Almost 25,000 non-EU nationals were awarded permits to work in Hungary last year, around 10,000 more than in 2016, daily Magyar Idők said on Wednesday.
The labour shortage could explain the sharp increase, the paper said, citing data from the Immigration and Asylum Office.
The number of workers from abroad could be much higher as work permits are no longer required for professionals such as nurses, telecommunications engineers or software developers, the paper noted.
László Parragh, who heads the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), told the paper that Hungary would need 200,000-300,000 guest workers to ease the labour shortage in the long term.
Whereas Hungarian companies are happy to take workers from neighbouring Ukraine and Serbia, who integrate well with the local work culture, the large majority are drawn to western Europe, he added.
Zoltán László, the deputy head of industrial workers union Vasas, told the paper that an estimated one-fifth of Ukrainian guest workers in Hungary use the country as a stepping stone to jobs in western Europe. Also, their presence in Hungary, especially in the west of the country, has created tension with local workers because of the extra benefits they receive, he added.