“In the Netherlands I earn as much as a doctor in Budapest”

Photo taken by Denise van der Bij
Denise van der Bij

While Hungary is dealing with major immigration problems, there is a wave of young, intelligent Hungarians leaving the country because of xenophobia and low salaries. “I only got 520 euro a month while I worked for 48 hours a week,” says Karolina Kiraly, one of the many migrants choosing to leave her country.

As a member of the European Union, Hungary has been discredited many times for its anti-migration policies under prime minister Victor Orbán. Per day, only two refugees are welcome in the central European country, whereas the rest of the people are sent back. But, there is another big problem in Hungary right now: ‘Brain Drain’, the growing tendency for many young, highly educated persons to leave the country to find a better life abroad.

18,000 unfilled jobs

In Budapest alone, there are 18,000 job vacancies in the private sector. The main reason for this is Hungary has the third lowest salaries in the European Union. On average, one can only make 550 euro per month when working full-time.

Low income is not the only financial problems inhabitants experience. The taxation rate in Hungary is one of the highest in Europe. The VAT for example, is 27 percent. That is even higher than the Netherlands (21%) where the average income is three times as high. High taxation rates and the low wages leads to the Hungarian population being one of the poorest in the European Union.

“The low buying power is definitely a tremendous problem,” says Karolina Király. The 25-year-old left for The Netherlands two years ago. “I used to work in a coffee shop in the centre of Budapest, but the salary I got there was so small: only 520 euro a month, while I worked for 48 hours a week. I could not even afford paying my fixed charges.”

Karolina just finished studying economics in Amsterdam. Nowadays, she works as a receptionist at an office in the southern parts of Amsterdam. “I am glad that I took the risk of coming here. Of course, it cost me a lot of money, but now I earn almost as much money as a doctor in Hungary does. I even have the possibility to send money to my family in Budapest.”

Fear of foreigners

The story of Karolina Király is just one of approximately 30,000 Hungarians that leave the country annually. However, financial struggles are not the only reason people migrate. Karolina says: “People in Hungary are so afraid of foreigners coming into the country, especially the people from outside of Budapest are not used to any kind of immigration. The anti-migration policy of our president only stimulates this way of thinking. I am very ashamed of my country’s way of handling this situation.”