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Hungary rejects new EU labor guidelines

Hungary’s socialist government rejected Monday labor guidelines drawn up by the European Union’s labor ministers last week.

The new regulations would cause “even fewer Hungarians to work even more,” the Hungarian Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Erika Szűcs told reporters Monday in Budapest. At present, Hungary’s employment rate is around 7 to 8% lower than the EU average while the number of hours worked is about 1.7% under the average in the bloc, she added. Aim of the Hungarian government was to increase the “number of those employed and not the hours worked,” Szűcs said.

The agreement limits the hours employees in the EU can work per week to 48 hours, but allows them to boost that limit to 60 hours if they choose to sign a so-called “opt-out.” To protect the employee from abuse, the deal also says that they can only agree to the extra hours once they have been in the job for a month, and that they cannot be sanctioned at work for refusing to sign the opt-out or for withdrawing from it.

The low rate of employment in Hungary is mainly a result of generous social welfare benefits. It is more attractive for many people to retire early, obtain children’s allowances or apply for social security than to work regularly. (m&