Poverty in Hungary skyrockets – Government to stop publishing statistics

The Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH) released data showing that over 35% of Hungary’s population lives below the poverty line. In the same breath, the KSH indicated that it would stop publishing statistics on poverty levels, because this term is too elusive. In fact, KSH now claims that when it published statistics on the poverty line, it would have been more appropriate to refer to the demographics in this group as simply having “modest incomes.” This is how Zsolt Németh, the deputy president of the KSH, rationalized the decision to stop reporting on poverty in Hungary.

Up until now, KSH has considered any family of four (two adults and two children) living on an income of 253,000 forints or less (circa $900) as being under the poverty line, which means that just over 35% of the total population is impacted directly by poverty.

Authorities and private security firms enforcing eviction notices are an everyday occurence in Hungary. Photo: Balrad.

Authorities and private security firms enforcing eviction notices, and subsequent protests, are an everyday occurence in Hungary. Photo: Balrad.

The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) calculates that this number is somewhat higher: 4.2 million Hungarians live under the poverty line, and that this number has increased by a half million since Fidesz came to power in 2010. MSZP MP Lajos Korózs told journalists that the middle class is in a “vegetative state,” while only the economic elites are enjoying the support of the Orbán government. Social inequity is growing at a disturbingly fast pace in Hungary, with the wealthiest in society spending two and a half times more on food than those on more modest incomes, and spending five times more on clothing. This divide is also present between the somewhat wealthier Budapest and rural regions, where people often live on a much more modest income.

Simply not publishing any poverty-related statistics or even changing the definitions in such a way as to make year-over-year comparisons or the identification of trends more difficult is almost certainly a callous political move on the part of the Orbán government…even if KSH, technically, is an arms-length professional state agency.

The move reminds me of the German Democratic Republic, where officials were so embarrassed by the staggering number of suicides, that they decided to stop publishing or manipulated these figures. (There is one study that suggests that the higher suicide rates in the East represented a historical continuity, which pre-dated the creation of the two Germanies in 1949 and was thus not a result of political repression.)

KSH’s sudden decision to pull the plug on statistics focusing on rising poverty rightly raises eyebrows in a country where the independence and professionalism of state institutions is increasingly non-existent.


  1. Tisztelt Christopher Adam, es akkor most mi van ezzel az ujabb statisztikaval. A teny feltaras hova vezet akcio nelkul, ez a cikk irogatas idopocsekolas mert ugy sem tortenik semmi Magyarorszagon vagy Ottawaban.

  2. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    Mr Tibor ! This is an English language page – I don’t know if you noticed. Being able to understand Hungarian, I was struck by your analysis, i.e. that the author, Christopher Adam is wasting his time by reporting on the latest poverty figures in Hungary. What do you suggest he do ? Shut his mouth and talk about affluence instead? That job is very well handled by the official Hungarian media.

  3. Tibor,

    Lucky for us you are here to make some sense. BTW. fact-finding journalism itself is action.

  4. So many appeals for EU intervention, generally.Why should the EU care about a few million Hungarians living in poverty when their own government doesn’t care. They even pour money to the pocket of the Orban government. Hungary is a tiny piece of a big cake, and the process of the controlled demolition of human social-civilization is in a well advanced phase and Orban properly serves that process. They have a long-term plan, they carry it out and until Orban and the Hungarian misery fits well in the picture they welcome it. As the plan advances they will replace the mad man for somebody else in the first moment when they decide. No one cares.
    If the Hungarians want to end this shameful game they have to move their ass. If only they knew what is happening. Well, at least there are fact-finding and investigative journalism, and pieces are printed out and they can learn if they want at all.

    For me Orban is like David Copperfield the illusionist. He also changed his original name, he also works with stooges, and when I see his illusions I can’t understand how people cannot see them through. Both of them are so clumsy but both of them are good actor. When I saw a Copperfield trick, the Slow-Mo Duck I knew what and how he will do it even before he started. Just one glance at his accessories on the stage revealed everything.
    It’s so simple!!!! I wish Hungarians could see Orban and the Fidesz tricks through. Even if they can’t at least they should realized that their whole governing performance is just an illusionist trick. Good luck Hungarians. Open your eyes till you can.

  5. Avatar Tamás Molnár says:

    Well it’s no meters who is the prime minister in Hungary… one is a dog an the another one os a pooch .. have no different. They are so corrupted and friends . We poor people’s have no chance to get out from that life style . My mum earn 300£ befor tax . After tax she got 260£/ month’s from that sge have zo pay the rent it’s 100£/m.+ Water electric gas . So all ready -150£/m . Interesting ???? How she can manege? Like everyone else who have a sun or a daughter like me. The kids go and take any jobs in the United Kingdom .. washing up in the restaurant .. or cleaning in a hotel.. or working as a care assistent like me 12h/day usually 5-6 day a week so can earn enough to live and send same to home for the parent’s if lucky. But i know a lot of gypsies or foreign people’s who do fuck all and got a shit loads of money on benefits. And i could carry on writing down . But i have no time for this … have to go working 😉

  6. Tamas, I feel for what you and your family is going through, I have many family members who are experiencing the same. Just because you see a foreigner or a Gypsy who has money, don’t try to tell us it is from “benefits”, you and I both know that this is NOT true. The benefit program in Hungary is very minimal. I know this because I do have family who have to work six hours everyday for a measly 180. This is ALL they get, until they can find a proper job. Foreigners are not eligible for assistance.

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