Experts discuss economy, business, marketing at Continentalʼs conference


Automotive parts maker Continental, best known for its tires, this week held its Fifth Professional Tire Conference in Budaörs, Pest County, featuring presentations about the state of the Hungarian and world economy, recruitment issues, and PR secrets.

Continentalʼs conference took place at the Holiday Inn Budaörs

The conference in Budaörs, attended by the Budapest Business Journal, was moderated by Jazzy Radioʼs András Mihálovits. Macroeconomic expert and Portfolio Prof founder Bence András talked about the economic outlook of Hungary and the world.

"The current state of economic recovery took a decade to reach," András said, showing the audience statistics of the world economy slowly reaching pre-crisis levels, and noting how IMF forecasts are less pessimistic nowadays.

In the case of Hungary, András pointed out two dates: 2009, when GDP sank by 6.6% due to the world economic crisis; and 2012, when GDP decreased by 1.6% due to the sovereign debt crisis. At the same time, he pointed out, the current growth rate of around 4% is unsustainable, with GDP expected to grow by a mere 2.7% in 2020.

Regarding emerging fears of a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China, the expert noted that Chinaʼs decisions can indirectly affect Hungary, through the German market. He explained that while Hungary does not have exceptionally large direct trade with China, Germany is Hungaryʼs most significant trade partner and conducts a lot of trade with China directly, so that the effects of any U.S. sanctions on China could trickle down.

"Also, donʼt forget that [U.S. President Donald] Trump also mentioned a trade war with the European Union," he added.

As the strongest aspects of growth in Hungary, András singled out the construction sector, and the increase in incomes which drives a strong increase in consumption. As weaknesses, he pointed out the negative demographic trends, noting that the number of people of working age is decreasing.

The macroeconomist also stressed that automotive manufacturing is responsible for almost 30% of industrial output, making the country somewhat dependent on the state of the German car industry. According to the expert, this one-sidedness may make Hungary vulnerable, especially if another "diesel scandal" arises among German manufacturers.

While highlighting that investments have brought a lot of capital to the country, András also noted that factories in Hungary "often contribute only around 4 million forintsʼ worth of parts to a car worth 20 million."

Motivating the local workforce

Andrea Juhos of outplacement services and HR consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison analyzed current employment-related issues in Hungary, beginning by comparing the current thoughts of employers and job seekers about the opportunities on the job market.

"Young people canʼt work properly" and "I just canʼt find people" are common excuses given by employers, according to Juhos, while "I want a good salary," "I am young and only loyal to myself," and "I donʼt want to be a bio-robot" were among the excuses brought by people looking for jobs.

Summarizing the conclusions of recent research by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) regarding the labor shortage issue, Juhos said she disagreed with the statement: "We cannot talk about empty jobs, as higher salaries would bring people in."

"Retaining people is the new way of hiring," she said.

Juhos asked the public if they ever refused a job offer which was more financially lucrative than their job at the time, prompting a large chunk of the audience to raise their hands.

"See, motivation is not about money, but using oneʼs own time to understand the concerns of employees," she noted. "Itʼs about making people like their jobs, and removing the so-called most negative aspects."

Juhos then went on to explain that during hiring processes, the same approach of showing understanding may lead to positive results.

"Understanding the ʼalphaʼ generation will also be challenging," she mentioned, noting that the successors of Generation Z are hastily approaching employment age.

Juhos also pointed to research by Oxford University and the World Economic Forum, claiming that in 20 years 47% of jobs will be at least partially automated. She brought up examples from the present such as Amazon Go, self-driving cars, drones, and even robotic leg braces to illustrate the fast pace of technological advancement.

Reaching consumers effectively

Kata Zubcsics, account manager at Initiative Media, explained how consumers can be reached effectively. She asked the audience if they know how much an average Hungarian watches television. While most audience members estimated around two hours per day, Zubcsics said that it ranges from 260 minutes to 5 hours per day.

At the same time, Zubcsics also pointed out that with 5.88 million people in Hungary using the internet, television is slowly falling behind.

"Ninety-four percent of people between 15 and 24 use the internet, with the number only starting to drop off above the age of 40," she said. Arguing that an internet presence is crucial, she only half-jokingly remarked: "If somebody canʼt find your company on the first page of a Google search, you donʼt exist."

Zubcsics also pointed to the growing importance of social media, but stressed that different strategies must be utilized, noting that the Instagram strategy of a tire company such as Continental must be different to that of a restaurant. She also noted that mobile device optimization is also key, because "if smartphone users find your pageʼs layout on their screens uncomfortable, theyʼll leave after a few seconds."

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