Hungary is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The unicameral National Assembly (parliament) exercises legislative authority. It elects the president (the head of state) every five years. The president appoints a prime minister from the majority party or coalition in parliament following national elections every four years. In parliamentary elections on April 8, the Fidesz-KDNP (Christian Democratic People’s Party) alliance led by Fidesz party leader Viktor Orban won a two-thirds majority in parliament. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observation mission found that “fundamental rights and freedoms were respected overall, but exercised in an adverse climate.” Specifically, it characterized certain elements of the election as “at odds with OSCE commitments” and noted that “the widespread government information campaign was largely indistinguishable from Fidesz campaigning, giving it a clear advantage.” Orban had been prime minister since 2010.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces.
Human rights issues included criminal penalties for libel (though court decisions limited their impact); reports of political intimidation of and legal restrictions on civil society organizations, including criminal and financial penalties for migration-related work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); allegations of corrupt use of state power to grant privileges to certain economic actors; and trafficking in persons.
The government took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses. Impunity for human rights abuses was not widespread.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The labor code provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions without previous authorization and conduct their activities without interference, although unions alleged requirements for trade union registration were excessive. The labor code prohibits any worker conduct that may jeopardize the employer’s reputation or legitimate economic and organizational interests and explicitly provides for the possibility of restricting the workers’ personal rights in this regard–including their right to express an opinion during or outside of working hours. With the exception of law enforcement and military personnel, prison guards, border guards, health-care workers, and firefighters, workers have the right to strike. The law permits military and police unions to seek resolution of grievances in court. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.
Workers performing activities that authorities determine are essential to the public interest, such as schools, public transport, telecommunications, water, and power, may not strike unless an agreement has been reached on provision of “sufficient services” during a strike. Courts determine the definition of sufficient services. National trade unions opposed the law on the basis that the courts lacked the expertise to rule on minimum service levels and generally refused to rule on such cases, essentially inhibiting the right to strike.
The government effectively enforced laws providing for freedom of association and collective bargaining. Penalties were generally inadequate to deter violations. The labor inspectorate does not use inspections, remediation efforts, or monetary penalties in enforcement efforts. Administrative and judicial procedures were sometimes subject to lengthy delays and appeals.
Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Trade unions alleged that national prosecutors restricted trade union activities and in some cases reported antiunion dismissals and union busting by employers. There were also reports of unilateral termination of collective agreements. Unions reported the government continued to attempt to influence their independent operation.
While the law provides for reinstatement of workers fired for union activity, court proceedings on unfair dismissal cases sometimes took more than a year to complete, and authorities did not always enforce court decisions.
While the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, observers asserted the government failed to enforce it effectively. Penalties for forced labor were comparable to penalties for other serious crimes.
Groups vulnerable to forced labor included those in extreme poverty, undereducated young adults, Roma, and homeless men and women. Hungarian men and women were subjected to forced labor domestically and abroad, and labor trafficking of Hungarian men in Western Europe occurred in agriculture, construction, and factories. The government increased law enforcement efforts and sustained its prevention efforts.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt.
The constitution generally prohibits child labor. The law prohibits children younger than 16 from working, except that children who are 15 or 16 may work under certain circumstances as temporary workers during school vacations or may be employed to perform in cultural, artistic, sports, or advertising activities with parental consent. Children may not work night shifts or overtime or perform hard physical labor. Violations may be punished with imprisonment not exceeding three years.
Through the end of December 2017, the employment authority reported four cases, involving four children, of child labor younger than 15. The employment authority also reported 10 cases involving 12 children ages 15 and 16 who were employed without the consent of their parents or legal representatives during the school year as well as 15 cases involving 23 children ages 16 to 18 who were employed without the consent of their parents or legal representatives. The employment authority noted the increase was the result of tighter legislation, which requires presentation of parental permission during an inspection.
The constitution and laws prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, infection with HIV or other communicable diseases, or social status. The labor code provides for the principles of equal treatment. The government failed to enforce these regulations effectively. Penalties took the form of fines but were generally inadequate to deter violations.
Observers asserted that discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to Roma, women, and persons with disabilities. According to NGOs, there was economic discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly against job seekers older than 50 and those who were pregnant or had returned from maternity leave. A government decree requires companies with more than 25 employees to reserve 5 percent of their work positions for persons with physical or mental disabilities. While the decree provides fines for noncompliance, many employers generally paid the fines rather than employ persons with disabilities. The National Tax and Customs Authority issued “rehabilitation cards” to persons with disabilities, which granted tax benefits for employers employing such individuals.
In 2017 the net national minimum monthly wage for full-time employment of unskilled workers did not reach the poverty level, while the special minimum monthly wage for skilled workers slightly exceeded the poverty level.
The law sets the official workday at eight hours, although it may vary depending on industry. A 48-hour rest period is required during any seven-day period. The regular workweek is 40 hours with premium pay for overtime and two days of rest. The labor code sets the maximum limit of overtime at 250 hours per year and provides for 10 paid annual national holidays; overtime is owed only if the aggregate hours worked during a year exceed 40 hours per week. On December 13, parliament amended the labor code; this new labor code enters into force on January 1, 2019, and allows for up to 400 hours of overtime per year that can be paid and reconciled up to three years after the labor is performed. A number of demonstrations took place across the country against the new labor code.
The government set occupational safety and health standards, which were up to date and appropriate for the main industries. Workers have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in such situations. Labor laws also apply to foreign workers with work permits. Labor standards were not enforced in the informal economy.
The employment authority and the labor inspectorate units of government offices monitored and enforced occupational safety and health standards and labor code regulations. According to the Labor Protection Directorate of the Finance Ministry, 23,387 injuries occurred at workplaces, most of them in the mechanical engineering and manufacturing industries in 2017. There were 79 workplace fatalities, most of which took place in the construction, processing, transport, warehousing, and logistics sectors.