For decades, higher qualifications meant higher pay: a graduate could earn many times as much as a skilled worker. However, changes in the labour market in recent years prove that the key to a good livelihood is not necessarily a university degree in Hungary
Manual or skilled work today pays really well, in some areas well above graduate salaries. In many cases factory work, which is not at all similar to what it used to be 40-50 years ago, is far more sought after than many positions requiring higher education. The increased demand is also reflected in the wages:
a forklift truck driver with maximum 2 years of experience earns a gross salary of 290-380 thousand forints (1 euro=360 Forint), and with more than 2 years of experience between 320 and 400 thousand, according to data from Grafton Recruitment Hungary.
A junior PLC technician can get 400-580 thousand forints, or 450-650 thousand with over two years of experience. At management level the pay is similar to or higher than that of graduates or professionals with many years of experience:
an operations manager with up to 3 years of experience earns a gross salary of 550-670 thousand, and with over 3 years’ experience 630-870 thousand forints.
By comparison, an unskilled manual worker with more than a year of work experience receives 230-290 thousand, and a machine operator is paid 290-380 thousand forints gross.
The main reason for the wage growth is labour shortage; one of the main tools in the competition for well-trained workforce is to raise wages, at least in the case of blue-collar jobs.
Hungarian skilled workers are also in high demand abroad, so companies that wanted to keep their skilled employees started to compete with foreign opportunities by increasing wages,
Márton Alapi, head of the blue collar staffing division at Grafton told növekedés.hu.
The increase in the wage level in manual jobs has been continuous for more than 5 years, and it has been even more significant than before. The reason for this is the lack of skilled and unskilled labour in the Hungarian market, which forces companies to constantly increase wages, sometimes even more than once a year, in order to remain competitive
Mr Alapi said.
He also added that there are many companies where wages have risen by as much as 15-20 percent in one year, while even companies which only adopted smaller raises saw an annual increase of 6 to 10 percent.
There is such high demand that not even the epidemic had a lasting negative effect on wage levels. The impact of the coronavirus was only temporary; employers postponed or froze their wage increase plans, but it is clear now that in terms of the overall market, the pandemic has no real impact on wage growth, as the competition for labour has not disappeared, Mr Alapi said.
In response to labour shortages and to maintain their competitive position, many companies are automating. There are some technological developments that are inevitable, but the extent to which a particular company replaces human labour depends on several factors. As long as companies are able to hire and employ enough employees - still on lower wages than the European average - many of them will only invest in developments and automation that are essential.
Investments also have an impact on wages.
Automation is a long-term and very expensive solution during its implementation, so in blue-collar jobs a further increase in wages is expected in the next 2-3 years if companies want to attract a quality workforce
the expert explained.
Although there is a clear shift in demand towards more qualified workers who have certain skills in certain segments of the manufacturing industry, and such extras as computer or language skills are rewarded in addition to experience, in the case of unskilled manual jobs the most important factor is relevant experience; that is previous experience in the same work environment (e.g., manufacturing, warehousing, cleanroom work, etc.).
The more qualifications a manual worker has in addition to their own profession, the more attractive they are in the labour market
Mr Alapi said.
Such qualifications are, for example, a forklift truck driver or crane operator licence. Apart from that, the most important points in the selection or even the retention of workforce are commitment to the company, reliability, flexibility and openness to learning.
It is not true in all areas though that manual work would be financially more rewarding than graduate positions, the expert noted; adding that “Where this is the case, the reason for it is labour shortages”.
For many white-collar positions there are many candidates available, and tasks are often easy to learn if you have a basic level of knowledge or skills. However, in the case of skilled manual positions, most jobs can only be done by a qualified worker, who is very difficult to find in the market. But in my opinion, the same is also true to graduate positions that require specialized expertise.