Hungary

   

Social Policies

#38
Key Findings
Reflecting the state’s conservative ideology, Hungary’s social policies place it in the bottom ranks (rank 38) in international comparison. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The quality of public education has shown a marked decline. School textbook content is increasingly influenced by nationalistic ideology. The government has centralized control over the entire higher education system. Poverty is worsening among those with low incomes, and the middle class is being further weakened. Islands of poverty exist in the country’s east, and Roma are increasingly segregated.

Healthcare has suffered from the absence of a dedicated ministry and low spending. Outcomes lag behind those in most other EU states, and many doctors and nurses have emigrated. Some hospital sectors have had to close due to staffing shortages. Family policy has focused on providing incentives to have children rather than on enabling women to combine parenting and employment.

The promised expansion of childcare facilities has progressed slowly. Concern about intergenerational fairness in the pension system is rising. The government has taken a strongly xenophobic anti-refugee stance both domestically and in an EU context. Crime rates have fallen, but the government does little to prevent violence against Roma, Jews, homosexuals and opposition demonstrators.

Education

#39

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
3
Since the second Orbán government assumed office in 2010, the education system has undergone major changes. Spending has been cut, competencies and monitoring duties have been centralized, private and religious schools have been strengthened, and secondary education has been restructured with a view to strengthening vocational education. Education outcomes are below the EU average, show wide disparities and the education system obstructs social mobility. The salaries of teachers are still low compared to other tertiary education graduates. The regular PISA surveys have shown a marked decline in the quality of education in Hungary. According to the latest PISA survey, Hungary ranks 38th worldwide for education. At the same time, the content of school textbooks has been increasingly influenced by ideology. Pupils are educated in a nationalistic fashion, which celebrates the greatness of the Hungarian people and their “historic suffering,” while often denying historical facts. This ideological infiltration begins at kindergarten level, and is a common feature in primary and secondary education. While the quality of public education has drastically declined, the children of the “royal court” have attended expensive private schools that remain out of the financial reach of average citizens.

The government’s efforts to exercise control over universities has proceeded over a series of several steps. Under the second Orbán government, the University of Public Service (NKE) was established and tasked with controlling public administration and, to some extent, legal education. In addition, the government appointed “chancellors” in all universities. The third Orbán government passed a new act on higher education in April 2017 that targeted the Central European University (CEU), the most prestigious institute of higher education in Hungary, which eventually moved a major part of its activities to Vienna. Under the fourth Orbán government, government control over the higher education sector has continued with the transfer of the prestigious Corvinus University from the Ministry of Human Resources (which is the successor to the Ministry of Education), to the newly created the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, which has controlled the entire higher education system since September 2019. The goal here is to transform Corvinus University into a “private” university for a new business elite that is loyal to the government. The privatization of higher education has also been favored by the establishment of a new system of “private” universities with a clear pro-government profile that derives its resources from various foundations established by the Hungarian National Bank. So far, the Orbán government’s impact on universities has had a negative effect on teaching and research quality and on Hungarian higher education’s international reputation.

Social Inclusion

#30

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
4
The basic social message of the Orbán governments has always been that they would fight for upward mobility of “hard working people” in Hungarian society, representing the interests of both the middle class and low-income earners. However, despite some economic recovery since 2013, both the impoverishment of people in the lower income deciles and the weakening of the middle classes have continued. Ranking 36 out of 40 countries for life satisfaction, Hungary trails behind in the OECD’s Better Life Index 2019. Only one-third of Hungarian society can achieve a way of life similar to that in the developed EU member states. There are also strong regional disparities in terms of social inclusion, with big islands of poverty prevailing in Eastern Hungary, and a growing segregation of the Roma population.

Citations:
OECD, Better Life Index (http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/life-satisfaction/).

Szikra, D. (2018): Welfare for the Wealthy: The Social Policy of the Orbán-regime, 2010-2017. Budapest: Freidrich-Ebert Foundation (http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bu eros/budapest/14209.pdf).

Tóth, I. G. (2019): Hungarian Social Report 2019. Budapest: TÁRKI (https://www.tarki.hu/eng/tarsadalmi-riport).

Health

#40

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
3
Health outcomes in Hungary lag behind most other EU member states due to both the low performance of healthcare provision and unhealthy lifestyles. The number of avoidable deaths in Hungary is one of the highest in the European Union. Healthcare has been one of the most conflict-ridden policy field in Hungary. A continuing series of scandals have made this issue a major Fidesz policy weakness and a subject of large-scale public protest. Healthcare has suffered from the absence of a ministry tasked with addressing healthcare issues and from a limited healthcare budget, which is one of the lowest in the OECD with spending per capita at around 50% of the EU average. A large number of medical doctors and nurses have emigrated to the West due to the very low salaries. Consequently, some sectors of hospitals have been closed because of the lack of doctors. At the same time, very small hospitals are maintained although they cannot be operated efficiently – the fear of public protests against a centralization of hospitals prevents necessary reform. The Orbán governments have failed to tackle the widespread mismanagement and corruption in the health sector, the large debt burden held by hospitals, the discretionary refusal of services by medical staffers, and the increasing brain drain of doctors and nurses to other countries. Good quality services are available in the private sector, but only for a small share of society. Despite some reform announcements, healthcare has remained a low priority issue for the fourth Orbán government. In 2019, the responsibility for medical schools and the health research budget has been transferred from the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI) to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (ITM), so that institutional fragmentation has further increased.

Citations:
Kingsley, P., B. Novak (2019): In Hungary, Viktor Orbán Showers Money on Stadiums, Less So on Hospitals, in: New York Times, October 26 (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/26/world/europe/viktor-orban-soccer-health-care.html).

Families

#29

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
5
Family policy has always been a rhetorical focus for the Orbán governments. In the context of the government’s campaign against refugees, it has attached even greater importance to family policy. The government has repeatedly stressed its view that the ongoing decline in population must be tackled not by immigration, but by increasing birth rates in the country and has declared this to be a major political goal. After the April 2018 elections, the government further intensified its pro-family rhetoric. Prime Minister Orbán has spoken of the “demographic focus” of his fourth government and has announced a “deal with the Hungarian women,” which is intended to stop Hungary’s population from shrinking. Spending on family policy in Hungary has been high. However, family policy has continued to focus on improving the material situation of parents and providing incentives to having children rather than on enabling women to combine parenting and employment. In this vein, a reform package adopted in April 2019 introduced interest-free loans for married couples who commit to having children, subsidies for the purchase of new, seven-seater vehicles for families with at least three children and an expansion of the preferential home purchase subsidy scheme for parents. By contrast, the expansion of childcare facilities announced by the government some time ago has progressed slowly.

Pensions

#34

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
4
Hungary introduced a three-pillar pension system along World Bank guidelines in 1997 that featured a strong mandatory, fully funded second pillar. Upon coming to office, the second Orbán government abolished this second pillar and confiscated its assets. It also shifted disability pensions to the social assistance scheme, eliminated some early-retirement options and did not reverse the shift from Swiss indexation (which adjusts outstanding pensions by the average of the price and wage indices) to price indexation, as it had been introduced by the previous government in the context of the great recession. While undermining trust in the reliability of pension policy, these measures have improved the financial situation of the public pension scheme.

For the time being, the growing gap between the growth in wages and pensions has been partly compensated by extra payments. Immediately before the 2018 parliamentary elections, all pensioners received checks worth HUF 9,000 for the payment of their energy bills. However, these extra payments are not considered when calculating next year’s pensions. For these and other reasons, inequality among pensioners and the share of poor pensioners will increase dramatically in the future, raising concerns about inter- and intra-generational fairness.

Citations:
European Commission (2020): Country Report Hungary 2020. SWD(2020) 516 final, Brussels, 24 (https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2020-european-semester-country-report-hungary-en.pdf).

Integration

#36

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
3
The refugee crisis has proven that Hungary is still primarily a transit country with only a small number of migrants who want to stay in the country. The fragile economic situation, low wages, a difficult language and a government-orchestrated xenophobic public climate are deterrents. The Orbán government has fiercely refused the integration of non-Europeans and non-Christians as a lethal danger to Hungarian national culture and identity. The Orbán government’s tough stance on refugees contrasts with the government’s generous Hungarian Investment Immigration Program. In this framework, non-EU citizens can get Hungarian passports for investing in the country. So far, the government has collected €403 million from these residency bonds issued for twenty thousand persons, many of them from China and Russia. This business has been organized by the Antal Rogán, the head of prime minister’s cabinet office, and managed by Fidesz close offshore companies accumulating a large amount of private profit from this business. Because of protest against this nontransparent scheme, the business was allegedly suspended, but still seems to be going on in some ways.

Safe Living

#35

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
6
In Hungary, regular crime is largely within normal limits. Budapest is a rather safe capital city and the crime incident rate in the country remains relatively low. According to the Hungarian Statistical Office, the number of committed crimes is now at the level observed in 1989. However, public trust in the police has remained low, and the government’s attempts to prevent atrocities from being perpetrated against Roma, Jews and homosexuals, as well as to protect opposition demonstrators, have remained rather half-hearted.

Global Inequalities

#38

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
3
Hungary pays relatively little policy attention to developing countries. Hungary’s net ODA has fallen short of the official EU and OECD targets, and has further declined relative to GDP in recent years. The development cooperation of the Orbán government has focused on countries which have a large Hungarian minority and strong trade links with Hungary. As a result, about 80% of all funds have gone to Serbia and Ukraine. The government’s strong public commitment to supporting deprived and oppressed Christian communities in developing countries has remained largely rhetorical.
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