Impact of migrating young workers

Thousands are leaving Hungary looking for work, many of them young graduates. Reasons include the country’s high unemployment rate, the stagnant economy and lack of security. The government wants to lure workers back with better working and living conditions. Opposition parties and trade unions warn of the migration’s negative effects and blame the government for the situation. Experts say the current problems must be serious, as Hungarians traditionally have low mobility.


Data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH) suggest that from 2004 to 2010, between 25,000 and 27,000 people left Hungary each year to work abroad.

This figure changed drastically last year, when approximately 85,000 people decided to leave to find work in Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Canada. Reasons given for the trend include high unemployment rates, the stagnant economy and lack of certainty over the future prospects of the country.

The exact numbers and the destination of the migrants to other countries are not known. However, according to research company GKI and employment firm CV&More, it is estimated that 60% of those who left Hungary are aged between 22 and 29, and graduated from colleges or universities with proficiency in foreign languages.

Mobility in Hungarian society is traditionally low compared with the other central and eastern European countries. Hungarians tend to move only in extreme circumstances, according to Zoltán Kaposi, Professor of Economic History at the University of Pécs.

According to available data, only 3% of adults planned working abroad in 1993 – this had risen to 16% in 2012.

Government view

Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics, Minister of Administration and Justice, says gaining experience abroad is not the same as migration. He says the government must do everything to urge young people to come back after they have gained that experience.

He added that to reach this goal, jobs to attract highly qualified workers were needed. He added that young people should be encouraged to become entrepreneurs, and small and medium-sized enterprises are needed to employ young people.

Mr Navracsics pointed out that the gap between domestic and foreign earnings put pressure on the Hungarian economy and the budget, but this tension could be decreased in the mid term by raising wages at home. The health sector had been suffering from the flow of young doctors to other countries (HU1201011I), and other employees in the sector were also threatening to leave.

The Semmelweis Plan (2.12Mb PDF), introduced in 2011 by the government to reform the healthcare sector, contained a chapter devoted to the development of a career plan for doctors.

Views of opposition parties

Csaba Winkfein, a board member of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), said he was worried that such high migration among young people would have unexpected consequences in Hungary. He said skilled young people were the engine of the economy, as well as possessing important language skills.

Mr Winkfein said the MSZP would carry out a programme called ‘Come home’ which would offer solutions to the issue that had so far failed to come from the government. The detailed programme was due to be published soon. The programme’s aim is to stop or slow down the migration from Hungary.

Dániel Kárpát, a member of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, has called on the government to set up an investigative committee to look at the projected rise in migration by Hungarians. He described it as unacceptable that the government was not doing anything to reverse the trend.

Trade union opinion

Péter Pataky, President of the National Association of Hungarian Trade Unions (MSZOSZ), said chances and opportunities must be given to the young generation. He argues that new programmes are needed because young people are the future of the country.

The youth sections of the six Hungarian trade union associations jointly demanded that the government create a youth strategy to stop the processes which led the migration of large number of Hungarians.

Employment difficulties

Balázs Nagy, Manager of Manpower Business Solutions, said one third of Hungarian companies are struggling because of the skills shortage, and firms are struggling to find the right employee to fill vacancies. Migration and a shortage of professionals are putting the country’s productivity at risk, as well as the companies themselves, even in the short term.

Positive effects

One positive effect of migration was highlighted by figures from the World Bank Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011 (1.71Mb PDF). This showed that a significant amount of money was being sent back to Hungary by workers from outside the country, contributing to economic growth and to the livelihood of residents. Money transfers are among the most important source of external financing, after foreign assistance and investments.

Figures from the World Bank show that inward remittances to Hungary totalled €1.9 billion in 2010, whereas outward flow of money was around €1 billion in 2009. The gap between the two figures is significant and indicates that Hungarian migrants are strongly supporting the country’s economy.

Máté Komiljovics,

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