Country Listing

Hungary Table of Contents


Standard of Living

In 1989 the supply and selection of food and other consumer goods in Hungary exceeded those in most other East European countries, and Hungarians as a whole suffered nothing similar to the hardship that the Romanians and Bulgarians endured in the 1980s as a result of government-ordered energy cutbacks. In 1986 Hungary's per capita meat consumption was the highest in Eastern Europe, while its egg consumption ranked among the highest. Per capita consumption of meat, fish, milk and dairy products, eggs, vegetables, potatoes, coffee, wine, beer, and hard liquor all increased significantly between 1950 and 1984. In 1960 the majority of households had both a bicycle and a radio, 20 percent owned a washing machine, and a few even possessed a television, a refrigerator, or an automobile. By 1984, 96 out of 100 households owned a washing machine, every household owned a refrigerator, and the ratio of television sets to households was 108 to 100. The quality and variety of durable consumer goods on sale has also improved. As in other societies, purchase of luxury items was the prerogative of higher-income groups. For example, in the late 1980s automobiles were owned mostly by upper- and middle-income households. As of 1984, only 34 out of 100 households owned an automobile.

In 1986 the total disposable income of all Hungarians was the equivalent of US$17.2 billion. Hungarians spent 88 percent of that income, saved 6.2 percent, and invested 5.8 percent in building their own housing. Foodstuffs accounted for 27.1 percent of personal spending; services, 26.6 percent; beverages and tobacco, 14.6 percent; other consumer goods, 11.6 percent; clothing, 8.2 percent; durable goods, 7.9 percent; and heating and energy, 4 percent. The state paid the cost of medical and other social services (see Health , ch. 2).

Official Hungarian sources reported that the average per capita monthly wage was 6,000 forints in 1988, about 14 percent above the officially recognized poverty level of 5,200 forints ($US84.00). Economists estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of the people lived below the poverty level.

Data as of September 1989