The Rankings Rollercoaster


Mid-June has proven to be something of a rollercoaster ride for Hungary when it comes to international rankings.  

To start with the worst first, Hungary found itself bottom of the National Energy and Climate Plans Ranking. The organization behind the ranking is a serious umbrella body for NGOs, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, generally better known as Transport & Environment.

It asked all 28 EU member states to submit their draft National Energy and Climate Plans or NCEPs, to validate where they stand in terms of delivery on 2030 energy and climate targets. Transport & Environment was particularly interested in how these plans might deliver on longer-term transport decarburization.

The top ranked EU nation was the Netherlands with 73 points, boosted by its plan to scrap the internal combustion engine in all new cars by 2030. Hungary scored just 13 points. As Transport & Environment rather depressingly notes on its website: “Hungary says it will grow its transport emissions to 30% above 2005 levels.” Needless-to-say, that’s going in the wrong direction.  

If that is disheartening, the second ranking, which came out just a few days earlier, was perhaps more surprising. Hungary talks so much about becoming a 5G pioneer, with its 5G Coalition and its autonomous vehicle test track, that you kind of presume it must be somewhere near the digital forefront. But in an annual assessment of digital progress, the European Commission ranked Hungary 23rd out of the 28 member states in its Digital Economy and Society Index.

The idea is to identify areas requiring priority investment and action. Hungary was ahead of Poland (ranked 25th), but trailed Slovakia (21st) and Czech Republic (18th). The report said Hungary’s “most challenging” areas are digital public services and the integration of digital technology in businesses, areas in which the country scores “well below” the EU average. The report noted that just 14% of Hungarian companies use enterprise resource planning software to share information between different functional areas, the lowest rate in the EU, while the use of e-commerce, big data and cloud services “shows a similar pattern”.  

(Nor is this isolated. As we approached deadline, Pénzcentrum reported the European Commission had ranked Hungary sixth worst in the bloc in its 2019 European Innovation Scoreboard, based on performance in the field of innovation and capability to compete on the global markets.)

There was some good news for the government, with the EC acknowledging a number of measures taken in the area of digital economy and society since 2014, and the continuation of large-scale projects such as the Superfast Internet Program, the Modern Enterprises Program, the Support for Business Digital Development Program and developments in e-government and e-health. But if Hungary wants to become a leader, it clearly has much more to do.

There was one area of good news, so I have saved that for last. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has placed Hungary second in a ranking of countries providing the longest government-supported maternity leave, based on OECD and Eurostat data from 41 countries in 2016. Estonia came top in offering mothers 85 weeks of paid leave, with Hungary next at 72 weeks, and Bulgaria third on 65. The bottom three were Australia and New Zealand, which offered just eight weeks each, and the United States, which offers none. Make of that what you will.

Robin Marshall


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