The Impact of COVID-19 on Hungary's Roma Communities

Friday, February 12, 2021

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The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the locally-based research firm that focuses on the Roma community Institute conducted polling and focus group research in Hungary from May to August 2020 to gauge and elucidate the toll the COVID-19 pandemic was taking on the Roma community in Hungary, specifically. The research was conducted across 27 settlements spanning nine counties across the country. The lead researcher was Roma expert Judit Bari, working with a group of research assistants from Hungarian Roma communities. 

As a result of an emergency powers law at the beginning of the pandemic, together with swathes of anecdotal evidence, the exigence to conduct this research became clear to NDI at the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic. These initial concerns were corroborated by the key findings of the research which include:

  • A marked increase in financial deprivation, as crucial sources of income for the Roma community are adversely affected while insufficiently recuperate by government assistance.

  • Limited access to healthcare provisions including testing, non-COVID related medical services, and personal protective equipment 

  • New forms of discrimination and hate crime

  • Reductions in access to primary and secondary education due to a lack of requisite digital infrastructure and equipment in Roma households

  • A rise in mental health challenges stemming from the aforementioned challenges

Despite the gravity of these challenges, which continue to affect many in the Roma community the government at the national and local level can refine its decision making and communication with the Roma community with near-term positive effect. 

  • With access to credible and timely information, the Roma community would be able to improve their ability to follow state guidance and understand the support mechanisms already in place to address daily needs in light of the pandemic.

  • Drawing on respondents’ disparate experiences of receiving support, a key priority should be to standardize the delivery of available economic support and public services equally across the country.

  • Municipal governments should function as liaisons, taking policy direction and resources from the national level and applying them according to local institutions that are aware of the needs of vulnerable communities improves the equity of resource distribution.

  • Decision makers must learn more about the advantages of inclusive cooperation with citizens and civil society; practical ways of long-term planning for and response to citizens’ needs, especially in crisis situations; applying participatory approaches in planning, development and implementation of policies and services.

NDI conducted the research as part of its programming in Hungary that focuses on facilitating the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented constituencies in politics, specifically the Hungarian Roma community. NDI Hungary programs are conducted from its office in Budapest. 


This research was conducted with funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. The views expressed in the survey do not necessarily reflect those of NDI or the NED. 

Media contact

Jerry Hartz

Director of Government Relations and Communications

1 (202) 728-5500

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Author: National Democratic Institute
Publisher: NDI
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