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Workfare Schemes as a Tool For Preventing the Further Impoverishment of the Rural Poor

Abstract

This article examines workfare schemes in rural Hungary and their contribution to relieving rural poverty. It does so on the basis of an analysis of European Union statistics and a series of semi-structured interviews which were conducted in 2013-2015 as part of a larger project investigating the contemporary state of rural Hungary. The paper comprises four sections: following a short description of the methodology, regional disparities and deprivation in rural areas are introduced with the help of a typology on deprivation and Eurostat data, thus providing evidence for European comparison. Following this, the main findings of our extensive qualitative research into workfare policies in rural Hungary are introduced and discussed on the basis of related legislation4. The article finds that workfare schemes in the rural sector are unique to Central and Eastern Europe, and are especially favoured in Hungary; it also discovers that economists are correct in assessing that said workfare schemes create few new jobs. Nevertheless, they are ‘better than nothing’, and have become embedded in rural society, where they are appreciated by beneficiaries and local officials alike. They necessarily make a paternalistic distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, and the more commercially-oriented schemes raise issues of market distortion.

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