The number of people working from home increased from 250,000 at the beginning of last autumn to over 400,000 by December, partly due to the favourable regulations, Sándor Bodó told növekedés.hu. According to the State Secretary for Employment Policy of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, companies have applied for state subsidy to save the jobs that they are expecting to retain on a permanent basis and this suggests that the jobs now protected will be maintained later on.
The latest GDP figures show a 5.1 percent annual economic downturn, but employment figures reached pre-epidemic levels last December. What is the reason for the difference?
The government has been working on building a work-based economy and society since 2010, as a result of which 4.5 million people already work in Hungary. In the economy protection action plan launched to tackle the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic, one of our main goals was to save jobs and create new ones.
Government measures have provided support for more than 1.5 million workers, so we managed to maintain employment security during the emergency.
One of the most important steps was to introduce various wage subsidy schemes to reduce the negative impact of the economic downturn on employment. Unemployment figures in Hungary are much lower than the EU average and are among the best in Europe.
By the end of the year, the number of people employed in the private sector was slightly higher than a year earlier.
Employment data from the Central Statistical Office (KSH) and the International Labour Office (ILO) differ. What is the difference between the two?
The KSH labour force survey measures the economic activity of the population according to the strict international standards developed by the ILO, so the two organizations use a standardized concept to monitor employment.
All people are defined as employees who have at least one hour of income-earning work during the reference week, or regular income-earning work from which they are temporarily absent.
I have to emphasize that, based on decades of experience, the number of people who are considered to be employed just because they meet the one-hour weekly work expectation is statistically negligible.
How many companies benefited from the job protection schemes? What will happen to these jobs after the program runs out?
As I mentioned, in the Economy Protection Action Plan the government provided a total of more than 1.5 million workers with some form of labour market or training subsidy.
Through various wage subsidy programs, the government has reached out to about 67,000 enterprises so far, supporting the protection and creation of 400,000 jobs.
The long-term survival of these jobs can be expected because companies, when facing temporary economic difficulties, typically ask for state contribution to save the jobs that they would like to retain on a permanent basis.
Wage subsidies for businesses are also a key element of the action plan aimed to restart the economy. Development engineers, computer scientists and researchers working in R+D and innovation, who will play a significant role in economic recovery, also received targeted wage subsidies, which is unprecedented internationally.
It is reassuring that growth in the last quarter of 2020 was higher than expected, and it is projected to be around 4-5 percent this year.
How many people are presumably working only ‘on paper’?
There are always employees who are temporarily absent from their regular, income-generating work for some reason. For example, people on paid leave or sick leave, and those participating in training courses; but changing work schedules, the temporary suspension of a business activity, or even bad weather in seasonal jobs can all be reasons for somebody not to be working at a particular time.
On average, there were 180,000 people who belonged to one of these categories in 2019, and the figure last year was not significantly different from that.
How much did the number of part-time workers rise last year?
In Hungary, there are traditionally few people who work part-time, and the pandemic has not changed this. There was a temporary increase in the summer months, when the number of part-time workers was close to 300,000, by the end of the year, however, it gradually returned to pre-epidemic levels.
For the year as a whole, an average of 250,000 people worked part-time, which altogether meant an annual increase of only 20,000.
How did the proportion of remote workers change due to the epidemic?
The rise of remote working may be more permanent, as both businesses and employees could see the positive side of it.
The number of people working from home increased from 250,000 at the beginning of last autumn to over 400,000 by December, partly due to the favourable regulations.
The year 2020 spectacularly proved that the structure of the Hungarian economy is stable in terms of employment. Now we are working to further improve the situation of Hungarian workers, and with that, the quality of life of Hungarian families.