Hungary

   

Social Policies

#38
Key Findings
Increasingly 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 is unchanged relative to 2014.

The quality of public education has declined due to spending cuts and restructuring. The government has progressively centralized its control over universities, with negative effects on teaching and research quality. Poverty is worsening among those with low incomes, and the middle class is being further weakened. Roma are deeply marginalized, particularly with regard to education and employment.

Health care policy has led to widespread mismanagement and corruption, hospital debt, and a brain drain of medical staffers. High-quality care is available in the private sector, but is expensive. The government has contrasted pro-family rhetoric with its anti-immigrant positions, offering family assistance and other social benefits. Promised child-care expansions have been slow to emerge.

Although the government offered a one-time pre-election bonus to retirees, pensioner poverty has increased. 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

#40

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. While the quality of public education has declined, the children of the “royal court” have attended horrifically 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 (Nemzeti Közszolgálati Egyetem, 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, in an effort to force it out of the country. Massive protests both inside and outside Hungary, including threats of an infringement procedure on behalf of the EU, led the government to amend the act in October 2017, without really giving up on its goal of disturbing the work of the CEU. 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 Ministry of Innovation and Technology. 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 (e.g., Neumann János University in Kecskemét). 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 35 out of 38, Hungary trails behind in the OECD’s Life Satisfaction Index, and only one-third of Hungarian society can achieve a way of life similar to that in the developed EU countries. 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. The wage gap between men and women in comparison to other OECD countries is still extremely high.

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/bueros/budapest/14209.pdf).

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 care 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. Health care has suffered from the absence of a ministry tasked with addressing health care issues and from a limited health care budget, which is one of the lowest in the OECD with spending per capita at around 50% of the EU average. 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 in the campaign to the 2018 elections, health care has remained a low priority issue for the new Orbán government. Anikó Nagy, the new State Secretary for Health resigned already in early October, after less than five months in office.

Families

#28

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. In institutional terms, family policy has been strengthened by the creation of a cabinet committee on family affairs that is chaired by the minister of human capacities (EMMI). After the April 2018 elections, the government further intensified its pro-family rhetoric. Prime Minister Orbán, having referred to a “demographic focus” of the fourth Orbán government, announced a “deal with the Hungarian women” that is intended to stop the declining numbers of Hungarians. In November 2018, the eighth “national consultation” dealt with support for families. The first of the ten questions posed reveals the essence of the government’s propaganda campaign. It asked whether the problem of the decreasing population should be solved by immigration or by supporting families that have more children. Since 2016, the Orbán government’s family policy has gone beyond measures to raise family assistance and other social benefits for families. However, the expansion of childcare facilities announced by the government several times has progressed slowly.

Pensions

#33

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. As a result, pensioners have not benefited from the strong recent growth in wages. These changes have improved the financial sustainability of the first pension pillar but have also increased poverty among pensioners. The Orbán governments have failed to address this issue. The main reform project of the third Orbán government was the monstrous merger of the Pension Insurance Fund (Országos Nyugdíjbiztosítási Főigazgatóság, ONYF) and part of the National Health Insurance Fund (Országos Egészségbiztosítási Pénztár, OEP). In a populist move in the electoral campaign in 2018, the government sent vouchers worth HUF 10,000 (€33) to all pensioners.

Integration

#35

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.

Citations:
Helpers HU (2018): Hungarian Investment Immigration Program. Budapest ( https://helpers.hu/services/immigration/investment-program/).

Safe Living

#37

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 fell significantly from 290,779 in 2016 to 226,452 in 2017 (Hungarian Statistical Office 2019) and 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

#39

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 only relatively little policy attention to developing countries. The Orbán government adopted a strategy for international development cooperation and humanitarian aid for the period 2014-2020 in March 2014. Hungary’s development cooperation focuses on countries which have a large Hungarian minority and strong trade links with Hungary (Serbia, Ukraine) or in which Hungary has been militarily involved (Afghanistan). About 80% of all funds go to Serbia and Ukraine. Hungary’s net ODA has fallen short of the official EU and OECD targets and has further declined relative to GDP in recent years.

Citations:
OECD (2017): Development Co-operation Peer Review Hungary 2017. Paris (http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/dcr-2017-24-en).
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