The Central Statistical Office (KSH) published an inventory of more than 100 pages about 2014. We have browsed through the sea of numbers for our readers, and besides the well-known results we also found some surprising data.
Last year about 4.1 million Hungarians aged between 15 and 64 years were active on the labour market. This means an employment rate of 61.8%, which is only 2.7% below the European Union average, while this latter figure was still 5.3% in 2013.
This statistic was however decisively influenced by the intensification of the public employment programs, which had 118,000 more participants compared to 2013. University graduates formed the most active group on the labour market, their employment rate being 80.8% as opposed to the 31.5% of labourers with primary education.
In 2014 there were 7.6% men, 8.0% women, 20.4% school graduates (15- to 24-year-olds) and only 6.4% aged over 55 among the unemployed. Almost every fifth Hungarian who finished studies upon completing primary school was impacted by unemployment. As opposed to this, only 3.2% of university graduates were impacted.
Only Budapest pays above average
The average gross wages for full-time employees reached HUF 237,700 last year, which means a net HUF 155,700 (about EUR 510). The competitive sphere paid more than HUF 165,000, while the public employees earned around HUF 155,000 on average.
The 183,000 people working in the public employment programs received a gross salary of HUF 78,000 each month. The employees working in the financial sector continued to earn the most (net HUF 320,000 on average), and the least was paid in healthcare and catering, where employees were taking home less than HUF 100,000 each month.
There were big discrepancies between the different regions of the country. As expected, Central Hungary and the capital pay about one fifth above average, amounting to HUF 188,000 per month. All other regions are around the average, however the North Hungarian region and the Southern Great Plain are about one fifth below average, and the Northern Great Plain even lies one quarter below, only reaching HUF 120,000.
The “tenth” earning minimum wage or worse
The government is generating growth with even the badly paid new workplaces in the public employment programs. Often criticised for their low efficiency and for not enhancing the economy by giving impetus to the value chain, the state is at least gaining income via taxes and fees.
Since in Hungary the minimum wage is taxed, the government is even taking away the “tenth” from those people who are earning the least. Possibly it’s nothing more than doing the necessary, since the demographic situation continues to be overwhelming.
Last year Hungary became smaller again, in total by around the magnitude of a city such as Salgótarján, Cegléd, Baja or Szigetszentmiklós. If we look at it statistically, a whole city has been disappearing each year since the 1980s.
The Orbán government clearly placed families in the centre of its social policy after 2010, making them the beneficiaries of the unification of the income tax key and the family tax benefits. Last year 2,800 more babies were born compared to 2013. A total of 91,500 births were counted nationwide, which is in fact the best result since the worst point in 2010, but it’s still far from reaching the 100,000 births recorded in the years of the global financial crisis.
The support of young families is reflected in the growing number of marriages as well – when there were 38,700 (young) couples saying “we do” last year, the conservative demographist can logically count on a growing number of births as a result. However, it’s a truth that under the governance of the socialist-liberal governments between 2002 and 2010 there were more than 40,000 marriages each year. Fidesz needs to perform a magic act if it wants to attract more people to the altar in an aging society.
Not a neoliberal model, not a welfare state
KHS’s actual estimate of the current population (based on the last census in 2011) is 9.85 million citizens – so the Hungarians are already a complete Miskolc or Szeged away from climbing back to the magic number of ten million. This estimate already takes the current emigration wave into account, so Hungarian society is unable to compensate for its depopulation.
Hundreds of thousands have gone to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain and elsewhere, while there are only a couple of tens of thousands Germans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russians and of course Transylvanian Hungarians who are permanently staying in Hungary. In such a situation the government’s strong stance against immigrants is quite strange.
The bottom line, it seems, is quite clear. Beyond the hysteria, the Hungary led by the Orbán government will not be using immigration – apart from the Hungarians living abroad who are always welcome back – to compensate for the not exactly slow population decline.
The next years will decide whether the deliberately introduced measures for the strengthening of the family institution will be enough alone to overcome a situation that is threatening to become a crisis, and whether the Fidesz-KDNP government with its two-thirds majority really managed to revamp and shake up Hungarian society.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán likes to talk about the decline of the doomed West, whose neo-liberal model Hungary is no longer willing to follow blindly. However he remains quiet about the fact that this will mean the disappearance of the welfare state. After all, the (North-) Western European model of social market economy, which was envisioned as the future by the Eastern Europeans in the storm of the political turn in 1989, is in a deep crisis.
The West is still chasing the dreams of those times. In Hungarian eyes the German or British model of society appears more attractive than the new Hungarian model. So Orbán still has a lot of convincing to do, preferably with deeds than with speeches.