There has been a significant drop in the number of foreign workers in Hungary. A decrease has been anticipated since the first wave of coronavirus hit the country, but the new travel restrictions make many people’s work almost impossible. Commuters have it worst.
Világgazdaság talked to professionals working in the field of Human Resources, inquiring about the situation of foreign workers in today’s pre-second wave Hungary. Do we still need an international workforce now that so many Hungarians lost their jobs due to COVID-19? There are new restrictions at play. Is recruitment even possible from abroad?
This is definitely a challenging time for foreigners working here.
Statistics reveal that 90% fewer foreigners come to Hungary to work. This is primarily due to the travel restrictions that are being introduced and changed continuously over time.
The government recently published the newest travel restrictions: countries are divided into three categories: green, yellow, and red based on their current number of infections and the moving average of the last two weeks. If foreign citizens coming from countries marked yellow show any sign of the coronavirus at their arrival, they cannot enter the country, and they cannot cross the border at all if they are coming from countries marked red.
The guidelines are often vague or ambiguous. Not to mention the constant change of these restrictions which make the workers’ situation incredibly uncertain.
These rules obviously cut many commuters off from work. Most workers come from Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania. However, Romania is currently marked yellow, and Ukraine is considered red, so travel between the borders has not been as easy as before. It is basically impossible for non-Hungarians to enter Hungary from a red country, and there is a 2-week compulsory self-quarantine for everyone coming from yellow countries.
Multinational companies needed to cancel all employee travels, and in many cases, they were unable to bring back their employees from trainings or business trips abroad. In terms of recruitment, many companies are unable to onboard foreigners, especially people outside the EU due to the strict restrictions. Labour market trends changed tremendously, the number of registered Hungarian job seekers increased significantly, and they are more likely to get hired than foreigners.
However, there is still a lack of workforce in the Western regions of the country where demand would be high for Ukrainian workers. Still, recruitment from Ukraine had to be suspended as it is now classified as a red country, and foreigners cannot enter Hungary.
Life is not easy for workers who are already within the borders of Hungary either. Several embassies are not operating es efficiently as pre-virus, and there are some not operating at all, making it impossible to receive or expand foreign workers’ residency permits. Moreover, they can never be sure about when and how they can travel home and if they did, how will they come back to Hungary. There are red countries where it is impossible to go to now because there are no flights scheduled.