Hungary’s Roma still well behind in education and employment, statistics show

November 2, 2016


Major disparities between Hungarian Roma and non-Roma citizens continue to exist in education levels and employment status, reports

80 percent of Roma aged 15-64 have not completed more than eight years of primary education, compared to 20 percent among non-Roma, according to data compiled in 2015 by the Central Statistical Office (KSH).  Of those Roma, 16 percent did not finish primary school at all, while 63 percent completed primary school without going on to secondary school. The comparable figures for non-Roma Hungarians are 1 percent and 19 percent, respectively. The disparity narrows among those students who study at vocational and trade schools: 15 percent of Roma versus 25 percent of non-Roma completed vocational programs.

Whereas over a third of working age, non-Roma Hungarians have completed baccalaureate studies, only 5 percent of Roma have done so.  The statistics are even more troubling among university degree holders: whereas 20 percent of non-Roma have completed a higher-education program, only 1 percent of Roma have done so.

Education levels play a heavy role in the state of the Hungarian labor market as well, especially among Roma. According to the 2015 statistics, 39 percent of able-bodied Roma are employed, compared to 65 percent of non-Roma. 28 percent of Roma are considered unemployed (without a job and searching for employment) compared to 6 percent of non-Roma. 45 percent of Roma are considered “inactive,” that is neither employed nor actively seeking employment.  By contrast, only 31 percent of non-Roma are inactive. 

Employment among working-age Roma women is 30 percent, just over half that of non-Roma women (59 percent).

The report notes that employment rates among Roma had improved compared to 2014, and that rates of improvement during that time had exceeded those among non-Roma. However, much of this data is attributable to controversial public work programs instituted by the state, whereby poor Roma and other Hungarians are paid below minimum wage to perform manual labor such as digging ditches and picking up garbage, and thus are considered employed. 42 percent of working Roma are employed by public work schemes. One in five public workers is Roma.

Nearly 93 percent of non-Roma children in Hungary live in a family with at least one income-earner. The number falls to 68 percent in the case of Roma children, the majority of whom live in households with insufficient income to maintain families, with one or both parents employed in a public work program or minimum-wage jobs.  The fact that social services and family allowances have not been increased for many years has contributed to Roma families falling further behind their non-Roma countrymen in terms of average household income, the KSH report states.

It also finds that discrimination in the workplace disproportionately affects Roma, with some 52 percent experiencing some discrimination in their lives, and 45 percent perceiving the discrimination as being due to their ethnic origins. 50 percent claim to have experienced discrimination while searching for a job, and 20 percent while working, during termination, or in office administration. The report concludes that discrimination against Roma takes place independent of the level of education, and that completing secondary school or vocational training does not decrease discrimination.