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Severe Worker Shortage in Public Administration Customer Offices in Budapest

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.09.16.

This year there has been a severe shortage of staff in public administration customer offices. The situation is most striking in Budapest. Those who want to do their official business have to face increased queue times and reduced opening hours. According to the government, the situation can be easily resolved, while according to Erzsébet Boros, the head of MKKSZ trade union, only higher wages could make the line of work more appealing.

In April, news portal Index reported that the county and district government offices might soon face a catastrophic shortage of workers due to the changed legislation which took effect in March.

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Government office salaries are still well below the national average: with many administrators receiving a gross monthly salary of 195,000 HUF (EUR 588) or earning only a few thousand forints above that. Last summer the government also announced a hiring freeze in the administration despite the shortage of workers in some areas.

The new legislation of the government administration, which came into effect in March, increased the daily work time by an hour – also the half-hour lunchtime is not included in the work day anymore – and decreased the basic annual leave from 25 to 20 days. At the same time, the new legislation has made it possible for workers terminating their employment on March 15, 2019, to obtain severance pay. As a result, many quit their jobs at government offices.

Furthermore, in March, the government initiated a “hidden” downsizing at some offices – an average of 6.5% reduction. With the government’s cutback and employees leaving, it is estimated that the national average of the shortage in the public administration workforce might exceed 10% – which is 4-6% in some areas, while 15-16% in others.

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In Budapest alone, more than 600 jobs are vacant, while in the countryside about 4,000 people are missing from the regional administration, Index reports.

According to Erzsébet Boros, the head of the Trade Union of Hungarian Civil Servants and Public Employees, the main reasons behind the problems facing public service workers are the sector’s “unsustainable, disorganized and professionally unintelligible wage policy” and the “completely chaotic wage system.” She said MKKSZ wants the minimum wage to be the starting point for all public service wage systems, while workers with vocational training backgrounds should be paid the minimum wage for skilled workers. A new minimum wage for jobs that require higher education qualifications should also be introduced, she added.

Although initially denied by the government, in June, PMO Head Gergely Gulyás admitted that there were indeed problems with government offices and administration. However, in his opinion, this is not a countrywide problem, as only Budapest and Pest County are affected.

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As a possible solution for the worker shortage, Gulyás said they might move workers from the countryside to Budapest. In July, several public service workers came to Budapest government offices from around the country.

Two officials have been sent from every ‘járás’ (smallest public administration unit in Hungary) to the capital every day for approximately half a year, stated Boros, referring to unofficial sources.

The office hours of the public administration customer offices (officially called ‘government windows’) also had to be changed in Budapest. The first time it happened was at the end of June, decreasing the time of availability on Tuesday by one hour, and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by two hours. This means a total of seven hours. In September, the opening hours of government windows were unified in Budapest and Pest County.

Featured photo via/16.kerulet.ittlakunk.hu