, just like by economic and policy interests, closely intersect with questions that arise around migration. Through the case of Naples and Caserta and 4 Eastern-European Roma communities living in these territories I reflect on these concepts highlighting how relative they become when coinciding in one place. The word ‘others’ in the title has triple meaning: the stigmatised region, the immigrants and above all the Roma immigrants are often the others in public discourses. In this approach Naples and Caserta are not dealt like ‘exceptions’, but typical scenes of contemporary dynamics, where certain phenomena show higher density and visibility, e.g. the difference between the control on boundaries and the ‘common sense’. Beside other factors, the fluidity of boundaries, the high unemployment rate on the formal labour market maintains an informal market where the ‘trickery’ becomes the centric element of everyday strategies of struggling. In the context of Naples (historically) the tolerance towards these activities seems to be the key of maintenance of ‘social piece’.

The paper describes a selection of typical economic strategies of Roma from Eastern Europe, the place of Roma on the informal labour market compared to Italians, other immigrants and other Roma groups. The low position and its value has to be contextualised compared to the financial, social and cultural ‘profit’ gained both in the destination and source country, just like the questions of discrimination, exclusion and their role in identity construction and well-being. The paper also focuses on how the regularisation and housing policies intersect with the exclusion from the formal labour market and how the policies influence the survival strategies. Nowadays the crisis seems to change the established balance: the recent conflicts around low-status informal activities between Italians, different immigrant groups, show up the broken points of this system. The research results are based on a fieldwork implemented in four Roma communities in Campania region in Italy. The participatory observation and interviews made with community members are supplemented with the analysis of the legislative framework and policy context and interviews conducted with NGOs, experts and policy-makers.

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Kitti Baracsi

Project Coodinator "Common Development Program for Roma/Gypsy NGOs", Colorful Pearls Association for Southerner Roma Women

  • Topic of the paper:Four cases studies of Roma CEE Countries in Campina: rom-slavi, rumeni, ungheresi and bulgari
  • Research interests: