Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban | Photo: ANSA/Fabio Frustaci
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban | Photo: ANSA/Fabio Frustaci

New statistics show that Hungary, led by right-wing Premier Viktor Orban, is granting work permits to a growing number of foreigners. Experts say this dichotomy amid the government's anti-immigration propaganda leaves some Hungarians disoriented.

Hungary, led by populist, right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is quietly welcoming a growing number of foreign workers due to a labor shortage. This is according to data released this week by the Hungarian central statistics institute "Ksh".

The increase stands in stark contrast to the government's anti-immigration rhetoric.

According to the statistics institute, almost 50,000 work permits were granted to foreigners in the first eight months of 2019, compared to 61,000 during all of 2018. 

Workers employed in agriculture, industry

The statistics institute said foreign workers mainly hailed from India, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Ukraine and Romania. It also said foreigners were employed in agriculture - Indian workers, for example, mostly work for dairy farms - as well as in the industrial sector.

Experts have told local media outlets that the Hungarian economy needs foreign workers due to a shrinking population and the growing number of Hungarians leaving the country. Over the last few years, 600,000 Hungarians have reportedly emigrated, the experts said.

Local media said measures to boost the birth rate have so far failed and would not have an impact in the short term, even if they proved effective. The situation has raised unions' concerns that the rise in foreign workers, particularly those from Asia who accept lower salaries, could lead to an overall drop in wages.

Part of population disoriented

According to local observers, some Hungarians appear to be disoriented by the contradiction between the government's anti-immigration propaganda and the growing number of permits granted to immigrants.

Moreover, it is widely believed that government propaganda has fueled anti-immigrant sentiments and clashes between Hungarians and foreign workers.

"The immigration of foreign workers is a bad thing for Europe," Orban said in 2015. The statement has been central to the politician's agenda since he became prime minister in 2010.

During the height of Europe's so-called migrant crisis in 2015, Orban ordered the creation of a barbed-wire fence at the border between Hungary and Serbia to stop undocumented migrants.

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