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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 1 April 2024
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  1. Main challenges to social inclusion
  2. Main concepts

Main challenges to social inclusion

In line with international trends, the transition process from youth to adulthood has become longer in Hungary. Young people reach the various milestones of their lives later than previous generations. As in most former socialist countries, this tendency has started later in Hungary than in the European average, but it has been a significant phenomenon for two decades. (Heinz, 2008; Furlong – Cartmel, 2007) The main challenges facing young people in Hungary are related to this phenomenon. (National Youth Strategy)

The life chances of Hungarian youth have been gradually polarised since the turn of the century.

  • Family background,
  • income,
  • the level of education,
  • social capital and
  • access to technology are the most influencing factors.

The biggest gap is between the following two groups of young people:

  • those who can join the global education and career network and
  • those who get stuck in their local disadvantaged communities.

Young people who fall between these two extremes can be described as members of the middle class, who face several risks and challenges, but also have a range of opportunities. (Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 11) This polarisation is particularly striking when looking at the life chances of rural and urban youth, particularly of young people living in Budapest. This is seen as an important root cause of internal migration.

At the same time, the proportion of young people living in severe financial and social deprivation at the end of 2022 was the second lowest in the last 8 years. 

Statistical data on youth

The Hungarian Statistical Office's Microcensus and other data show that there are changes in the transition process, and these seem to be positive from a cumulative view:

The actual reasons are not yet apparent, but the Hungarian Government has prioritised population policy as of 2010. This is reflected in

  • the public population policy measures, 
  • campaigns and
  • the public discourse surrounding them.

It should be noted that according to a study, young people with better economic and social status can benefit more from these measures, which can lead to even greater differentiation between groups of young people. (For more information on the population policy and measures, please see 4.6 Access to Quality Services and 1.4 Youth policy decision-making.)

Urban and rural

According to the Youth Research in 2020 [Hungarian Youth 2020 (Magyar Fiatalok 2020)] more than half (about 53% in 2020) of Hungarian young people (aged 15-29) live in cities, almost 1/3 (29% in 2022) live in villages and 18% of them live in Budapest. Regionally, their proportion is growing in Central Hungary: while in 2016 we found only 26% of young people in Budapest and Pest County, this rate was 31% in 2020.

Young people in their 20s from rural areas tend to move to urban settlements, and young people living in economically underdeveloped regions (in the Eastern and North-Eastern parts) of the country tend to move to the central and North-Western regions where they have more opportunities. (KSH 2012/85 Referred in: Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 13)

Ethnic minorities

The largest and most significant minority in Hungary is the Roma population which makes up about 6-7% of Hungarian society. (The uncertainty of the figures stems from the different methodologies used in censuses and surveys, which use both self-reporting and external categorisation.) The Roma population is much younger in terms of its age structure than the average population in Hungary.

According to the latest national survey, 31.1% of Roma are under 14 (in the total population this rate is 14.5%) and 41.1% of them are between 15-39 ages (31.6% in total population). The fertility rate of the Roma is much higher than the national average.

Inequalities in education

According to the latest Pisa Test in 2022, the performance of Hungarian students shows a negative trend, although the results were close to the OECD average. The difference between the results of socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students in mathematics (121 points) was greater than the OECD average (93 points).

Equal access to education for Roma people has been a highly controversial issue for decades. Early school leaving, segregation, and the lack of mobility chances stemming from education are in the core of the debate.

On a positive note, the proportion of children attending kindergarten has increased between 2010 and 2020 (currently around 92%). The proportion of people with a secondary education has increased, although this is not the case for the Roma population; among them, the number of low-skilled people remains high. [National Social Inclusion Strategy 2030 [(Magyar Nemzeti Társadalmi Felzárkózási Stratégia 2030) referred hereinafter to as NSIS 2030]

Measures against inequalities in education

The above-mentioned facts resulted that between 2010 and 2020, the Hungarian government expanded the number of kindergarten places in order to reduce educational inequalities (nearly 16 000 new seats created) (NSIS 2030).

The Hungarian Government finances also the Tanoda Programme from the central budget and this Programme became the part of the child protection system from 2019 according to the Act XXXI of 1997.

Roma vocational colleges (and the network of these colleges) play an important role for disadvantaged pupils, including Roma youth. (For more information see sub-chapters 4.4 and 4.5).

Young people and world of work

The employment rate of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 was 28.5% compared to the 35.7% EU average in 2019 and it stagnated in 2020-2021 (27.5%). Within the youth age group, 25-29-year-olds are best positioned in terms of employment. Their employment rate in 2022 was 82.4%.

Data on the unemployment rate of Hungarian young people under the age of 25 shows that the rate has dropped to about 11.4% (compared to the about 14.4% EU average) in 2019, but it increased since then to 13.5% in 2021, but it's a general trend in the EU countries.

The NEET rate of Hungarian young people between 15-24 ages remained unchanged in 2019 (11%) and slightly increased in 2020 (11.7%) but decreased again in 2021 (10.6%). (More information is available in Chapter 3. Employment & Entrepreneurship.)

In the NSIS 2030 it is also stated that there are differences in the employment according to

  • age,
  • educational attainment,
  • employment circumstances and
  • ethnicity.

Roma population had a lower employment rate (45.5%) than the total population (70.8%) in 2019, between the ages 15-64. The main reason is that they have a lower educational attainment and they mainly live in disadvantaged regions.

Mobility and migration

Since the 2010s, there has been intense interest in, and much discussion about, the increasing migration of Hungarians to other, mainly to European, countries. The age groups most affected are young adults in their 20s and 30s. Probably, the economic crisis from 2008 and the unfavourable labour market situation were the major causes. However, other factors may have played a role such as institutional support, welfare and social care systems, the network of migration links, the culture supporting migration and the overall satisfaction rate.

The Youth Research in 2020 [Hungarian Youth 2020 (Magyar Fiatalok 2020)] states that in 2016, 15%, while in 2020, 11% of Hungarian young people planned to live abroad. The proportion of those planning short-term work abroad has not changed compared to previous research, but the proportion of those planning a long-term mobility or establishment has decreased. The top three reasons are

  • better living,
  • family reasons and
  • career goals.

According to a study from 2020, the willingness of young people to move abroad is significantly related to age, gender and educational attainment level. The type of settlement, the knowledge of a foreign language, the region, the marital status and the subjective financial situation influence also the migration potential of young people.

Digital skills

According to the Public Education Strategy 2021 - 2030 (Köznevelési stratégia 2021 - 2030) the importance of the digital knowledge and skills are growing in Hungary but show big differences by regions and social backgrounds and increase social inequalities. Therefore, it is important to highlight and develop digital knowledge and skills in education and training to create equal opportunities. (For more information, see sub-chapter 6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media)

LGBT youth in Hungary

Progressive thinking and legislation regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was initiated in Hungary in the 2000s, but the trends in political and social recognition and acceptance do not reflect a positive picture. The most important policy document regarding LGBT people in Hungary is the Act CXXV of 2003 on Equal Treatment and the Promotion of Equal Opportunities that lists sexual orientation and sexual identity among protected characteristics. Although the current Fundamental Law of Hungary does not refer to sexual orientation or identity itself, it forbids any forms of discrimination based on difference.

Currently there is no strategy or action plan in Hungary aimed at reducing prejudice related to sexual orientation and sexual identity. LGBT youth are still in a more disadvantaged situation on marriage and adoption of children than their heterosexual peers.

Regular national surveys on young people's social inclusion

There are no regular national surveys on the social inclusion of young people. There are large sample surveys such as the Labour Force Survey (LFS), and the Household Budget and Living Conditions Survey (HBLCS) that give an overview of trends in specific age groups.

Main concepts

The Fundamental Law of Hungary and the National Social Inclusion Strategy 2030 (Magyar Nemzeti Társadalmi Felzárkózási Stratégia 2030) reflect that

  • human dignity;
  • social integration;
  • the respect of fundamental rights;
  • fight against prejudice as well as against hate speech and
  • against exclusion are important issues for the Hungarian Government.

According to the Fundamental Law, social inclusion and equal opportunities are interrelated, they must be treated as linked.

The NSIS 2030 has established a long-term inclusion strategy which aims to change attitude when

  • poverty reduction and
  • Roma policy.

The change of attitude is reflected in articulating solutions which enable practical, effective forms of action to support the inclusion of disadvantaged groups. The Hungarian Government aims to integrate

  • its strategy related to children living in low-income families with,
  • its strategy on Roma issues, and
  • its strategy to support disadvantaged regions;

along with fulfilling the fundamental goals of the Government which are the following:

  • boosting the economy,
  • increasing employment,
  • redefining labour as value,
  • reducing poverty,
  • strengthening social security.