Conference on tripartism
EU Presidency Conference on Tripartism in an enlarged European Union
Co-organised by the Danish Ministry of Employment and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
Hotel Comwell, Elsinore, Denmark
29-30 October 2002
Speech abstract - András Tóth
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Political Science, Academy of Science, Hungary
Tripartitism and Social Exclusion in Hungary
Following the introduction under Article 136 and 137 EC by the Amsterdam Treaty of the fight against social exclusion among the social policy provisions, the European Council of Lisbon in March 2000 recognised that the extent of poverty and social exclusion was unacceptable.
Building a more inclusive European Union was thus considered as an essential element in achieving the Union's ten-year strategic goal of sustained economic growth, more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. The Lisbon Council agreed to adopt an Open Method of Coordination in order to make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty and social exclusion by 2010.
In Hungary, the wide scale restructuring of the economy during the nineties had a dramatic impact on the labour market and on living standards. Unemployment had grown to 13%, while labour force participation had dropped by 20%. Approximately, more than half a million jobs disappeared altogether in the early nineties.
The painful economic restructuring, however, laid the foundation to an export oriented economic growth from 1997 onward. The sustained growth period made a dent in unemployment and resulted in a slightly increased labour market participation rate. The growth of employment was accompanied by an increase in living standards.
Despite the spectacular results of the economic transformation, there still can be found deep pockets of poverty, especially in remote rural areas with poor infrastructure and signs of social exclusion. Especially worrisome is the situation of the sizeable roma population.
The return of democracy was accompanied by setting up a tripartite structure for social dialogue. The working of the tripartite machinery was widely regarded as one of the best examples in Central and Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, during the period of the 1998-2002 governing period, tripartitism suffered a setback.
The recently elected Socialist-Liberal government coalition has promised a wholescale rejuvenation of the tripartite machinery at national and sectoral level in order to ensure a political programme aimed to reduce poverty and social exclusion.
It seems that the participants of the re-established national level tripartite Interest Reconciliation Council - the government, the employers' associations and the trade union confederations - have committed themselves to work together in good faith to develop a policy to reduce poverty and social exclusion.
Nevertheless, there is a need for innovative thinking in order to ensure that those segments of society which are especially hit by social exclusion due to the combined impact of poverty, low labour market participation and low education have a say in the tripartite mechanism.