Sharp increase observed in number of foreign workers in Hungary

May 15. 2023. – 03:31 PM


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By 2030, the Hungarian government intends to increase the number of those employed by half a million, and although it plans to do this mainly from domestic sources, statistics show that companies are increasingly relying on guest workers borrowed from abroad instead of Hungarian labourers, Népszava reports.

In the eastern part of the country, the unemployment rate is double the national average, but in spite of this, companies operating here mostly hire foreign guest workers instead of training the workforce available in the region, Népszava writes, based on feedback from local companies.

In recent years, in order to tackle labour shortage, the government has eased the conditions for employing third-country nationals. The effect is already visible in the statistics:

According to data from the Central Statistical Office (KSH), the number of foreign workers in Hungary increased by 14 percent, to 81,000 last year.

Most of them, roughly 26,000 workers, came from Ukraine. Nearly 8 thousand people from Romania and Slovakia work in Hungary, and more than 5 thousand are from China.

The number of migrant workers from the Philippines and India has also increased, and although it is far below the number of workers from Europe in terms of size, the number of migrant workers from the Far East and South-East Asia has sharply increased: 182% more arrived from the Philippines last year than in 2021, and a third more from India and Mongolia during the same period.

According to KSH data, 1980 workers from India, 1188 from the Philippines and 1016 from Mongolia worked in Hungary last year.

The vice-president of the Vasas Federation of Trade Unions told Népszava, that the number of workers from the Far East has continued to rise this year. 3,000 Filipino guest workers are currently employed in the places where the union is present, and the organisation estimates that there is a total of nearly 8,000 Filipino workers in the country. Most of the third-country workers are found in the textile, chemical and service sectors.

Zoltán László told Népszava that "there are automotive plants where a staff freeze has been announced and no new Hungarian workers are being hired, while it is known that hundreds of guest workers will soon arrive to the factory".

According to the vice-president, the reason for this is that the turnover of Hungarian employees is high, as changing jobs is easier for them than for a guest worker. László added that most companies also believe that robotisation will mean that they will need far fewer "live workers" and that foreign guest workers will only be employed as a temporary solution while Hungarian workers are retrained to handle the new technologies.

On 9 May, The Ministry of Economic Development (GFM) announced that

the government plans to meet labour demand by increasing the economic activity of the Hungarian population and attracting the currently inactive labourers. According to GFM's calculations, the labour market reserve could amount to more than 300,000 people, who they intend to draw into the labour market through training and retraining.

Foreign workers would only be hired if the vacancies could no longer be filled by Hungarian workers, the statement said.

Minister for Economic Development, Márton Nagy also spoke about this at the beginning of May, saying that mobilising young people, women and the elderly could help tackle labour shortages, but that foreigners would also be needed.

Also on 9 May, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced that China's Eve Power would be building a battery factory in Debrecen, with a total investment of HUF 400 billion, "creating more than 1,000 new jobs, with the Hungarian state financing HUF 14 billion of the costs".

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