Commuting patterns among Hungarian employees

A study was carried out to explore Hungarian workers’ commuting patterns and experience. The study examined the means of transport used, the duration of the travel, the distance between the workplace and home, and the commuting area. In addition, the survey explored demographic, occupational and sectoral aspects of commuting. Almost 95% of all employed people use some means of transport to get to their workplaces.

About the survey

As part of the Labour Force Survey, the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (Központi Statisztikai Hivatal, KSH) conducted a supplementary survey in the first quarter of 2008 to explore employees’ commuting patterns. The results (in Hungarian, 281Kb PDF) of the survey were published in the Hungarian periodical Statisztikai Tükör.

Survey results

The survey findings reveal that 94.5% of all employed people use some means of transport to get to their workplaces, while only 5.5% do not travel to work. Some 60.3% of employees work within the administrative borders of their settlement, whereas 34.2% of them work in another locality and thus commute a considerable distance to work. About 80% of all employees commute on a daily basis. A total of 188,000 persons work away from their homes and relatives, while for 0.4% of the employees the job location changes regularly.

More than 200,000 people (5.5%) work in the same locality as where they live. Almost one quarter of the employees (24.8%) travel between five and 15 kilometres to get to work, and more than one fifth of employees (12.9%) travel 15–25 kilometres from home to work, each way. One in 20 employees works 50 kilometres away from their home and every second person in this group travels at least 100 kilometres every day.

Daily travel time

The Fourth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) revealed that, on average, European workers spend 40 minutes travelling to and from work. This commuting time increases with the number of working hours. The Hungarian survey finds that 49.7% of employees travel less than 30 minutes to and from the workplace, while 30% travel more than half an hour but less than one hour. For 23.8% of the employees, commuting to work takes longer than one hour (see table).

Daily amount of time spent travelling to work (%)
  1–15 minutes 16–30 minutes 31–60 minutes 61–90 minutes 91–120 minutes 121 minutes
Men 15.1 30.4 29.2 9.7 8.8 6.9
Women 17.9 32.5 27.6 9.6 7.2 5.1
Total 16.4 31.4 28.5 9.6 8.1 6.1

Source: KSH, 2008

Commuting patterns

As many as 88% of the inhabitants of the capital city, Budapest, work in this city and more than 70% of those living in other cities and towns work in the same locality. About 5%–6% of the employees work from home. In smaller settlements, just over a quarter of the inhabitants are able to find a job locally. The extent of daily commuting is substantial in the agglomeration of large cities and towns, especially in the Budapest area; the capital city attracts workers from other nearby counties with relatively developed transport infrastructure.

The majority of commuters feel forced to commute because they were unable to find employment in their place of residence. More than one quarter of the commuters travel to another settlement for a job that matches their qualifications, while 10% commute because they were unable to find a job locally that matches their financial expectations. Only a small proportion of the commuters reported that they chose commuting because of their preference for their residence and unwillingness to move elsewhere.

Age effects

People aged less than 30 years are more likely to commute daily and on a long-term basis. In their case, lack of work experience or the absence of practical skills – or over-qualification – often prevent these young people from finding a job in the place where they live. However, commuting becomes less frequent as workers grow older. This is the case for both genders but especially among women: while one third of women aged under 30 years commute daily, the proportion among women older than 30 years gradually declines, so that only one fifth to one sixth of the women aged between 50 and 60 years work somewhere other than their place of residence. As for men, the proportion of daily commuters is close to one third up until the age of 50–54 years, but the share of those who commute for an extended period of time decreases when the workers reach 40 years of age.

Educational influence

The educational level of employees living and working in the same settlement is higher than that of commuters. More than half of the people who completed vocational school or are skilled workers are likely to find work locally, while the respective proportion among those with a higher education is even higher.

Gender differences

Women are less likely to take on the burden of daily commuting and spend time on travelling. The proportion of women who commute no more than 30 minutes is 4% higher than among men, but 2.3% fewer women than men travel more than 1.5 hours. Similarly, a smaller proportion of women hold jobs with a changing location and thus unpredictable travelling time.

Means of transport

Differences arise in the means of transport used for commuting, depending on the type of settlement. Cars are used mainly by people who travel from Budapest to their workplaces and are less used to travel within settlements. Public transport is predominantly used by those whose workplace is in Budapest. Long distance buses are most typically used by those who commute to work from rural areas, while travel by train is typical among commuters living in urban areas.


Beyond obtaining information about the experience of commuting among Hungarian employees, the survey sheds light on the reasons for commuting, as well as its specific characteristics according to gender, age, economic sector, qualification, settlement type and means of transport. The relationship between the travel time and the means of transport was also analysed.

Katalin Balogh, Institute for Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences




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