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Labor pool seen to be drying up in Western Hungary

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Vas and Győr-Moson-Sopron counties in Western Hungary are currently seeing a shortage not only of well-qualified labor, but of practically anyone able to fill vacancies in the region, with Hungarians in the Western counties lured to work in Austria and now Slovakia, according to a report in online blog Határátkelő, cited by Hungarian portal index.hu.

The labor supply is essentially exhausted in Vas County, according to the article, as company representatives – rather than job-seekers – line up at job fairs. The situation is said to be even worse in Győr-Moson-Sopron, where an already existing shortage of well-qualified professionals has now worsened into a shortage of labor in general, and where employees now say it is hard to find takers for even semi-skilled or unskilled positions.

The phenomenon is not entirely new, given that Hungary has long contended with the problem of labor shortages, as those who can and want to work increasingly traveling abroad to do so. According to the portal, while previously several thousand Slovak commuters crossed over to work in the industrial park in Győr, these days it is workers from Győr who tend to travel to the Bratislava area, for example to work in the Volkswagen plant located in the Slovak capital.

Data from the Central Statistical Office (KSH) show that 116,700 Hungarian residents currently work abroad, a number that is continually increasing, with almost 9,000 having left the domestic labor market in just the last quarter.

Companies and chambers are searching for solutions, with automation suggested as one possible answer, while some enterprises are beginning intensive wage developments. However, Határátkelő writes that experts believe wages need to be raised by at least 30% for some commuters to even think about staying.

Persistent low wages, at the same time, remain part of Hungary’s appeal to investors. “Currently Hungary is seen as a very good place to set up factories and SSCs, because of the relatively low labor costs together with good qualifications,” Tammy Nagy-Stellini, a lead analyst at Hays Recruitment in Hungary has said. “If wages start to increase, after a while multinational companies may consider cheaper countries, but this depends on the priorities of the company.”

Nagy-Stellini said there is reason to hope that rising wages would be sufficient to compensate for the huge shortage of labor Hungary is facing. “In West European countries the unemployment rate is much higher, and if our real wages get closer to theirs, qualified but unemployed people will likely see more and more opportunity to come and work here,” she said. 

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