Roma/Gypsy population in Bulgaria as a challenge for the policy relevance

Alexey Pamporov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The Roma live among the other European populations since centuries but still they are an example for a quite unknown otherness. The Roma population has become a major focus of the policy makers in Europe recently, after the beginning of the enlargement of EU. There are four main areas of concern for the Roma population: housing, education, employment and political participation. Unfortunately, some cultural specifics of Roma bias the official statistics and embarrass the demographical analyses. In order to provide relevant policies, our paper focuses on two issues. First, we are going to present the differences between the estimations on the size of the Roma in Bulgaria, based on the ethnical identity. Second, we are going to explain the specifics of the Romany marital pattern, concerning the legal system. The census in 1992 takes count of 333 396 Roma (3.69% of the country population) and of 370 908 in 2001 (4.68%). Several Bulgarian and European Roma experts claim this numbers to be underestimated. They state the real size of Roma population is about 800000 in 1993 and 1.1 million in 2002, based on the data of Ministry of Internal affairs about 1989. It is my contention that this numbers are overestimated. Using the same data from 1989 and on the basis of three indicators, we range the size of Roma population between 634595 and 794478 about year 2006. Nevertheless, due to language identity the number of 319821 Romany speakers about year 2001 could be useful for a police purposes. The official statistics recently indicate relatively high rate of non marital cohabitations (39.7%) and high proportion of the extramarital births among Roma in Bulgaria. Such a statistics is absolutely irrelevant. In fact the Roma practice four different types of traditional marriage: “a ransom”, “an elopement”, “a kidnap” and “an agreement”, which official statistics does not recognize.

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Presented in Poster Session 1