‘Goulash capitalism’ keeps Hungarian workers at home

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Hungary’s economic figures are not as bad as many Hungarians believe – reason enough for workers to stay within the country’s borders, says sociologist István Hegedüs in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV.hu

The other reason, Hegedüs said, are Hungarians’ traditional values, which mean that they are quite reluctant to leave the soil they were brought up on, let alone sell it: “There is of course Hungarian’s traditional attachment to property, to real estate – they just can’t stand the idea of selling that.” 

Historically, Hegedüs recalled, Hungary has experienced waves of emigration. Following the 1956 revolution, the regime tried to stem the flood of workers willing to leave the country with the so-called Goulash Communism, which allocated a relatively high part of the national product for raising people’s living standard, thus making it what has also been dubbed ‘the happiest barrack’ in the eastern bloc.

Inevitably, Hegedüs said, Hungarians’ immobility will have to change when economic pressure becomes stronger. He said: “In those professions where skills go together with language and where there is a chance of finding a job in western Europe, migration is already taking place.” 

On the problem of the brain-drain he said: “Recently, the discussion has focused on doctors going to work abroad for better salaries.” Some physicians, Hegedüs added, even travel from Budapest to the United Kingdom to work there for the weekends. 

Hegedüs believes it is a good thing that younger people and in particular students are much more apt to go abroad for study purposes. “Living abroad is an ‘eye opener’. It is most important for the country not to be introverted and provincial. Hungarians should know what happens in the rest of the world.”

Read the full interview here.

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