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Non-EU nationals helped fill labor gap in 2017

Almost 25,000 foreign nationals from countries outside of the European Union were awarded permits to work in Hungary last year, around 10,000 more than in 2016, conservative daily newspaper Magyar Idők reported on Wednesday, citing data from the Immigration and Asylum Office.   

Ongoing labor shortages explain the sharp increase, state news wire MTI cited the paper as saying, noting that the number of non-EU nationals who came to Hungary to work last year could actually be much higher as work permits are no longer required by workers from neighboring countries in professions that are suffering shortages. These include nurses, drivers, skilled construction workers, telecommunications engineers, and software developers.  

Although no exact survey has been carried out regarding the sectors that employ most neighboring non-EU nationals, Magyar Idők noted that experience shows most are employed in industry and construction, particularly from Ukraine.

László Parragh, who heads the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), told the paper that Hungary would need 200,000-300,000 guest workers to ease labor shortages in the long term. Hungarian firms could use the diligence of laborers from neighboring Ukraine and Serbia, who integrate well with the local work culture, but most are drawn to Western Europe, he added.

Zoltán László, the deputy head of industrial workersʼ union Vasas, told the paper that an estimated one-fifth of Ukrainian guest workers in Hungary use the country as a stepping-stone to jobs in Western Europe. Their presence in Hungary, especially in the west of the country, has created tension with local workers because of the extra benefits they receive from employers, he added.