Population statistics for the Gypsy minority show
wide variations. In the 1990 census, 142,683 persons stated that they were
Gypsies. According to the most reliable estimates their number is currently
450,000 - 500,000.
Gypsies live throughout Hungary, although their distribution by area
varies. The estimated number of Gypsies is highest in the three northern
counties (Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Heves and Nógrád):
120,000. At present 100,000 Gypsies live in the eastern counties (Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg,
Hajdú-Bihar, Békés) and 60,000 live on the Hungarian
plain (Csongrád, Bács-Kiskun, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok
counties). The number of Gypsies living in the Budapest area (Budapest,
Pest, Fejér, Komárom-Esztergom counties) is 90,000 and there
are 115,000 Gypsies in Southern Transdanubia (Baranya, Somogy, Tolna, Zala
and Veszprém counties). Their number is smaller in the western region
(Vas and Gyõr-Moson-Sopron counties) where just 15,000 Gypsies live.
Changes have taken place in the type of settlement, too. In 1971, 45,000
Gypsies were urban dwellers. This number has since tripled and currently
comprises 30% of the total Gypsy population. A general observation, which
can be made across the whole country, is that the urbanisation of the Gypsies
is accompanied by an increase in ghetto and slum development.
In those counties where many Gypsies live, the percentage of Gypsy inhabitants
in the older smaller settlements is growing as the non-Gypsy population
moves away; the Gypsies move into their worthless properties.
Despite an improvement in the state of housing, 14% of Gypsies still
live on separated sites. (The construction program of basic housing was
concluded in 1988). Many Gypsy families are unable to cope with the burden
of their mortgage payments (which have risen) and the cost of maintaining
Education at school and vocational training
Statistics of the Ministry of Culture and Education
brought together data for 74,241 Gypsy pupils of the 1992/1993 academic
year. 7.12% of the total number of pupils were of a Gypsy background. Segregation
of Gypsies within the education system is widespread. According to the
figures of a national survey made in 1971, at that time just 26% of Gypsies
between the ages of 25 and 29 had finished eight grades of schooling. In
1993, among the same age group, this figure had risen to 77%.
This indicates that there was an improvement in the basic level of school
education between 1970 and 1994. However, if we look at any other of the
indices of educational qualification, we observe that the degree of inequality
of opportunity between Gypsies and non-Gypsies has grown. The disadvantaged
position of the Gypsies is particularly acute in the secondary, higher
and vocational areas of education. The reasons for failure at school or
for dropping out of school are of a socio-cultural nature. Regarding Gypsies,
the education system has to face the challenges of a much greater collection
of wide-ranging problems. These challenges are well beyond the scope of
public education. The education sector has a fundamental role to play in
changing the social standing of the Gypsy community. Taking into consideration
the relevant parts of the National Curriculum, the Ministry of Education
and Culture has set up programs for the development of minority education
and Gypsy education. The strategic goal of the Gypsy Educational Development
Program is to secure the necessary conditions for the success of Gypsies
at school and for balancing out the disadvantages with which Gypsies are
From the perspective of language and culture, the
Gypsy community is a highly-fragmented minority. It is characterised by
several languages and sets of cultural traditions. Gypsy culture is lacking
a written form which is widely-known. A further problem is presented by
the fact that the Gypsies do not have a mother country (or kin state),
which would provide cultural and financial assistance. There are no central
Gypsy cultural centres, museums or theatres.
The existing traditional Gypsy population groups are virtually the last
in Hungarian society to have preserved folk art as an integral part of
daily life. There can be no doubt that this is a factor which improves
the chances of preserving Gypsy culture. On the other hand, the general
view of Gypsy culture correlates with the picture of a pre-bourgeois, poverty-stricken
The values of Gypsy culture are not sufficiently present in the thinking
of the public at large; nor have they become part of national culture.
Recently, various initiatives have been launched to change this; for example
a talent-spotting competition. With the assistance of the Ministry of Culture
and Education, the Minoritás Foundation established the Gypsy Research
Institute which has been functioning under the auspices of the National
Gypsy Minority Self-government since July 1995. The Anthropological Museum
established a Gypsy anthropological documentation centre which may provide
the documentary basis for a Gypsy Museum to be established at a later date.
Since 1990, several Gypsy periodicals have been regularly published.
Most of these have received a state subsidy. Currently, six Gypsy magazines
receive a state subsidy. Every week Hungarian Radio broadcasts a program
entitled 'Gypsy half-hour' and Hungarian Television broadcasts a twenty-five
minute program for Gypsies twice per week entitled Patrin.
In the years following the change of political
system, Gypsies were the first to be pushed out of the labour market and
this development was of great gravity. They lost the basis for making a
living. This basis had been gradually created over forty years and had
served to provide them with a low, but secure, level of income. Whereas
the unemployment rate of the total population is about 11%, the rate among
the Gypsy community is approximately four to five times higher. There are
settlements where the unemployment rate reaches 90 - 100% among the Gypsies.
Studies of unemployment among Gypsies have shown that the desire of Gypsies
to work is no less than that of comparable social groups. However, the
chances of unemployed Gypsies finding work are below average because Gypsies
have been unemployed for a longer period of time than members of comparable
groups. Experience has shown that discrimination in employment is another
reason for the negative employment situation of Gypsies. Earnings and wages
used to comprise half of the income of Gypsy families, but now social transfers
payments are the primary source of income. The result is that Gypsy families
are dependent on grants and social security payments.
Factors detrimental to health occur cumulatively
among the Gypsy community. The proportion of disabled people and persons
unfit for work is higher among the Gypsies. Infant mortality is also higher
and many babies are born prematurely having low weight. Gypsy children
often develop slowly as a result of their poor surroundings. The life expectancy
of Gypsies is ten years less than that of non-Gypsies.
Both the frequency and intensity of ethnic conflicts
are on the rise. The victims of most of these conflicts are members of
the Gypsy community. Such conflicts cannot be managed effectively through
present legislation. Undoubtedly, the effectiveness of legal measures of
conflict management is limited. However, other types of measures for preventing
and managing conflict are still lacking. Authoritative forecasts predict
an aggravation of conflicts.
Gypsy self-organisation and the system of Gypsy self-governance
Formerly, associations provided the sole organisational
framework for minority public activities. Their number and role increased
considerably during the period before the minority self-government elections.
The Act on minorities (Act LXXVII of 1993) is of crucial importance
in assisting the integration of the Gypsy minority into society. The Act
included the Gypsy minority among the thirteen recognised minorities.
415 Gypsy Local Minority Self-governments were elected in December 1994
and a further 61 were elected in November 1995. The National Gypsy Minority
Self-government was also formed. So far, 13 Gypsy Local Minority Self-governments
have ceased functioning.
As a result of the special and serious problems
of the Gypsies, the expectations placed on the Gypsy minority self-governments
are too great for the self-governments to be able to meet them under present
conditions. Most of the minority representatives have just begun to be
active and many of them do not have the experience necessary for their
public role. Many of the minority self-governments rely exclusively on
the central subsidy for their operation and do not take advantage of the
other forms of support. The Gypsy minority self-governments find themselves
in a special situation. Whereas the self-governments of the national minorities
are active mainly in the areas of education, culture and preserving traditions,
the Gypsy self-governments have additional tasks which relate to social,
health and employment questions.
The traditional internal mechanisms of self-organisation of the Gypsies
have broken down. Their active participation in modern civil life is only
just beginning. Nevertheless, the establishment of the Gypsy minority self-governments
is clearly of great assistance in the task of integrating the Gypsy community