European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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6 June 2018

Hungary: a call for more investment in vocational training and education

Buried in the 2018 European semester report 2018 for Hungary is the finding that the relationship between a pupils’ socioeconomic background and their educational outcome is the strongest in the EU. The report also confirms some earlier OECD findings - that vocational training provides practical workplace training but includes a limited general education content needed to prepare youngsters for direct access to the labour market. Overall, quality is low and vocational training has become the default education path for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds.

The European Commission released its 2018 European Semester country report for Hungary in March 2018. Although the report focuses on structural reforms, fiscal policy and macroeconomic imbalances, and was released at the same time as in other years, the governing party Fidesz immediately responded by accusing the EC of interfering in Hungary’s elections. In fact, the report comes up with a modestly positive economic outlook for the country. It also clearly states that investment and economic growth are being fuelled by EU funds, representing around 3% of annual GDP over the period of 2014-2018 and 43% of public investment.

However, the socio-economic outlook is far from positive over all indicators. Although the situation regarding poverty has improved, vulnerable groups continue to face a high risk of poverty. The share of the population at risk of poverty and social exclusion is falling, but it is still above the EU average. Children and the Roma remain much more exposed to the risk of poverty than the rest of the population. Changes in the tax and benefit system contributed to rising income inequality and the adequacy of social assistance and unemployment benefits declined.

The report is very critical about the education and vocational training system, a criticism that was in recent years also formulated by the OECD. The education system reveals shortcomings in fostering the development of human capital. The European Trade Union Committee for Education summarised some of these shortcomings in a thematic overview. Education outcomes in basic skills are significantly below the EU average. The impact of socioeconomic background on education outcomes is among the highest in the EU. Disadvantaged students, in particular Roma, remain concentrated in certain schools.

The report also highlights some notorious shortcomings in vocational education and training (VET). The general education content in vocational secondary schools is limited. This, together with the concentration of children of low socioeconomic status in those schools, explains the heavy deficit in basic skills, which also reflected in high dropout rates. Therefore, it is important that EU-Funds are targeted to the modernisation of public education (including combatting early-school leaving and segregation) and the reduction of labour market mismatches (through enhancing employability of disadvantaged groups, vocational education and lifelong learning).

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