Thousands of Italians came to work in Hungary in the last few years. They are fed up with hopelessness at home, and since they do not need more than good English in Hungary, they are happy to live here even though their parents think that Budapest is very much like Moscow.
A steep rise in the numbers
“Budapest is full of Italians from Southern Italy who work in call centres for 8-900 EUR. (…) Twenty years before, this was unimaginable,” said Stefano Bottoni, a Hungarian-Italian Historian, at a conference in 2018. According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office,
in 2005, only 500, in 2012, already 1,600 while in 2018, almost 3,500 Italians came to Hungary.
And in this number, those who work in the SME sector are not included. This is why the Embassy of Italy in Budapest knows only about altogether 6,000 Italians currently living in Hungary – abcug.hu reported. Based on the statistics, the average Italian is 25-34 years old (30 pc of the overall number) or is above 55 – they are the pensioners who can live far better in Hungary than at home.
Abcug.hu managed to talk with four of them about why they came to Hungary and how they feel here. Nikita Coltorti (26) came to Budapest in October 2015 because her boyfriend knew the manager of a restaurant who offered her a job. Even though she studied to become a beautician in Perugia,
she followed her boyfriend to Hungary.
In the beginning, it was hard for her because she did not speak English. Therefore, she could work only as an ice cream vendor where she worked for 1.5 years, but she did not receive a good salary. Thus, she went to work in another restaurant, studied English, and now, she is working in the shared service centre (SSC) of an American company. There she helps Italian customers as a technical supporter.
Such jobs are very popular among Italians living in Budapest because most of the time they have to know only English besides their mother tongue. Furthermore, salaries are very good in the sector. Since the Hungarian government happily invites more and more SSC companies to come to Hungary, it is not surprising that the sector already
gives work to more than 40 thousand people.
Hungary is much more livable
Nikita says that if you need a job in this sector, it is just a matter of minutes to get one. She spent three years in Italy after her school-leaving exam, and she says that currently, there is no future in Italy for local youth. OECD verifies this assertion: in 2017, 35 pc of Italians between 15-24 were unemployed. In Europe, the situation is only worse in Greece and Spain.
“For us, Italians, Germany, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland mean Western Europe, the rest is just North and East. I had to check where Hungary is,” Matteo Dessi (27) said. He met his Hungarian girlfriend in Spain during his Erasmus program and
thought that Hungary was a poor, destitute country,
but when he came here the first time, everything changed. He moved to Budapest on 7 January 2018 and started to work for an SSC the next day.
He said that Italy is a beautiful country, but it is dead now because people do not stand up for their rights. Furthermore, Northern Italy is very expensive, but the wages are very low. In contrast, in Hungary, he receives a good salary, restaurants are affordable, and he can even pay his downtown rent without a problem. He already lived in many countries, but he believes that only Australia was more livable than Hungary; however, it costs a lot of money and time to stay there. His experience shows that
the Italian youth is passive while Hungarians speak many languages;
they want to live better, and they even go to the gym. Nikita added that in Hungary, they do not have to learn Hungarian while in Berlin, one can only work if they speak German.
Living a comfortable life
Valentina Agosta from Catania said that she came to Hungary because she could not find a job in Sicily. She only complained about the minus degrees during winter, and she stated that her salary was more than enough. She added that even though she could get more in Northern Italy, the rent would take half of her salary there. She thinks that Budapest is a vibrant city with many foreign people, and even though many regard Hungary as just a jumping-board towards Western Europe,
she can imagine that she will settle down here.
Federico Preziosi (34) from a small village near Naples says that in 2011 when the crisis peaked in Italy, he could not find a job; therefore, he returned to Debrecen in 2014 as a member of the European Voluntary Service (EVS) where he spent an Erasmus semester in 2009. When his contract ended, he moved to Budapest because he could not find a job in Debrecen. Now, he is teaching in the Italian Cultural Institute in Budapest and in a private school as well. He says that his parents like Hungary, too, though their generation still thinks about Hungary as
a country too close to the Russian border.
Federico stated that he liked Debrecen more than Budapest, but his jobs enable him a comfortable life in the capital.
As we reported before, Hungary struggles a lot with labour shortage which affects almost every sector of the economy. In short,
Hungarians go to Western Europe to work for higher wages.
In fact, the most problematic sectors are public transport and service, tourism and IT. However, the issue also affects the public sector greatly. For example, a severe shortage of specialised teachers is present throughout Hungary, and in rural areas, more than a third of full-time jobs have not been filled. To make matters worse, even the shortage of doctors and nurses is getting worse.