Place guarantee to ECEC
Access to nurseries
It is traditional in Hungary for stay-at-home mothers to provide care for young children, using state family support benefits. Hungarian family support benefits, including the expansion of nursery and kindergarten places, are among the most generous benefits on an international scale. Family support benefits enable mothers to stay at home with their children until they are 3 years old.
There have been a number of changes in the regulatory environment in recent years to make nursery and kindergarten care more accessible and to facilitate the reintegration of women into the labour market after childbirth. Since 2017, municipalities have been required to organise nursery care (in nurseries or mini-nurseries, and possibly family nurseries) if the number of children under the age of 3 years living in the settlement exceeds 40 or if at least five families request it. The use of nursery care is not compulsory but an option for parents.
The establishment of new institutions, the expansion of the capacities of existing nurseries and greater financial support have significantly increased the available capacity.
Municipalities may operate a nursery, mini-nursery, family nursery or workplace nursery independently, in association with another municipality or through a service provision contract with a non-governmental entity (a non-governmental organisation or church).
If the local government does not provide nursery care,
a) by 1st March each year, the local government must publish a notice in the usual manner that parents or other legal representatives may notify the municipality of the need to provide nursery care by 15th April, and
b) by 31st March of each year, must examine whether, according to the data of the Central Statistical Office on 1st January of a given year, the number of inhabitants of the settlement under 3 years of age exceeds 40.
In 2018, the government published a call for applications in the county of Pest (where nursery places were most needed) for support – amounting to HUF 4.5 billion – to create the conditions for capacity building. The aim of the scheme was to improve access to daycare services for children, especially in settlements where the demand for care exceeded the number of available places.
The Hungarian state provided tax-free support of up to HUF 40 000 (EUR 102; EUR/HUF 391, 2022) per month to parents who enrol their children over the age of 20 months but not yet of kindergarten age in a family nursery or workplace nursery in order to be able to work. This was financed by an European Union call for applications with a budget of HUF 9.8 billion (approximately EUR 0.028 billion). In practice, this scheme meant that the government provided a fee subsidy from EU funds to parents until mid-2022, in order to contribute to their (family/workplace) nursery costs, typically between HUF 40 000–120 000 (EUR 102-307; EUR/HUF 391, 2022) per month.
Type of care
Number of institutions
Number of places
Number of children enrolled
Mini nursery b)
Family nursery c)
Workplace nursery b)
a) Group size of 6–14 children b) Group size of 3–8 children c) Group size of 2–7 children
National development policies and the government continue to focus on capacity building and infrastructural development in order to further increase the availability of childcare across the country and make it more territorially balanced.
Measures to raise the professional standards of nursery care and improve the quality of care have also contributed to improving the quality of institutions and services.
Improvement in the national coverage of nurseries and the better utilisation of institutions in recent years can be seen in terms of inequalities in access to care. However, the number of children under the age of 3 years who did not have access to any form of daycare in their area of residence has decreased in recent years.
Access to kindergartens
Attending kindergarten is compulsory from the age of 3 years.
The provision of kindergarten education is mandatory for all local governments. Local governments include local governments of towns with county rights, local governments of towns and local governments in the districts of Budapest. In every settlement where at least eight preschool-aged children are resident and, on the basis of demographic data, it is assumed that this will remain the case for at least 3 years, the local government must provide a local kindergarten, if requested by at least eight of the parents concerned. Local governments must also ensure that children of ethnic minorities attend kindergarten, as well as children with special educational needs, who can be cared for also in an integrated manner.
Kindergartens may be established and maintained by the state, minority self-governments, local governments and ecclesiastical legal persons registered in Hungary, and by other organisations and persons if they have acquired the right to provide this service in accordance with the provisions of the law.
In state and municipal institutions, as well as in other institutions providing childcare on behalf of the state, the use of kindergarten education and additional pedagogical services is, in almost all cases, free of charge for children.
Most of the institutions are maintained by local governments. Nearly 15 % of institutions are operated by churches or foundations (or other). Only 4% of kindergartens are maintained by a foundation or a private entity; some of these operate on a for-profit basis.
Kindergarten education for young children took place in 4575 kindergarten sites in the 2020/2021 school year, which is a 5.0% increase in the last 10 years. The majority of kindergartens, almost 84%, are run by local/district governments or by public operators. The number of church-run kindergartens has grown the most dynamically among kindergarten sites. Their proportion has been steadily rising since 2010, and now kindergartens run by church organizations account for 8.8% of all the institutions
The number of children in kindergarten is approximately 318,000, which is 4,000 fewer than in the previous year. The upward trend from 2016 stopped in 2020, partly due to a moderating increase in the age group concerned and partly due to the increasing enrolment of six-year-olds in primary school.
The number of kindergarten teachers continued to decrease, by a total of 200 compared to last year. At the same time, the number of places has increased, mainly due to new church-run institutions. The average number of children per teacher has improved by 2 percentage points, but there are still slightly more than 10 children for 1 teacher.
The extent of the decrease was almost the same in the case of state, municipal and church-run kindergartens, but the average group size remained 18 in kindergartens operated by foundations and other organizations.
All institutions providing public kindergarten education, regardless of their operator, are subject to the same legislation. Therefore, equality of care is ensured. In addition, the right to establish an institution can be widely exercised.
Kindergartens can also operate as part of so-called multipurpose institutions. In such cases, the kindergarten operator organises the tasks of several types of public education institutions integrated into one institution; non-public education tasks may also be integrated into the institution.
As regards compulsory preschool education, in the year in which a child reaches the age of 3 years by 31 August, they must attend kindergarten for at least 4 hours a day from the beginning of the school year. At the request of the parent, which must be submitted by 25 May of the current year, the body designated by government decree may exempt the child from attending kindergarten, until 31 August of the year in which the child reaches the age of 4 years, if it is in the best interests of the child and if the child’s family circumstances and special situation justify it.
In accordance with the provisions of the Child Protection Act, parents must pay a fee for daycare for their children.
The local government determines (in a decree) the subsidy given to institutions by 1 April of each year based on legal regulations (§146(1) of the Child Protection Act). The subsidy is the difference between the cost of services and the financial support received in accordance with the Act on the National Budget (not including meals). Separate institutional subsidies must be set for meals and care. The fee paid by parents cannot be higher than the subsidy.
Nursery fees do not apply to children from families that receive a regular child protection allowance or if the child is on long-term medication. Furthermore, fees do not apply to children raised in a single household with three or more children. The social support departments of local governments provide information and assistance concerning fee discounts and other rights and opportunities.
Those who are not eligible for any discounts must pay the fees in full. (In several municipalities, nursery care is free for everyone.)
The regular monthly per capita income of the child’s family must be taken into account when determining the individual fee (§150 of the Child Protection Act).
The individual fee is a customised fee calculated based on the institutional subsidy, taking into account the social and income conditions of individual children and their eligibility for discounts.
When calculating the family’s monthly per capita income, the following persons must be taken into account:
- the parent and the parent’s spouse or life partner;
- a parent’s child under the age of 20 years with no individual income;
- a parent’s child under the age of 23 years with no individual income, who is enrolled in full-time education;
- a parent’s child under the age of 25 years with no individual income, who is enrolled full time in a higher education institution;
- regardless of age, a parent’s chronically ill or disabled child;
- a relative dependent on the parent or their spouse under the rules of the Civil Code.
According to the law, the individual fee paid for nursery care may not exceed 25 % of the family’s net per capita income (if meals are included, or 20 % without meals).
Pursuant to the law, the local government also has the right to set the individual fee at a lower rate than the institutional subsidy, or even waive it in individual cases.
The fee for nursery care payable by a foreign citizen residing in Hungary and not covered by Act XXXI of 1997 on the Protection of Children and Guardianship Administration is also determined by the local government.
In a mini-nursery, the individual fee – including care – must be determined per day of care (i.e. depending on the number of operating days in the given month). The individual fee for nursery care is set for a full month, unless the nursery operator decides otherwise, even if the child does not use the service every day of the month. This means that the individual fee set and paid in advance is not refunded in the absence of the child, unless the operator stipulates otherwise.
In nurseries and mini-nurseries, families pay an average of HUF 8 000 per month (EUR 21; EUR/HUF 391, 2022).
In the recent years, the amount of public expenditure spent on children’ meals has almost doubled. The government spends about HUF 60 billion (EUR 153 million; EUR/HUF 391, 2022) to provide free meals for 270,000 children in nurseries and kindergartens. From September 2021, approximately 90 percent of children receive free breakfast, lunch and snack in the above-mentioned institutions.
Costs of kindergarten care
Kindergarten education is part of public education, so it is mainly financed from the state budget. Kindergarten care and participation in public education are free. The funding system is two-tiered: the majority of the central budget support is given to operators, who determine the expenses of their respective kindergartens as part of their own budget. Thus, the resources required for kindergarten operation are provided jointly by the state budget and the operator. Funding can be supplemented by fees paid by parents for complementary services used by children, such as school meals, and other public education institution revenues.
Unless otherwise specified by the parent, children have lunch and two additional meals (morning and afternoon snacks) in the kindergarten on school days. If the local government is responsible for providing the meals, the fee paid by parents for meals is determined by the local government.
As regards further services, in micro-villages and farms, kindergarten associations (i.e. several settlements operating a joint kindergarten) are not uncommon and a kindergarten bus transports children.