Following the announcement of the historic wage hike of Hungarian doctors promised by the Orbán government, we tried to find out how the new pay scale compares to Western European countries in which most Hungarian medical professionals leave to work.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced a few weeks ago that the government had accepted the Hungarian Medical Chamber’s proposal to increase doctors’ wages. The draft detailing the agreement was submitted to parliament in record time last Monday, passing unanimously the very next day. The new law will grant a 120% salary increase to doctors in Hungary in three steps, reaching its maximum in January 2023.
Orbán called the decision ‘unprecedented,’ which holds true given that Hungarian healthcare workers have not seen a significant increase in their salaries in the past century.
According to the newly accepted pay scale, a new resident’s monthly gross salary will be 481,000 (EUR 1,333) next year, which will increase to HUF 687,000 (EUR 1,905) in three years. Someone with more than 41 years of experience will have a monthly gross raise of HUF 1.6 million in 2021 and 2.38 million from 2023.
Today, the average monthly salary of doctors in Hungary is around HUF 547,000 (EUR 1,516), according to fizetesek.hu- a rough average that includes both career-starter residents and specialists with decades of experience.
For comparison, in July, the average gross wage was HUF 401,800 (EUR 1,114) in Hungary according to the Central Statistics Office (KSH).
Given the current situation, it is not surprising that a few months ago the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) said that a starting ICU doctor earns roughly as much as a fast-food restaurant employee in Hungary. (HUF 170,000/ EUR 491 per month).
Due to the extremely low wages of healthcare professionals, an astonishing number of Hungarian doctors decide to seek a job abroad. Thus, the real question is whether the current changes will be enough to convince healthcare professionals to stay in the country.
In order to get a glimpse of how much the newly announced salaries in Hungary could catch up with those western countries new doctors leave for, we compared the amount that can be earned abroad with the expected wages of Hungarian doctors in 2023. (Comparing current salaries with those in the future is somewhat problematic, so the differences should be taken into account).
The most popular destination countries for Hungarian healthcare workers include Germany, the UK, Austria, and Sweden.
Doctors in Austria receive a monthly gross salary between 3,400-5,500 euros, according to finanz.at. Doctors in higher positions can make EUR 9,000 per month. This is still more than double what the sector’s average will be in Hungary in three years’ time. The difference is significant, even if we consider that the cost of living is much higher in Austria.
The contrast is more persistent if we compare the future Hungarian numbers with Germany’s. There the average salaries vary between EUR 65,000 per year (EUR 5,416/month) for a resident, and 80,000 euro (EUR 6,667/month) for a specialist, according to howtogermany.com
Meanwhile, in the UK, a junior doctor earns around £28,000 (EUR 30,707) a year, while specialist doctors earn between £40,037 (EUR 43,908) to £74,661 (EUR 81,880).
In Sweden, the average monthly salary is 52,000 SEK (EUR 5,025). A resident doctor earns around 44,000 SEK (EUR 4,251), for a specialist 61,000 SEK (EUR 6,377), and for a chief physician 74,000 SEK (EUR 7,150).
Even though in an interview, Miklós Kásler, the minister responsible for the health sector, said the historic pay raise could potentially lure many doctors home who are currently working abroad, but looking at the enormous gap between the salary of those working in western countries and that which Hungarian doctors will earn in 2023, it is unlikely to happen.
Featured photo by Zsolt Czeglédi/MTI