Institute of European and American Studies (IEAS)Social Development-English Version
E.U. & U.S. Public Policy Forum Social Development

The Status of Gender Equality in Hungary

Author:Judit HIDASI Professor

Release Date:2017/02/24

  The past decade has witnessed a renewed interest in the main driving factors of economic growth in the OECD countries. The cross-country variability in both growth patterns and potential explanatory variables is significant with regard to the historical and geographical features of the countries under investigation.

  Hungary – a landlocked country in Central-Eastern  Europe, an island-country both  in  the linguistic and in the cultural sense  (surrounded by Slavic, Germanic and Latin countries), a one-time member state of the Austro-Hungarian empire (1867-1918), and a later-time member state of the socialist countries block (1949 – 1990) –has been affected during its hectic history by so many influences, by so many political and economic models and hence by so many changes in systems, regimes, structures and legislature, that since the great regime-change in 1990 (from socialism to capitalism)  it has been occupied with searching the most effective ways of construing a modern society – whilst maintaining its cultural and national identity. 

  In its efforts to identify  the most efficient track for economic development it parallelly needs to address issues of societal nature, among them the question of gender, the role of women in society and on the labour market. If to look at the recent  Global Gender Gap Report 2015 of the World Economic Forum, we can trace down the relevant data for Hungary.  The Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. Year 2015 sees the 10th edition of the Index, allowing for time-series analysis on the changing patterns of gender equality around the world and comparisons between and within countries. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. In the 2015 report Hungary  ranked  99th out of 145 countries, just below Cyprus  and above Swaziland,  with a score of  0.672  . What is even more worrying though is that instead of making progress in decreasing the gender gap, it shows a slight fallback if to compare with the relevant 2014 data: 93 out of 142 countries with a score of 0.676. The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 finds that gender disparities in Hungary are relatively small in health and survival (0.9791), and in educational attainment (0.9924) indicators, more pronounced in economic participation and opportunity (0.6683) and outstandingly great in  political empowerment with a score of 0.0636 that puts the country to the 139! place in the world rank.

  Despite of the profecies of social scientists, of public-life analysts (Ternovszky 2013) and of psychologists (Vekerdy 2013), who assume that the 21st century is to be determined by women, claiming it to be „the century of women” (Zimbardo 2015), few if any signs of it can be seen in Hungary during the 15 years that have passed since the turn of the century. Currently, Hungarian companies do not make full use of the existing labour force potential, not speaking about the drastic underrepresenation of women in political empowerment.

  The European Institute for Gender, aiming to support more effective policymaking at EU, developed the Gender Equality Index, first proposed in the European Commission’s ‘Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men 2006–10’ and launched in 2013 (EIGE 2016). The Gender Equality Index is a composite indicator that provides a measure  of the complex concept of gender equality. It measures gender gaps within a range of areas relevant to the EU policy framework in eight domains: work, money, knowledge, time, power, health, violence and intersecting inequalities, where the selection of domains is guided by a conceptual framework. The Gender Equality Index is formed by combining these gender indicators into a single summary measure. The results of the Gender Equality Index show that „ there have been visible, albeit marginal, improvements between 2005 and 2012 in the domains covered by the Gender Equality Index. With an overall score of 52.9 out of 100 in 2012, the EU remains only halfway towards equality, having risen from 51.3 in 2005. Progress needs to increase its pace if the EU is to fulfil its ambitions and meet the Europe 2020 targets.” (EIGE 2016: 3.)  Hungary with its 41.4 overall score (the lowest score –as can be expected - being that for power 24.4) still has in its turn a long way to go towards improvement.

  In a  detailed country profile  of Hungary (The Current Situation 2012)six groups of indicators show the status quo in 2011.

1.The general participation rate of women in the Hungarian labour market lies at 50.6%, which is below the EU average (58.5%) – the rate of women actively searching for work (11%) is higher than that of the EU-average (10%).

2.The rate of Hungarian women working part-time (8.8%) is significantly lower than the EU average (31.6%) – however, the female average part-time weekly working hours (23) are higher in Hungary than on EU-average (20). According to a Eurobarometer survey, however, an easier access to part-time work is ranked as important for 72% of Hungarians – this is the highest percentage in all of the EU. The part-time working hours as share of full-time working hours have been stagnating for both women and men since 2002. The share is now slightly higher for female employees than for male employees.

3.College/university (tertiary education) attainment of Hungarian women has increased to 20.4% but still lies below the EU average (24.8%). The existence of "typically" female fields of education is notable in Hungary. 79.8% of all students in "teacher, training and education science" and 73.2% of all students in "health and welfare" are female. These numbers are lie around the EU-average for these fields of study (76.7% and 74.0%). In addition, the rate of women in "typically male" subjects is even lower in Hungary than in the EU-27: women represent 32.4% of all students in "science, maths and computing" (EU-average: 37.6%) and 18.1% in "engineering" (EU-average: 25.0%). Hence, gender segregation in fields of studies is even more pronounced in Hungary than on EU-average.

4.The under-/overrepresentation of women and men in occupations or sectors (horizontal segregation) is pronounced in Hungary as well as on EU average – it is necessary to motivate female graduates to enter gender "atypical" sectors. Three of the top five female sectors, "manufacturing", "wholesale & retail" and "public administration", are also among the top five male sectors. Added up, 43.1% of all female employees and 43.8% of all male employees work in these three sectors. On the other hand, the two remaining top-5 female sectors, "education" and "health & social work", are "typically female". For example, 14.0% of all employed women work in "education" whereas only 3.6% of men work in this sector. On the other hand, the second most popular sector for men is "construction" in which 12.7% of all employed men work. The share of employed women who work in this sector is very low with only 1.3 %.  In order to compare the extent of horizontal segregation in Hungary with the overall EU- 28 average, two horizontal segregation indicators are calculated: (1) Sectorial Gender Segregation Indicator (SGS)11, (2) Occupational Gender Segregation Indicator (OGS)
  The extent of sectorial gender segregation (SGS) in Hungary is as high as the average of the overall SGS of the EU-28 (5.4 pp). Consequently, Hungary needs to focus on motivating women to enter "typically male" economic sectors and men to enter "typically female" economic sectors.
  The extent of occupational gender segregation (OGS) in Hungary (5.1 pp) is slightly higher than the overall OGS of the EU-27 (4.6 pp). For this, in Hungary the challenge remains to focus on motivating women to enter "typically male" occupations and men to enter "typically female" occupations.                 

5.The under-/overrepresentation of women and men on hierarchical levels (vertical segregation)  is stronger in Hungary than on EU average - the rate of women on boards lies at 5% (EU-average 14%) and the rate of women in national government is equally low with 9% (EU average 26%). Therefore, the challenge for Hungarian companies remains to continue promoting women into economic decision making positions and especially focus on increasing the number of women on boards.

6.The unadjusted gender pay gap – the overall difference in income between women and men – lies at 17.6% in Hungary which is slightly higher than the EU average (16.4%). More equality within the business sector and a reduction of the gender pay gap can only be sustainably realised if companies follow a comprehensive approach including corporate strategy, management, operational implementation by business units and HR work organisation and monitoring ("strategic pillars"):
  If to look at these figures in a time-dimension then we can see that in the case of Hungary the situation and hence data have not considerably improved during the years. The underlying reasons are manifold and the majority of them is interconnected with the regime-change, with the transition process and certain repositioning of moral and ethical values amidst the age of globalization.

  All this happens in spite of the strenous efforts of EU organizations and institutions to improve gender equality as a fundamental EU value in all 28 EU member-states and to close albeit to lessen the gender gap in all relevant domains. The European Comission published its annual report for 2015 (EC 2016) on gender equality in the EU, which in a way renders also as stock-making of the achievements reached by its first vision plan Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015 and at the same time serves as a baseline for developing its follow-up plan: Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019 (EU 2016). The Strategic engagement focuses on the following five priority areas:
1.Increasing female labor market participation and equal economic independence;
2.Reducing the gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women;
3.Promoting equality between women and men in decision-making;
4.Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims;
5.Promoting gender equality and women's rights across the world.

  The Strategic engagement sets out objectives in each of these priority areas and identifies more than 30 concrete actions. It reaffirms commitment to gender mainstreaming: A gender equality perspective will be integrated into all EU policies as well as into EU funding programs. The Strategic engagement also supports the implementation of the gender equality dimension in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
  The recent decades have brought about significant changes in society due to globalization, due to internationalization and due to technological development. Ultimately these changes have led to a re-evalutaion of traditional cultural and social values not only in Hungary but in a great many countries of the world. The great task of the current and future governments is finding the ways and hows of renewal of gender values  and of successfully addressing the expectations of the modern society.



EC (European Commission) 2011: Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2011

EC (European Commission) 2016: Report on equality between women and men 2105. European Union, Belgium.

EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) 2015:  Gender Equality Index 2015 − Measuring gender equality in the European Union 2005-2012. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

EU (European Union) 2016: Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Global Gender Gap Report 2015 (

The current situation of gender equality in Hungary -Country Profile. 2012. European Commission/Directorate-General Justice/Unit D2

Ternovszky Ferenc (2013) NŐ! a profit: Női Erőforrás Menedzsment. Complex, Budapest.

Vekerdy Tamás (2013) Lélek-jelenlét. Móra Könyvkiadó, Budapest.

Zimbardo, Philip and Coulombe, Nikita (2015)  Man (Dis)Connected: How Technology Has Sabotaged What it Means to be Male. Rider, London.



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