No U-Turn in Migration? Data Reporting More People Returning Could Be False
Péter Cseresnyés 2019.05.24.
The latest report released by the Central Statistical Office (KSH) provides data long-hoped-for on migration in Hungary. It reveals that more people have returned to the country than left it. Not long after the data’s release, however, many began questioning its accuracy.
As we have already reported, according to the latest statistics released by the Central Statistical Office’s (KSH) new publication, Hungary’s net migration rate is positive. This is primarily due to fewer people choosing to leave the country.
However, as leftist news daily Népszavapoints out in an article, these numbers are misleading. As a result, we can’t be sure Hungarian emigration has truly changed.
In short, KSH only takes into account those who have officially announced their decision to move abroad or return home. Measuring migration is already hard enough especially if we consider how difficult it is to track people migrating in the European Union (due to the free movement of workers and the ability to cross borders without permission or regulation).
In the article, Tamás Katona, the former president of the Central Statistical Office and former Socialist state secretary, claims there are serious methodological problems with the Office’s aggregated data on migration.
First and foremost, the only people who appear in the statistics are those who sent their Hungarian State Health Insurance card (TAJ) to the authorities due to paying for health insurance in another country. Most of the time, however, only a fraction of people do this since Hungarians working abroad tend to want the option of coming home for cheaper procedures and medical care. After all, doctors and dental care are significantly cheaper in Hungary than in Western Europe. Many others just keep the card without paying anything.
Another point of contention is the number of returnees who moved back to Hungary after working for a few years abroad. According to KSH’s statistics, not only those who moved to the country count as returnees. Those granted Hungarian citizenship under simplified naturalization who have never lived in Hungary as well as those who registered an address also were included in the calculation.
Another cause for doubt is the fact that some of the interior statistics of Western European countries show a steady increase in the number of Hungarians living there, especially in Germany, Austria and the UK. According to the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), for example, the number of Hungarians living there has grown by over 5,000 in the last year.
For the time being, we can’t be sure whether a real change has actually occurred, and due to the misleading nature of the statistics, it’s better to take them with a grain of salt.