The Another

    In Hungary, the reality of immigration lies behind hostile propaganda



    On Wednesday, May 3, the Hungarian parliament passed one of those resolutions in which it excels. By an overwhelming majority, the assembly controlled by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared that “in matters of immigration, Hungary’s position is clear and has not changed: we do not want to become a country of immigration.” Purely symbolic, this resolution was contradicted on the same day by a bill “on the employment of guest workers” presented by the government, and intended to facilitate an increasingly evident reality in this central European country: the mass arrival of non-European immigrants with the government’s blessing.

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    For while Mr. Orban likes to present himself as the last European bulwark against immigration, behind the scenes he is now throwing the doors of his country wide open, without worrying about accusations of hypocrisy. This trend, which began quietly in the wake of the post-Covid 19 economic boom, has spread like wildfire in recent months at the request of local employers.

    Hungarian companies are in dire need of manpower and can take advantage of increasingly flexible legal provisions to bring in workers from the other side of the world in a matter of weeks, with the support of specialized temporary employment agencies and Hungarian embassies. For some months now, Hungarians across the country have seen Indonesian workers in factories, Mongolian agricultural workers in the fields and Indian drivers behind the wheel of trucks, all attracted by a country where the minimum wage is €624 per month.

    Rapid population decline

    The still provisional figures from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office point to a doubling, between 2021 and 2022, of migration flows from Asia, the main continent of origin of these workers. During 2022, the number of non-European workers increased by 14% to 86,000 in a country that still had only 1.3% non-European residents at the beginning of 2022. For the first time, the Hungarian prime minister had to acknowledge in March that “in the next year or two, Hungary will need 500,000 new workers.” The observation is apparently shared even by the Magyar leader’s close family circle: the trucking company owned by his son-in-law brings in drivers from India and Kenya.

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    Contrary to the claims of Mr. Orban’s nationalist followers in Europe, Hungary’s pro-natalist policy of heavy subsidies to families has in no way halted the deep demographic decline in this country of 9.6 million people. While the female fertility rate has risen from 1.25 to 1.52 since Mr. Orban came to power in 2010, the results of the decennial census published in 2023 showed that Hungary has lost more than 300,000 inhabitants over the same period. This decline is even more rapid than that of the previous ten years and cannot be compensated for by immigrants from neighboring countries in central and eastern Europe alone, all of whom are facing the same demographic trends.

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