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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 27 March 2022
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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 in Hungary has become longer. Young people reach the different milestones of their life later than earlier generations did. As in most of the former socialist countries, this tendency has started later in Hungary than in Europe on average, but it has been a significant phenomenon for the last two decades. (Heinz, 2008; Furlong – Cartmel, 2007 Referred in Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 10) The most important challenges young people face in Hungary are related to this phenomenon. (National Youth Strategy, 2009)

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:

  1. those who can join the global education and career network and
  2. 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 (polarizáció) 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. (KSH 2012/85 Referred in: Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 13)

Snapshot of the Microcensus and the Hungarian Youth Research in 2016

Based on the study report (tanulmány) of Anikó Gregor, the data of 2016, both from the Hungarian Statistical Office's Microcensus and the Hungarian Youth Research show, that there are changes in the transition process, and they seem to be positive from a cumulative view:

  • the rate of marriages has increased,
  • the total fertility rate has also increased, and
  • the average age at first marriages has stagnating.

However, this is only a snapshot, and we cannot be sure that it will be a long-term trend. Moreover, the polarisation mentioned above becomes even clearer when we analyse the groups of young people in comparison to each other.

The actual reasons are not yet apparent, but the Hungarian Government has prioritised population policy as of 2010. (For example, please see 4.6 Access to Quality Services and 1.4 Youth policy decision-making.) This is reflected in

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

It should be noted that young people with better economic and social status can benefit more from these policies, which can lead to even more differentiation between groups of young people. [Gregor, Anikó (2016): A hazai ifjúság demográfiai jellemzői és az azt alakító tényezők p. 10]  

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 the 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 [Bernát, Anikó (2014): Leszakadóban: a romák társadalmi helyzete a mai Magyarországon] 

According to the latest national survey (Microcenzus, 2016), 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

Many factors influence students' results (for example the school system, the students' family, and the social background). PISA surveys show a negative tendency in the performance of Hungarian youth, the results from 2012 and 2015 create a particularly negative image regarding the inefficiency of secondary education in Hungary. Looking closer at the data, the situation appears even more disappointing as the achievements of individuals are highly polarised, they reflect and even reproduce social inequalities. (Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 16-17) According to PISA 2018 survey; Hungarian students are close to, but below the OECD average, in terms of their average socioeconomic status. (PISA 2018)

Since the 1990s the expansion of access to education brought mobility opportunities also for young people coming from low-income families. However, these opportunities, however, have been available for less and less young people since 2010. (Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 16-17)

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]

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. 

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 also finances 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 (1997. évi XXXI. törvény a gyermekek védelméről és a gyámügyi igazgatásról).

Roma vocational colleges (and the network of these colleges) play an important role for disadvantaged pupils, including Roma youth [1882/2017. (XI. 30.) Korm. határozat a Roma Szakkollégiumi Tanács létrehozásáról és működéséről]

Young people and world of work (NEET youngsters)

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. Data available for 2019 show that the unemployment rate of Hungarian young people under the age of 25 dropped to about 11.4% (compared to the about 14.4% EU average) but it increased to 12.8% in 2020 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%) but slightly increased in 2020 (11.7%). (For more information on the employment situation of Hungarian youth is available in Chapter 3. Employment & Entrepreneurship.)

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

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

Roma population had a lower employement 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. [National Social Inclusion Strategy 2030 [(Magyar Nemzeti Társadalmi Felzárkózási Stratégia 2030)

Mobility and migration

Since the 2010s there has been intense interest in, and much controversy about, the increasing outward migration of Hungarians to other, primarily to European countries. The most concerned age groups are young adults who are in their 20s and 30s. Presumably, the economic crisis starting in 2008 and the unfavourable labour market situation have been the major causes. However, other factors might have also played a role (e.g. institutional support, welfare and social care system, the network of migration connections, the culture supporting migration, general satisfaction rate etc.). [Hárs, Ágnes, (2016): Elvándorlás, bevándorlás és a magyar munkaerőpiac]

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 a 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.
Digital skills

According to the new Public Education Strategy made for the European Union (az Európai Unió számára készített 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.

LGBT youth in Hungary

Progressive legislation regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was initiated in Hungary in the 2000s, but 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 implemented in Hungary, which aims to reduce prejudice regarding sexual orientation and sexual identity (szexuális irányultság és nemi identitás). (Dombos – Polgári, 2014; Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 76) LGBT youth are still in a more disadvantaged situation than their heterosexual peers. (Háttér Society Referred in: Youth Policy Review, 2016 p. 76)

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 researches like labour force survey (LFS), the Household budget and living conditions survey (HBLCS) that overview trends in certain age groups.

Main concepts

The Fundamental Law of Hungary and the National Social Inclusion Strategy 2030 [(Magyar Nemzeti Társadalmi Felzárkózási Stratégia 2030) referred hereinafter to as NSIS 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.