Overview of policies, strategies and programmes in relation to the occupational health and safety of older workers - Hungary

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Initiatives from government/government-affiliated organisations

Occupational health and safety

The National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health Resolution No. 20/2001 of the Parliament on the National Programme of Occupational Safety and Health (A Munkavédelem Országos Programja - MOP) laid down fundamental long-term strategic principles of workplace health improvement, including prevention and the principle of comprehensive partnership[1]. It was in force from 30 March 2001 to 10 June 2013. It set out an objective of addressing current occupational safety and health problems and preventing new and emerging risks. It did not refer specifically to the issue of the older workforce.

A new strategy is under discussion but has not yet been adopted. One of the objectives of the strategy under discussion is the protection of certain vulnerable groups of workers, including older workers[2].

The aim of the National Programme of the Decade of Health (formerly called ‘Johan Béla’), adopted in 2003, is the improvement of the very poor current state of health of the Hungarian population. It focuses on public health emphasises the most important sicknesses, medical risks and prevention measures. Its subtitle is ‘health promotion in everyday life’, which covers health promotion at the workplace. Under this programme, in 2003, 15 competitors were awarded financial support and the title ‘Healthy Workplace’ in the field of workplace health promotion. In 2012, three companies won the ‘healthiest workplace’ title in a competition organised by Táplálkozz tudatosan! programme and EgészségTrend Magazin.

Employment policies

The Hungarian National Reform Programmes (2012 and 2013) aim to increase the employment rate and improve the health status of the working age population.

The 2012 programme identified that the rate of employment of the 20-64 year old group in Hungary is amongst the lowest in the EU (68.1% in 2011). The Hungarian Government has therefore taken a number of measures to increase employment:

  • a Hungarian Work Plan identifying the necessary structural interventions has been adopted
  • access to early retirement has been restricted (see Section 1.4)
  • the social benefit system has been reformed in such a way that it can serve active employment
  • a new Public Employment Programme has been launched
  • a new Labour Code has been passed.

The objective is to retain in the labour market individuals of working age who are at present inactive due to health problems but are still capable of working. Hungary has strengthened its active labour market measures, co-financed by the European Social Fund, which have delivered positive results. Important measures include decentralised programmes designed to improve the long-term employment chances of disadvantaged groups or promote their return to the labour market. This is done by arranging labour market services, such as consulting, training and other benefits to support business start-up. The target group is, among others, low-skilled individuals and persons over the age of 50.

One of the objectives of the following 2013 programme was the adoption of the Employer Benefit System – Job Protection Act (see Section 1.3), which was created to help the most disadvantaged employees to keep their jobs and access the labour market, contributing to an employment boost.

The New Hungary Development Plan (National Strategic Reference Framework of Hungary 2007-2013) (Új magyarország fejlesztési terv (Magyarország Nemzeti Stratégiai Referenciakerete 2007–2013)[3] – and particularly the part on Employment and growth – highlights the employment problems of the older generations, mainly of those who do not have a university degree.

The Social Renewal Operational Programme 2007-2013 (Társadalmi Megújulás Operatív Program – TÁMOP), which sets out in detail the implementing activities of the ‘Social Renewal Priority’ of the New Hungary Development Plan, plans the execution of a nationwide Work Ability Index™ survey of ageing workers in the following sectors: health care, construction, education, agriculture and automotive industry. The results should provide input for policy making.

Between May 2011 and April 2015, decentralised labour market programmes are being implemented by the National Employment Service to promote the employment of disadvantaged persons. With these programmes, people with few qualifications or non-marketable qualifications, career starters, people above 50 years of age, etc. will receive tailor-made support and service packages to gain, or regain, competitiveness in the labour market. Active labour market policies (ALMP) targeting older people mainly consist of training unemployed persons, providing wage subsidies and job opportunities (including in the public sector).

Public health policies

The Semmelweis Plan and the National Public Health Programme (applicable from 2011) aims to improve the quality of life of an older population that is continuously growing; to change how old age is viewed, to involve older people in the life of local communities and to establish different forms of health promotion. As a result of the health care system being limited and difficult to access, economic prosperity may be hindered as people’s health deteriorates and their work ability decreases. The improvements of the national health system can help maintain employees’ work ability.

Active ageing policy

The National Strategy concerning the Elderly (Decision No 81/2009 (X.6.) of the Parliament)[4] (2009-2034) was drafted in line with the principles of active ageing of the WHO Active Ageing Policy. The aims of the strategy are:

  • to increase the number of healthy life years
  • to maintain an active life
  • to support life-long learning (including digital training)
  • to support active ageing both in terms of physical activity – to make it possible to remain active in the labour market, and social activity – to enhance participation in social life.

The Strategy stresses the need to develop programmes for prevention, rehabilitation, health promotion and sports for senior people and underlines the importance of physical activity in the prevention of MSDs.

Initiatives from non-governmental organisations

Workplace health promotion

The Hungarian Forum for Workplace Health Promotion (Munkahelyi Egészségfejlesztés Magyarországi Fóruma), founded in 2004, includes representatives of:

  • the National Institute for Occupational Health
  • the National Institute for Health Development
  • the Ministry of Health (at the time)
  • the Association for Healthier Workplaces (see below)
  • the Hungarian Federation of Mutual Funds
  • the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the Hungarian Medical Chamber
  • the Hungarian Chamber of Engineers.

It grants the ‘Health-friendly workplace’ label and ‘Health-friendly NGO’ award. It has developed the Nationwide Strategy for workplace health promotion (A Munkahelyi Egészségfejlesztés Országos Stratégiája)[5]. The strategy’s targets include:

  • improving the cooperation of professionals in the area of WHP;
  • improving the knowledge of workplace actors on WHP;
  • harmonising the state systems related to WHP; and
  • developing further legal and financial incentives.

Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) activities are mostly carried out by the Association for Healthier Workplaces (Egészségesebb Munkahelyekért Egyesület)[6], a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness on WHP. The Association is a member of the advisory council for WHP within the Ministry, founding member of the Hungarian Forum for WHP and also cooperates with the National Centre for Health Promotion.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hungary launched the Healthy Workplace National Programme[7] in November 2002 (ended in 2010), and helped the promotion of WHP in Hungary by disseminating good practices from other countries. The Chamber also established the ‘Healthy Workplace AmCham Award’ that was granted to AmCham members every year in three categories: corporations, medium-sized companies and small businesses. The award criteria were generally related to a comprehensive health-programme, which could help workers stay healthy and work longer. Age management was not a specific criterion. By fulfilling the requirements, the awarded members could display the ‘Healthy Workplace Certificate’.

Fighting stereotypes

Eleven public figures in Hungary set up the Great Generation Association[8] (Nagy Generáció). The aim of the association is to bring together the 50+ generation of Hungary, to improve its image within Hungarian society and increase appreciation towards its Great Generation. Launched in November 2011, ‘Nagy Generáció’ also includes a successful radio show and an internet portal. Nearly 40% of Hungary's population is over 50, and the goal of this integral project is to change the view of ageing in the country, to rewrite the stereotypes and encourage seniors to live a creative and harmonious life. The Great Generation radio show analyses relevant problems, such as the unemployment rate of people over 50, senior volunteering, life-long learning, etc. The broadcast is enhanced with a not-for-profit web page, where users share their knowledge and comments about work, pensions and other topics.

EU projects

In addition, Hungarian organisations participate in a number of EU projects that focus on the older workforce, such as the Central European Knowledge Platform for an Ageing Society (CE-Ageing Platform), the project Valuing older people’s skills and experience (SLIC II), the project Facilitating the extension of working lives through valuing older workers (ESF, co-funding Interreg IVC) and the Generations Project (2011-2013).

In 2012, Pandokrator Ltd, a private educational and cultural organisation, together with the 12-Classes Greek School Of Hungary, launched a two year project financed by the EU called ‘Acquiring and strengthening ‘soft skills’ for employment through models of supporting methods (peer coaching and mentoring)’[9]. The project involves nine European partners from eight countries and targets the 50+ generation. The overall objective of the initiative is to face the challenges of an ageing population and unemployment in Europe and to increase the number of adult learners. The partners are developing learning tools and environments for strengthening 'soft skills' and modelling support for learning and training while connecting generations in order to increase employability and motivation for all ages.

References

  1. NOFER Institute, Workplace Health Promotion in Enlarging Europe, 2006, p.72.
  2. EU-OSHA – European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, OSH WIKI, “OSH system at national level – Hungary”.
  3. New Hungarian Development Plan (National Strategic Reference Framework of Hungary 2007-2013), available at: http://pik.elte.hu/file/_j_Magyarorsz_g_Fejleszt_si_Terv___MFT_.pdf (accessed September 2014)
  4. National Strategy concerning the Elderly, available at (in Hungarian): http://www.complex.hu/kzldat/o09h0081.htm/o09h0081.htm (Accessed December 2014)
  5. NOFER Institute, Workplace Health Promotion in Enlarging Europe, 2006, p.72.
  6. Emegy (Association for Healthier Workplaces) homepage: http://www.emegy.hu/hu/index.html (Accessed December 2014)
  7. Website of the Healthy Workplace National Programme: http://www.amcham.hu/healthy-workplace-program (Accessed December 2014)
  8. Nagy Generáció (Great Generation association) homepage: http://www.nagygeneracio.hu/ (Accessed December 2014)
  9. ‘Softskills’ project homepage: http://www.gainingsoftskills.eu/Index.aspx (Accessed December 2014)