Budapest, April 10 (MTI) – Brussels has no means to close the wage gap between Hungary and the rest of the European Union, Fidesz lawmaker Erik Bánki told a news conference ahead of a parliamentary debate on a proposal by the opposition Jobbik party to bump up wages to the EU average. The only way to achieve this is through Hungarian economic development, he said.
The Jobbik motion to debate the issue received support from the opposition Socialists and LMP parties.
Jobbik lawmaker Dániel Z Kárpát called for a fair wage settlement within the European Union.
“There is a yawning gap between wages in eastern and western Europe,” the party’s deputy leader told a press conference, calling it “unbelievable” that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had never raised the issue of the “unjust exploitation of the Hungarian workforce” at any EU meeting. Neither did the government do so while concluding strategic partnership agreements with multinational companies, he added, noting that Hungarian wages in euro terms had risen at the slowest rate in the bloc, while a tax has been levied on the minimum wage. Also, there is a 27 percent VAT rate in the country, he noted.
Among measures to address wages, Jobbik proposes restructuring cohesion funds to improve the situation of small and medium-sized firms, he said.
Jobbik’s proposal that Hungary should rely on the European Union’s help to close the wage gap is “nonsense”, Bánki said. Brussels has no programmes or resources to support wage increases in Hungary directly, he added.
Noting an agreement between the government, unions and employers to increase the minimum wage at the end of 2016 as well the government’s tax cutting programme, he said the government is committed to hiking wages. The minimum wage increased by 88 percent between 2010 and 2017, he added.
Economy ministry state secretary for labour and training Péter Cseresnyés told lawmakers that only a work-based society could form the foundation of the nation’s prosperity. Everyone who works has an interest in maximizing their pay, he said. But first economic conditions must be in place to ensure the availability of quality jobs that pay the expected rate. In turn, there must be a supply of employees who are up to the demands of that kind of job.
Citing fresh data by the Central Statistical Office, Cseresnyés said that the number of employed in Hungary has risen to close to 4.4 million coupled with a fall in the number of unemployed to 200,000. The employment has never been as high since Hungary’s transition to democracy, while the jobless rate has never been so low, he said.