Given that governments so far have been painstakingly striving to preserve the real value of pensions, poverty indicators of people at retirement age are not as alarming as those of younger cohorts. People take retirement at later and later times, while activity levels of the retired are increasing. The pension system is nevertheless not sustainable in the long term, partly due to demographic aging, partly because of shrinking savings options.
The framework of democratic institutions functioned until 2010, even though political culture and civic participation was rather poor. However, after 2010, this institutional system was turned into a "one-party" structure. A disproportionate electoral system was introduced; all the significant democratic institutions were occupied by the government party; the independence of the media deteriorated significantly, and the functioning of churches has been scandalously limited. Direct democratic initiatives are hampered by administrative measures time and time again.
Life expectancy at birth is increasing, with diminishing differences between figures for men and women. Be that as it may, people's overall health did not improve: more and more people are overweight, bringing about serious health consequences. In terms of cardiovascular and cancer mortality, Hungary is a global “leader”. The state of the welfare system more and more miserable, the situation increasingly becoming distressing due to a shortage of professionals and the exodus of doctors and certified nurses. Budgetary spending on medication was heavily cut in 2010.
The indicators concerning poverty are alarming, even if last year’s CSO figures appear to show some improvement. Four million people live below the poverty line, which sounds so bad, that the government does not want to publish the relevant indicators any more.The data for some of the most disadvantaged families show some progress as a consequence of public works schemes,but the middle class seems to be impoverishing. Overall, poverty and impoverishment are the most serious social problems for Hungarian society.
State spending on public education is very low; the efficiency of public education is deteriorating, the opportunities in higher education are shrinking. The proportion of graduates has been increasingso far, but it is significantly lower than the EU average. Few people speak foreign languages, and the culture of lifelong learning is not widespread.
The government's dubious, politically motivated programme of reducing overheads notwithstanding, housing costs are rising. The housing rental sector is weak, with an expressed preference on the part of Hungarians to live in their own homes as opposed to rented property. The quantity of social rental housing is limited, while the quality of the stock is gradually deteriorating. An astounding number of people live in flats either overcrowded or in a poor condition.
Inequality is rising within the ranks of Hungarian society, in terms of revenues, access to education, as well as the situation of minorities and women.
Based on the knowledge economy index, Hungary does not rank that bad among the countries in the world. For example, IT-related knowledge is increasing. However, we are falling behind the developed world regarding the trends in higher education, the pace of development in high-tech industries, or the innovation environment.
Family and work have traditionally been important values for Hungarians. We value friendship more and religion less than people in neighbouring countries. Individual freedoms, independence, emancipation, and public life are more important in Hungary than in Romania or Poland. In terms of happiness and contentedness, the situation is dire: much worse than would follow from the country's economic development. Ecological values are taking hold with great difficulties.