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Varga proposes selective use of foreign labor

While Fidesz has repeatedly rejected inviting foreign labor to counter the ongoing labor shortage, Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga suggested in an interview published today in weekly Heti Válasz that Hungary might invite foreigners for positions that cannot be filled due to a lack of domestic professionals, without taking jobs away from Hungarians.

The minister suggested that labor could be invited from countries with “similar cultural and historical traditions” to Hungary, but only into sectors where there are not enough Hungarian professionals. Varga noted that steps the government has taken to improve and expand the countryʼs vocational training system were correct, but several years need to pass until qualified professionals enter the market. 

“It would be a shame to miss out on some big investment for this reason,” Hungarian news agency MTI cited Varga as saying in the interview. “In sectors where there is a shortage of workers, I am convinced we should temporarily resolve employment problems with labor from the European Union or neighboring third countries.”

The minister also said that neighboring countries are “far more accepting of the use of Ukrainian labor” than Hungary, noting that 200,000-220,000 Ukrainians work in the Czech Republic and almost two million in Poland, MTI reported. He made reference to the fact that Hungarians are often perceived as fearing foreign workers arriving in the country and taking jobs from Hungarians.

“According to estimates, 30,000-40,000 ethnic Hungarians from Ukraine commute to work in Hungary, but there are no separate statistics on this, because most of them have taken Hungarian citizenship,” Varga was reported as saying.