The study aims at providing an overview of key public-service systems in Hungary in an international comparison, including the public education system, and in connection with it some labour market trends, the pension system, the makeup and roles of the local government system, and lastly the health-care system, as it enters the 21st century.
Education, like many other areas of public services, suffers from internatl and external efficiency problems, which manifests on the one hand in a poor performance of students in competence tests, while on the other in discrepancies in comforming to the needs of the labour market, in the low level of employment rates of the Hungarian population. The proportions of participants in medium- and lower-level education and a description of the structuring of the higher education system, as well as an evaluation of the efficacy of the education system constitute the content of the first chapter.
The next chapter discusses key labour-market trends in Hungary, with regard to the gravest problems in employment, as well as presenting a few good practices in the sector. In the interest of highlighting Hungarian trends, data and policies – mainly in the area of economic activity, employment and unemployment – are analysed in an international comparison, especially in parallel with data and policies in Belgium, Czechia, Slovakia and a new EU country, Croatia.
The third chapter focuses on the pension system, with a view to the numbers and proportions of recipients of pension services, as well as changes in pension-related spending. Although Hungary’s pension spending is not outstanding in an European comparison (although much higher than those of neighbouring countries), its growth rate is almost unparalleled. Most European countries have introduced reforms of some magnitude in the pension system in the past few years, with the intension of reducing the pressure on public finances stemming from demographic changes.
The fourth chapter elaborates on the role and makeup of the local government system, with regard to some welfare services, developments and employment. Local governments dispose over a considerable portion of the GDP, thus having a significant impact on the macroeconomic balance, and - directly and indirectly – on the country’s competitiveness. Many countries to some extent have carved their own paths: they move along constrainsts up to a point, while they want to follow their own strategies with quite strong determinism. A Europe striving for unification has not taken steps to unify local government systems.
Finally the last chapter examines the changes in the public health-care system during the 2000s. Similarly to trends in many developed countries over the decades, in Hungary, too, periods of decline and no change from the end of the 1990s were followed by a fast rise in health-care spending as a share of GDP. Hungary was a lower middle-of-the-field OECD country in this respect until 2005. As part of the consolidation measures in public finances starting in the autumn of 2006, health-care spending recoiled, and fell to 7.4% of GDP in 2007. Based on this figure, Hungary slipped to the bottom third of OECD countries. Based on international experiences, however, higher health-care spending does not as a rule lead to better health conditions among populations. This finding is analysed in more detail in the last chapter of our study.