The position of women in capitalist Hungary

Hungarian Workers' Party

The socialist system has been overthrown in Hungary in 1989-1990 and the country stepped on the road of capitalism. This fundamentally changed the position of women in society.

The number of employed women considerably reduced. In socialism the vast majority of women worked. After the capitalist counter-revolution the unemployment of women increased significantly, and only decreased in the recent years.

The wage gap between women and men increased. In socialism there was also some difference between the wages of men and women, but the socialist system did everything to ensure that everybody gets equal wage for equal work. In capitalist Hungary, even now, 27 years after the system change, men receive 18-20 percent higher salaries than women for the same work.

Women society has significantly differentiated. In socialism the gap between social groups was not unbridgeable. The capitalist system created deep social differences. Among women there is now also a small group of rich, or even super rich people, and on the other side the millions who are poor or are facing daily problems.

Vulnerability of women increased. In socialism, numerous state measures and institutions protected women. Pregnant mothers for example couldn't be fired and after giving birth had to be taken back to their workplaces. Laws are protecting women within capitalist circumstances too, but in reality the laws of the market are dominant.

It has become more difficult to have children and establish a family. The career vs. children dilemma existed in socialism too, but among capitalist circumstances it extremely accentuated. Women are getting married later, have children late or not at all. In socialism the state helped the establishment of families by mass building of social apartments. Today it's very difficult for young people to get their own flat.

Women had to bear almost all the consequences of taking the capitalist path. The decades of socialism were characterised by stability and gradual, secure development. Families had a secure job, secure income and predictable future. After 1990 1.5 million workplaces ceased to exist, hundreds of thousands of families found themselves in a difficult situation due to unemployment. Many families lost their homes. The majority of these burdens were carried by women; they had to keep their families together.

Women's role in political decisions decreased. Socialism included women in governance to an unparalleled level. There were always women in the leadership of the ruling party. The mass participation of women in political decision making disappeared during the last 27 years.

Women's social organisation and ability to stand up for their interest decreased. In socialism the interests of women were protected by the socialist state. There was also a countrywide unified women's organisation with real competences and respect. The capitalist system destroyed the unified women's movement. There are smaller or bigger local or thematic groups, which are not able to fight for the interests of women.

Capitalism significantly manipulates women's consciousness and thoughts. The forces of capitalism do everything in order to hush up the negative consequences of capitalism and to divert the attention from class struggle and concentrate it on other things. This is why issues like gender, domestic violence and non-traditional sexual behaviours dominate the public discourse.

Women in the world of labour

Women's situation is fundamentally determined by the place they have in the labour market. In Hungary in 2017 the number of employed in the 15-64 age group was 4.4 million, which is 67.4% of the population. 73.8% of men and 61.2% of women were employed.

Among men the unemployment rate was 4.4% in 2017, among women 4.1%. 50.7% of unemployed people had been looking for a job for at least one year. The average duration of unemployment is 18.2 months.

But statistical data are misleading. After the regime change 1.5 million workplaces were closed. The 27 years of capitalist development have restored only a part of them.

According to social surveys 2 million people of the Hungarian population belong to the so-called under-class. These people are not receiving social benefits, at best, they have some temporary work in their town. This social group has no chance of escaping this situation. 40% of them are women.

We shouldn't forget that for women domestic work is socially acceptable, so a part of female unemployed or entrants to the labour market can disappear in the households, without appearing in the official statistics. Girls with an elementary or secondary school diploma in regions with unfavorable labour market conditions often recess to the households, the majority of families support them until they get married.

The hidden unemployment is thus bigger among women than among men, the number of women vulnerable due to unemployment is most probably higher than what appears in the official statistics.

Equal pay for equal work

The principle of equal pay for equal work was already mentioned in the Treaty of Rome in 1957. But this doesn't reflect reality. The gender pay gap shows the difference between the average gross income of full-time employed women and men. In the EU it's 16.7%, in Hungary 18.4% - or, according to different data even 20%. According to women's organisations the average income of women can catch up with men's in 2190.

According to the latest expert data the higher the position a woman has, the bigger gap she can expect: 31% less income. For example, a woman with a degree earns 272.000 forints and a man with the same qualification 392.000 forints on average. The gender pay gap is 19% in service industries, 30% in IT, sales and trade, 17% among lawyers, 18% among journalists, 20% among cooks, 25% among national executive clerks, 24% in public service.

The difference is even more significant between pensions. Within the same conditions men get 40% higher pensions.

The conditions which have an impact on the wage gap are: the low proportion of women leaders, more unpaid work among women then among men, higher chance of career interruptions, segregation in education and on the job market, discrimination in wages.

We can conclude that the majority of the already mentioned conditions lead to discriminative processes, including their instutialisation in social norms and traditions, thus freezing the wage policies. Obviously, in case of such indirect discrimination the wage gap is not only reflecting constant wage differences, but also the differences in social behavior, productivity and other labour market peculiarities.

Difficulties of having children

The victory of the capitalist counter-revolution brought great changes in Hungarian society – this is clearly demonstrated by the decline in the birth rate, changes in forms of living together and the timing of the start of independent family life and having children.

Although the natural population decline has been observed since the early eighties, this trend has intensified after the regime change. Since the beginning of the nineties the birth rate went down, from 1.87 in 1990 it fell to 1.23 in 2011 and only in recent years began to show a small increase, reaching in 2015 index of 1.44. In the era of socialism, even in the bad years, this index was higher. (The highest rates were in 1975 - 2.38 and in 1954-55 - 2,97 -2,80 .) If in 1990 women's average age at first birth was 23 years, in 2011 it rose to 28.3. If in 1980, among the population older than 15 years 67.4 percent of was married, on January 1, 2016, this figure was 42.2 per cent. In the period after 1990 the defining trend has been the decline in the prestige of the institution of marriage. And if in 1990, the age of those who enters into a first marital relationship was equal to 22 years for women and 25 years for men, in 2014, one quarter century after, this age increased by eight years in both categories. Since 1990 the proportion of children born out of wedlock has increased more than three and a half times.

We must say that seeing all the negative effects of such phenomena, the government party Fidesz, which came to power in 2010, began to take measures to strengthen the family institution, the advancement of families with many children, to support working women with children, etc. In many respects bourgeois politicians used the experience of the socialist Hungary, while openly they never admitted it.

According to the Job Protection Action Plan introduced in 2012, if the employers employ those returning from childcare allowance they should pay after them neither social tax, nor vocational training levy for two years. From 2014 employers get three years of complete tax exemption, then 50% tax reduction for another two years if they employ women who have three or more children.

Since 2011 gradual extension of the family tax allowance presents an indirect motivational factor. One of the most important measures of the additional childcare benefit (GYED extra) introduced in 2014 was that – contrary to the previous ban – those receiving the "gyed” childcare fee during the three years long maternity leave are permitted to work after the 1st birthday of their child, with unlimited hours. This, indirectly, motivates women to return to the labour market earlier.

The possibility to receive several benefits at the same time was also part of these measures, which has an impact on the timing of having a sibling, reducing the interval between births and thus making shorter the absence from employment because of the childcare leave.

One of the most important environmental conditions is the development of the nursery network, but also the mandatory kindergarten for three-year-old, and the possibility of women to retire after 40 years of work, which can help working mothers to rely more on the help of grandmothers. It's also relevant that the employment code was also expanded with elements aimed at harmonising childcare and work.

But we must not forget the main thing - the most benefits demand a certain length of continuous employment before the birth of the child, so the most vulnerable part of the population drops out of this system. The policy of the government remains focused on strengthening of so-called middle class, not the entire population.

Women's place in politics

In the years of socialism the proportion of women among members of the parliament was gradually increasing. In 1948 it was 17 percent, in 1967 already 20 percent. It peaked in 1980 when 30 percent of members of parliament were women.

After 1989 we witnessed a drastic decrease. The proportion of women was 8% in 1990 and it hasn't been over 10% ever since.

Currently there are only three countries in the EU that don't have female ministers in their government at all: Slovakia, Greece and Hungary.

Proportionally, more women were elected into the Hungarian delegation of the European Parliament than into the Hungarian parliament, but here also we see a decreasing trend. In 2004 the proportion of female MEPs was 33 percent, in 2014 only 19 percent.

Remarkably, the proportion of female mayors increased from 10 percent in 1990 to 20 percent now. The proportion of female municipal councilors increased by 28.6 percent in the same period.

Municipal elections give bigger space to women than parliamentary elections. This is related to the "pyramid structure” of women's employment, which means that the chances of women is worse in higher prestige or better paying jobs than men's, but their number increases in the lower spheres of the hierarchy.

9 percent of employed people are member of the trade unions: 14 percent of men, 9 percent of women. 56 percent of the female members of the trade unions are over 40, 34 percent over 50 years old.

Despite the problems women are facing we cannot speak of the strong anti-capitalist organisation of women. Among the Hungarian political parties only the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) has a more or less significant women's organisation. The majority of its members are pensioners, their policies serve the capitalist policies of MSZP.

There are hundreds of NGOs devoted to the issues relevant to women, but not one of them is standing up against the capitalist system, they only focus on partial problems.

Women's organisations are not organising their own demonstrations. A relatively high proportion of women could be seen only on the demonstrations of teachers and healthcare workers, because both sectors are increasingly female.

Hungarian Workers' Party: With women for women

The Hungarian Workers' Party attaches great importance to the work with women, among women.

The Workers' Party's principled policy is clear: capitalism is not good either for women, or for men. Among capitalist conditions temporary improvement can be reached, capitalist governments can be forced to improve the situation of women, but a fundamental change is only possible if we replace capitalism with socialism.

The Hungarian Workers' Party fights for the improvement of women's presence in the job market. We fight for the decreasing of the wage-, salary- and pension gap between women and men and against the poverty of women. In relation to that we urge the lowering of retirement age to 55 years for women and 60 for men.

The Workers' Party demands that men and women should have the same weight in decision making. It fights against sexual violence and fights for the protection and support of victims.

36 percent of the Workers' Party's members are women. Some of them joined the party together with their husbands, significant a number of single older women. Women and men who recently joined the party are usually 40-50 years old.

The female members of the party are active. They play an important role in organising our events, maintaining the party's infrastructure.

The Hungarian Workers' Party treats it as important questions that women take part in determining the party's policies too.

24 percent of the Central Committee's members are women, and 21 percent of the regional chairpersons. Two women are members of the presidium, which is responsible for the operative leadership of the party. One of the two vice-presidents is a woman.

The Hungarian Workers’ Party has tried different working methods of organising women. We established the party's Women's Department, which is organising the female members and the women close to the party. They reached results in several spheres, like collecting second hand clothes for the poor and supporting families facing eviction.

On a regional level we have established contacts with women's NGOs in the issues of protecting women's rights, fighting against violence in the families and issues related to women's health.

We also established the Union of Hungarian Left-Wing Women. This organisation from time to time is making itself heard in political or economic questions related to women. Its representatives attend the international left wing women's summits. The Union is a member of the Women’s International Democratic Federation, takes part in the international meetings, support bilateral relations with the women's organisations of fraternal parties.

The biggest achievement of the Hungarian Workers' Party regarding women's issues in the last 27 years is that we managed to protect March 8, the International Women's Day. The capitalist governments made enormous efforts to cancel this holiday, as a remnant of socialism. The Hungarian Workers' Party has been organising many events on this day since 1990. March 8, though not an official holiday is a day where women and girls are celebrated all over the country.

When considering the position of women in Hungary, we must not forget that one of the defining moments is the fact that Hungary switched to capitalism after four decades of socialism and the impact of these decades is still present in society. Under socialism in Hungary - although there were different forms of socialist property (public, in particular, the state, co-operative, municipal, the property of trade union and other public organizations, some forms of private property - we did not have any antagonistic class contradictions and for many working people it still takes far too long to realize that the country has moved in a different society where these contradictions are obvious. The formation of class consciousness is opposed by all powerful propaganda machine of the capitalist state, which enforces the ideology of the ruling class, by the system and content of education, by all bourgeois media, culture etc. The awakening of class consciousness - this is a difficult task which determines the work of the Communist party, including the work among women.