Economy Ministry rejects reports alleging Hungary ‘Europe’s poorest country’

The national economy ministry on Friday rejected reports branding Hungary the poorest country in the European Union, calling the reports “nonsense” and “willful lies”, a misinterpretation of an Eurostat report stating Hungarian household consumption as 70 percent of the EU average.

The ministry said in a statement that the matter of spending or saving was a sovereign decision of households. Therefore consumption data “has limited applicability” and “drawing conclusions regarding poverty from that [data] is a malicious distortion of facts.”

The ministry said that contrary to reports, Hungarian families had “naturally” grown more cautious as a result of the war in Ukraine. That led to the gross savings rate of families growing further, to over 21 percent, the highest in the EU, the ministry said. Compared with early 2022, the gross financial wealth of families had grown by 22,500 billion forints (EUR 56.7bn) to over 102,000 billion, the statement said.

The net wealth of Hungarian families is over 106 percent of GDP, which puts the country in the European mid-field and ahead of Slovakia, Romania and Poland, the statement said.

Hungarian household income from interest was 4 percent of GDP in 2023, the highest in the EU, thanks to a high ratio of government bonds owned by households and to a steady growth of wages and the employment rate, the statement said.

It added that household income had also grown, with the gross average wage close to 660,000 forints, three times higher than before Fidesz came to power in 2010. “The minimum wages have grown 3.6 times since 2010, one of the steepest in the EU,” the statement said. “Real wage growth has been also constant, stalling only for a short while because of the war, as the government broke down inflation,” it said.

The ministry said growing wages and employment rate had contributed to a significant fall in poverty. Calculated with EU methods, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Hungary has fallen by 1.2-1.3 million since 2010, well below the EU average, the ministry said.

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