Traveller poverty, work and discrimination focus of EU report

Irish Travellers participate relatively highly in school but do less well in wider society

Irish Travellers have the highest rates of acute poverty, the lowest employment rates and face some of the worst discrimination of six Traveller and Roma communities across Europe, according to a new report.

The findings from the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) show that while Irish Traveller children experience significant levels of bullying and harassment in school, they have one of the higher participation rates across the six communities. However, this does not translate into participation in wider society for most.

The Roma and Traveller in Six Countries report draws on published data and interviews with 4,659 people aged 16 and older self-identifying as Roma, Travellers or Sinti in Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom (which has since left the EU).

Hunger and poverty

It finds 31 per cent of Irish Traveller households, including 28 per cent of those with children, are in acute poverty. Irish rates are the highest across the six nationalities, followed by 28 per cent of Belgian Roma and Swedish Roma. Lowest rates are among the Dutch Sinti, at 4 per cent.


One tenth of Irish Travellers are in households where at least one person went to bed hungry in the past year, including 7 per cent of homes with children, while 40 per cent had “great difficulties in making ends meet”.

Irish Travellers had the lowest employment rates in the survey. Among 20-64 year olds, 17 per cent of Irish Traveller women have some paid employment, compared with 68 per cent of Irish women generally, while 13 per cent of Irish Traveller men have, compared with 82 per cent generally.

These rates compare with 80 per cent among Sinti men in the Netherlands, 75 per cent among UK gypsy and Traveller men and 64 per cent among male gens du voyage in France.

Bank accounts

Irish Travellers were the least likely to have a bank account, with 63 per cent not having one. Belgian Roma have the next highest rates at 29 per cent.

Nearly a third of Traveller parents (27 per cent) say their children have been harassed or bullied in school due to being Travellers.

However, Irish Traveller children have comparatively high participation rates in education at younger ages, with 75 per cent of eligible Traveller children in early childhood education and 96 per cent in formal education up to age 16.

While early school-leaving is far higher among Irish Traveller adolescents (70 per cent) than the general population (5 per cent), it is lower than among European counterparts in the UK (91 per cent) and the Netherlands (88 per cent)

FRA director Michael O’Flaherty said: “This report lays bare the shocking hardship too many Roma and Travellers endure in the Europe of today.”

The agency is urging member states to prioritise tackling anti-Traveller and Roma discrimination and to “ensure” it is “mainstreamed in all policy areas”.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times