Hungary led the way in rights for carers


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Hungary led the way in rights for carers

 The Guardian, Saturday 23 April 2011


The discussion over plans to give extra votes for mothers in Hungary may have something to do with mothers' concern to have enough money to care full-time for newborn children, and to return to earning a living when they're ready (This Hungarian children's vote is grossly dishonest, 18 April).


Hungary pioneered quantifying the work of carers. The famous Multinational Time Budget Study (1966) was co-ordinated by the Hungarian sociologist Alexander Szalai. It showed that mothers who went out to work averaged three hours a day on housework versus men's 17 minutes, and that they cut down on sleep to cope with this double day. The following year Hungary introduced universal maternity provision: six months' leave with 100% wage replacement and two additional years at a flat rate. In 1985 an alternative two-year leave at 75% of the wage was introduced. Jobs were secured in either case. The provisions were popular, with 85% takeup.


After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, benefits were cut and universality was replaced by means-testing. While many benefits were reintroduced in 2002, spending on the family has declined. All Hungarians caring full-time for children under three – mostly mothers – can still claim a benefit equivalent to the minimum pension. For the over-threes there is highly subsidised and readily available childcare, with an 86% takeup.

But unemployment has skyrocketed, especially among the discriminated Roma community, where it is reportedly 90%. There is no longer job protection for anyone. How does the offer of an extra vote address this reality?

Solveig Francis

Crossroads Women




 Crossroads Women, Registered charity no. 1134495, Company limited by guarantee no. 7087291