February 2020 blog - Data Gaps and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

By Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, CEO of Women's Budget Group 

 Last year I was asked to attend the Traveller Movement Conference to talk about how economic policies impacts women from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

Whilst preparing my presentation I found that there is a serious lack of data available about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

We had a look at the original data sets for the Family Resources Survey to see what data they held on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. We found this note:

Sample sizes for 'Gypsy, Traveller or Irish Traveller' are small, so for Northern Ireland, 'Irish Traveller' is included in 'Other ethnic group'. For England, Wales and Scotland Gypsy or Irish Traveller is included in white.

There was no mention of Roma people at all.

And this survey isn’t the only one where there are gaps. The Race Disparity Audit, which gathers all the data government holds about race and ethnicity in one place, includes 130 data sets. Of these, only 27 include classifications for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people and the majority of these (21) were in education.

And this matters, because data is what policy makers listen to.

We know that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community are economically disadvantaged and face heavy discrimination we don’t need data to tell us this, but data can help us to understand the specific ways that policies impact the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.

If there are no numbers then the experience of whole groups of people becomes invisible.

At the Women’s Budget Group data is central to the work we do in analysing who gains and who loses from economic policy and what impact this has on equality.

For the last 30 year we have been analysing the impact of UK government economic policy on women and men and making proposals for alternative policies. We are probably best known for our analysis of the budget every year. We also work to persuade governments, both in the UK and internationally to carry out their own analysis of the gender impact of their budgets and other economic policies and are part of an international network of organisations working on what is called gender responsive budgeting.

Last year we launched our Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy. The commission aims to develop a suite of alternative economic policies to promote gender equality in the UK.

Data will play an important role in the Commission in helping to understand how inequalities based on gender intersect with other forms of inequality based on race, disability, income, age and so on.

It will help to highlight how policies impact different groups of women and in what way, particularly poor women, BME women and disabled women face intersecting disadvantages across their life course.

The Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy has spent the last year travelling across the four nations of the UK, hearing from women’s and equalities organisations, and calling for evidence on four areas: paid and unpaid work, social security and taxation, public services, and the enabling environment required for a gender-equal economy. This is helping us to understand how the economic system is broken and how policies are currently interacting with one another in ways that creates further inequality. 

WBG’s vision of a gender-equal economy goes beyond measures to tackle specific inequalities, such as increasing the number of women in senior positions in companies, or eliminating the gender pay gap, but instead envisions a fundamentally reshaped economy which achieves a just society that is gender-equal across the board by putting the care and well-being of people and planet at its centre.  

This includes looking at the experiences of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community and understanding what policies have impacted them, to what extent and how. Where there is a lack of data, we need to fill the gaps with voices from within the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community as well as from people who are working closely with these communities.

We are keen to hear about alternative policies that you wish the Commission to consider that can help to achieve gender equality.

For more information on the Commission, click here

You can also contact us to find out more about the work of the Commission.

You can also follow the work of the Commission on Twitter #WBGCommission