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Hungary’s nurses will receive a wage hike of 21 percent from January next year, while creche workers and employees in the social and cultural sectors will see their salaries rise by 20 percent, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday.

In his regular interview to public broadcaster Kossuth Radio, Orbán said economic activity in Hungary had returned to pre-pandemic levels, giving the government an opportunity to enact measures that had not been possible until now.

The prime minister noted that Hungary’s pensioners will each receive a bonus of 80,000 forints (EUR 223), while families will receive refunds of their 2021 personal income tax payments.

The government’s personal income tax exemption for Hungarians under 25 will benefit around one million people, Orbán said.

He also said the government was “fighting” to restore the 13th month pension in one go next year. The conditions for this are not yet in place, “but if everyone in the country does their job well over the coming months, it will be possible”, he added.

Orbán said that if the monthly minimum wage is raised to 200,000 forints, it would be higher than the average wage had been under the previous Socialist-liberal governments.

Meanwhile, he said the teachers’ unions were right to be demanding higher wages, given that they were the first sector to receive significant wage hikes around 2013-2014. However, taking inflation and the pay rises in other sectors into account, “they have now fallen down the order”. “This isn’t fair and the teachers are right to demand wage hikes,” he said.

Orbán said teachers could receive a wage hike of 10 percent next year and a more significant hike in January 2023 if the economy continues to perform as it has.

The prime minister said that although the Hungarian economy was in good shape, the public debt-to-GDP ratio was between 75 and 80 percent. “When a country’s public debt is between 75 and 80 percent of GDP, then it’s on thin ice even if the economy is doing well,” he said. “We have to be very careful here, because a flawed economic policy decision or poor timing could cause that ice beneath us to break.”

Orbán said the wage hikes and revenues resulting from the economy’s strong performance needed to be used in a way that allowed the government to reduce the public debt and bring it back to around 50 percent.

Featured photo by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office