In Hungary one is considered young between the ages of 15-25. Most of this generation is attending school, university or any other course. Around 10% of the Hungarian youths are members of some kind of youth organisation or community. Therefore our work is usually rather loud because the young are not used to be members of any community or to do voluntary work. Many youths are unemployed and they can hardly find any good job in their profession.
As an outsider I judge the situation of young people in Hungary quite troublesome. I have the feeling that young people do not realise the chances they would have. In Hungary today all the changes are more difficult than ever. Everywhere in the country people have to cope with previously unknown problems. Perhaps it is youths who face the greatest challenge. These years are the ones which will define their future. It is important to stress the difference between Budapest and the other parts of Hungary. They are stormy times now, despite EU accession. I do not know if many young people would have the patience to wait another 5, 10, 15 years, until things will change towards the better. Talking about the political situation here in Hungary I do not think that many people are used to democracy or even trust something like that. Participative civil society is still strongly missing and it would be really necessary to somehow start to build the trust in young people. Thus they can be the change which they want to see in the world. Youths seem to be losing the ground under their feet. Without the help of their parents it is often very hard to make ends meet. Hungarian society is not ready to help young people properly.
As in every country, education is a very important question for young people. More and more of us can get it in Hungary, but there are two problems. One of them is the credit students can get which in the future will put them in a very hard situation. The second problem is the level of unemployment or employment in a field other than that of the original education, which means that I can have knowledge of something but it does not provide me anything. I might need to change my life entirely. Since we are a small country a lot of young people try their luck in other countries. This can be good for them, but maybe not for everybody. As a European country Hungary is considerably safe, but discrimination might happen with Roma people, or people at a disadvantage. Active citizenship is not widespread in Hungary. Most of the people, including young people, try to solve their own lives and they do not want to play an active role in changing, building society and our world.
The situation of young people in Hungary is different, determined by several factors. There are a lot of institutions for education; there are many possibilities for learning. The main factor influencing the choice is the financial situation of the student and of his/her family because not everybody can create necessary resources. As everywhere, even in Hungary there are some popular professions, which make it difficult to find jobs after having completed studies. On the other hand, a large proportion of highly qualified young people are unemployed or another part of them have jobs of lower level than their qualifications. There are differences in this respect between regions. In Budapest and in its neighbourhood there are more possibilities than in other towns or small villages. The same difference can be experienced in salaries too. It is not easy to summarise the situation of young people in 100-200 words but I think these problems are the most important for them.
Young People in Hungary until this year got the highest level of knowledge in school. Today it has changed a little. There are a couple of organisations through which students are able to gain scholarships. This gives the opportunity to a few people to study abroad, as I did for a year. We have similar problems as the surrounding countries, mostly drugs, but the government achieved a drug prevention programme last year, and it is working. I can say that Hungarian youngsters are very lucky to live in such good conditions. In our culture sport is very important, so it means young people are healthy. We have fairly good possibilities to find the best sport and hobby to practice. Followed by the country becoming an EU member, we have many calls for tenders for the competitions’ fees. So many organisations are able to gain money for the creation of a better atmosphere and healthier surroundings. I hope they are going to use it!!
Youth are facing different problems in Hungary. It starts with the question of where and how to continue their studies. One has to attend school until the age of 16. After finishing primary school you can choose between going to high school or to a specialised school. The next step is university or college. Some of the universities are supported by the state so they have no tuition fee. Others are so expensive that many parents cannot afford them. You can obtain more than one diploma, parallel or one after the other. After having completed high-level studies, it is often hard to find the right job relevant to the youths’ knowledge. Every year there are departments at university overloaded with fresh diploma holders. The labour market just cannot take so many people. It is especially hard for people from such departments to find a job. For example the department of pedagogy and technicians are like this. A beginner’s salary is very low so it can explain why one has a family and a child later and later, sometimes not before the age of 30-35. The Hungarian government tries to support young people, but to have a loan in order to buy your first apartment you need 40-50% of own resources. Often young people cannot satisfy this condition. I think that trade unions also have to support young people. The Hungarian Postal Trade Union does not have a youth department yet, which I find as a weak point. I hope that during the meeting held by the Euro-Med Platform we can talk about this insufficiency.
Thanks to the fall of communism Hungary had an excellent chance 14-15 years ago to start to rebuild its heritage. Young people have more opportunities now than ever before. By Hungary’s accession to the Union many of the borders have fallen and young people have the chance and power to demolish all the unseen boundaries (linguistic, cultural, historical, etc.) between people. Now the main problem we have is the economic situation of the country (only in comparison with Western Europe. Thinking of North Africa or the Middle East we cannot complain at all). By opening the limits of universities, actually all the youngsters have the chance to enter a university of his/her interest, and start their life equipped with adequate education. I do think that the situation of young people is fairly convenient.
Altogether the possibilities of young people are widening nowadays, although youngsters living in small villages have fewer opportunities to get to know other cultures even if these countries are relatively close to Hungary. In the near future it will be one of the most important aims of the associations dealing with youth issues to open to the area of Euro-Med countries and to widen the interest of young people in the topic of international cooperation. Another important circumstance is that the financial background of Hungarian youngsters is not or is slowly improving, and as a consequence they need the cooperation of the European Union in order to go through the first steps of connections.
Hungarian Euro-Generation. Sixteen years after the collapse of communism, Hungarian youth tries to catch up with its fellows living in Western societies. For those who were born during the long 40 years of totalitarian regime and had to face its rigid norms and customs, it is not easy to understand the current open society, and sometimes hard to accept the new ‘˜Euro-generation’s’ behaviour. As a consequence of globalisation and open borders, the influence of Western, especially American, societies can be easily reached, and as usual it is the youth generation which is the most willing to adopt it. Concerning the numerous leisure facilities, such as shopping centres, fancy clubs, and multiplex cinemas as the symbols of the current global society, Budapest is ahead of the rest of the country. Similarly to their Western mates, Hungarian youths are also trying to participate more and more in internal and international politics, creating youth NGOs at home and cooperating with international organisations abroad. Besides the numerous advantages, there are clear disadvantages as well in the transition period, such as less social security and a growing gap in living conditions between different social groups. Following the Hungarian admission to the European Union the perspective of possibilities is wilder than ever and the Hungarian young people are ready to play a substantial role in Western civil society.