Child Poverty Is An Undeniable Fact In Hungary

  • 5 May 2015 9:00 AM
Child Poverty Is An Undeniable Fact In Hungary
Our compilation of excerpts from press articles offers conflicting statements about child poverty in Hungary. Even the pro-government media admit the problem but they stress improvement in recent years.

The opposition media express displeasure over what they perceive as deterioration.

The media that are close to the government stress the achievements and the plans:

Poverty is hitting Hungary harder than other countries of the region and children are primary victims, Eurostat’s figures for 2013 show. Only statistics of Bulgaria and Romania are comparable. The Hungarian Establishment isn’t attempting to sweep child poverty under the carpet. Member of Parliament Gabriella Selmeczi, senior human resources specialist of Fidesz, told the daily Magyar Nemzet late in 2014:

“Official statistics prove that child poverty has decreased in Hungary but still there is much to be done because even if a single child goes hungry in this country – that is unacceptable. The proper feeding of the children is a top priority. That’s one of the reasons why kindergarten attendance will become compulsory for all three-year-olds as from September 2015.

Under that new regimen, children from the age of three until the end of compulsory school attendance [age 16] can get a hot meal at some children’s institution on weekdays during the school year. If requested by the parents, children can get appropriate food at kindergartens or schools three times a day. It is a question how children are fed during weekends, bank holidays and the summer vacation.

To help ease that problem, in 2015 the funds available for kindergarten and school catering during the summer vacation will be by HUF 400 million higher than in 2014, and the funds available for children’s catering during the school year will be by HUF 5.5 billion higher than in 2014. In the future all Hungarian localities and districts of Budapest will be obliged to provide catering for children during weekends and during the summer vacation.”

As from early January 2016, children who attend day nurseries, kindergartens and grade schools (grades one to eight) will be entitled to free catering if in their family per person net monthly income is below HUF 87 000 (USD 313), the Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog announced in December 2014. Presently about forty percent of children in said age groups get free catering during the school year and the ratio will rise to two thirds. Income disclosure will be voluntary. Apple will be served more often than presently.

The Left–Liberal media discuss child poverty in a more critical tone:

On January 17, 2015, Gábor Czene wrote in Népszabadság:

Even while the Socialists were in power before 2010, surveys showed that in Hungary’s northeastern region [bordering on Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania] a third of the children lived way below the poverty line. Since then the scope of welfare programs has been curtailed.

A major, well-documented study by László Bass, assistant professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences of ELTE University, Budapest, “Gyermekes családok Magyarország válságövezeteiben, 2011–2013” (Families with Children in Hungary’s Crisis Zones, 2011–2013; published in Mozgó Világ, October 2014. The full text of the study is available online in Hungarian here) shows that children in poor families have meager chances for getting sufficient, healthful food. Their diet falls short of quantitative and qualitative norms alike.

In 2008 social exclusion affected 34 percent of children in Hungary; since 2010 with neoconservative Fidesz having been in power, the ratio has risen to 43 percent. In earlier years about 24 percent of children in Hungary lived way below the poverty line and by 2014 the figure had risen to 35 percent.

A UNICEF survey on child deprivation has produced similar findings. Its deprivation index includes fourteen items and shows the percentage of children between 1 and 16 who lack two or more of them because the households in which they live cannot afford to provide them.

The items are as follows: Three meals a day, at least one meal a day with meat, chicken or fish; fresh fruit and vegetables every day, books suitable for the child’s age and knowledge level (not including schoolbooks); outdoor leisure equipment; regular leisure activities; indoor games; money to participate in school trips and events; a quiet place with enough room and light to do homework; an Internet connection; some new clothes (i.e. not all second-hand); two pairs of properly fitting shoes; the opportunity, from time to time, to invite friends home to play and eat; the opportunity to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays, name days, religious events. Children are considered depraved if two or more items are unavailable for them.

Bearing those criteria in mind, every third child is depraved in Hungary. Of the under-18, 31.9 percent don’t have access to resources that are routine in advanced countries. On that UNICEF list, Hungary is among the least developed.

Between 2007 and 2014, out of 24 European Union countries, it was only in Hungary where public spending on welfare sharply fell, an OECD report of 2014 says. Whereas the majority of the countries concerned strove to cushion the poor against the effects of the crisis, since 2008 Hungary has been the only European country where “no such efforts have been made.” The quote is from a position paper of Gyerekesély Közhasznú Egyesület (Public benefit association to give a chance for children).

The association says poverty continued increasing in 2012-13 and inequality grew. Between 2010 and 2013 the multiplier between the revenues of the poorest and richest one million Hungarians went up from 7.2 to 8.2. The parameters that characterize the poverty, exclusion and deprivation of children in Hungary have been getter worse for years.

The deterioration of the condition of the poor in Hungary started to accelerate in 2010-11. Today some 440 000 children live in families with very low incomes and over 600 000 children experience deprivation in several aspects of life.

KOPINT–TÁRKI Institute for Economic Research Co. says that in 2012 nearly 90 percent of Hungary’s Roma population experienced grave deprivation and the same applied to a third of Hungary’s non-Roma population. Social workers working among the poor, and men in the street meeting the poor on a daily basis, report about growing poverty and an ever bleaker vision of the future. As in 2015 the welfare payments are further reduced, the situation is likely to further deteriorate.

The Gyerekesély association has drawn the conclusion that, although there is hot air about “protecting the poor,” at the end of the day the government’s policy of keeping numerous people on workfare, weakening poor people’s welfare entitlements and reducing welfare payments means that the government is indifferent to the fate of about three million Hungarian citizens, including hundreds of thousands of children.

Source: budapest

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