Sunday, August 07, 2016

Hungary needs refugees and migrants

Hungary has stopped thousands of refugees and migrants from coming into its country but it now  needs foreigners to help deal with its labor shortage. Hungary is going through a major labor shortage with over 35,000 jobs unfilled so far this year. The head of communications for the German Chamber of Commerce, Dirk Woelfer, said companies from Germany - which represents about a quarter of foreign investment in Hungry - are limiting their operations in the country because of the labor shortage. "In the long run, if you don't know whether you'll have the skilled workforce, you'll think whether to invest in more capacities where you're not sure you can fill the positions," he told DW.

A national business association recently presented the government with several proposals to improve the situation, including bringing in new foreign workers. "We believe that we would need some skilled workers from abroad as well… for an employment purpose, immigration into Hungary would be really important temporarily or even permanently," Ference Rolek, the vice president of the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists, told DW. He added that each year there are 40,000 to 50,000 fewer people in the country's labor supply, meaning that in 10 years time there would be a shortage of 500,000. The main reason is demographics. A low birth rate has led to a steadily decreasing population for decades and in 2011 it dropped to below 10 million for the first time since 1960. On top of that, many Hungarians leave the country for better pay in other EU member states. Rolek says the solution to the shortage cannot be found only inside Hungary. "We still believe that even using all the resources in Hungary, it would not be sufficient really to meet all the demands."

Economy Minister Mihaly Varga initially supported the idea, telling state media that the government must support hiring skilled workers from third countries - meaning non-EU citizens. The local press jumped on this and contrasted it with Hungary's criticism of the migrants and refugees coming to Europe and the construction of a fence to block them from entering. The day after Varga's comments, his ministry released a statement saying that "migration is not the answer to labor shortages," and claimed that the media had misinterpreted his comments. It also stated that the economy minister "does not approve of bringing masses of unskilled, illiterate migrants to Europe." The statement, however, still said that the government supports bringing in foreign skilled workers for certain jobs.

Martin Kahanec, professor of public policy at Hungary's Central European University where he specializes in labor economics and immigration, said, "Whereas migrants who come from distant cultures and regions and countries, they may have more difficulties to integrate but they also bring in skills which are new, which provide more dynamism, which make new economic opportunities." He added that migrants with a more diverse skillset can help boost trade and business relations around the world, something the government says it has been working on for years.

There is especially high unemployment among the Roma minority which faces widespread discrimination. Aside from attracting foreign workers, the business association suggested better integration of the Roma as well as improving education starting from elementary school.

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