Working in Budapest
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Find out how to get a job and work in Budapest
Despite the high unemployment rate, more and more expats see living and working in Budapest as a viable option. The city is, after all, Hungary’s economic center with lots of international companies calling it their home. Learn about the economy, the job search, social security, taxation, and more.
Employment in Budapest
- The unemployment rate in Hungary is at an all-time low of 6.7%.
- What you earn working in Budapest may be lower than what you are used to.
- District Five is the heart and soul of Budapest and home to important businesses, the Parliament buildings and ministries.
- Invitations to dinners and cultural events are just as important as actual meetings in Hungary and invites should be taken seriously.
Hungary’s Economy: Gradual Improvements Show Promise
Most people working in Budapest are employed in the private sector, which accounts for about 80% of Hungary’s overall GDP. The economic crisis of 2008 affected the country’s economy considerably and it had to fall back on a financial assistance package. In 2010, the government took on the economic downturn and implemented a number of changes. These included cutting personal income and business taxes for people working in Budapest, and imposing additional taxes on financial institutions, retailers, and telecom and energy companies.
Coupled with these measures, the government also increased exports and, in 2010 and 2011, the economy finally recovered. However, despite the economic growth of almost 2% in these years, Hungary has been subject to the European Commission’s Deficit Procedure. The government has held the deficit at bay and it remains under the EU tolerance threshold of 3%. In addition, the unemployment rate in Hungary, as of 2015, is at an all-time low of approximately 6.7%. This, coupled with the fact that real incomes have been increasing over the past four years and that income taxes will decrease in 2016 is good news for those looking to work in Budapest.
The Job Search in Budapest
Traditionally, foreigners who settle down in Budapest have found work as language teachers. Today, there are plenty of different jobs available for expats working in Budapest. Since Hungary joined the EU in 2004, various international companies have invested in branch offices in Budapest, creating many new job opportunities in the city. If you are not transferred abroad by your employer, there are various online job databases you can try:
- CVonline.hu is available in Hungarian and English and has over 4,000 entries for different sectors.
- Profession.hu is another great resource with an English version for expats working in Budapest.
- Workania.hu is a slightly smaller platform with the option to choose your region.
- Jobpilot.hu and monster.hu are only available in Hungarian but are easy to navigate nonetheless.
- Jobsin Budapest advertises jobs at companies in which English is the main working language.
You can also turn to a recruitment company or contact an employer directly if you want to skip the middle man. You might be able to apply for a position which has not otherwise been advertised or which has just opened up. That way, there might be less competition and you might be able to land the job of your dreams. Some companies with branch offices in Budapest are Diageo, AB InBev, ExxonMobil, Vodafone, British Petroleum, and Nokia.
Before you negotiate your salary, you should first consider the overall cost of living in Budapest. Try not to think about your previous salaries too much. What you will earn working in Budapest might be less than what you are used to. However, the costs for basic living expenses are also a lot lower.
If you are not sure what to expect and are afraid to sell yourself short, try to ask around among friends working in Budapest. They might have a better idea of what you can ask for. Salary comparison calculators might also help you prepare for salary negotiations. Keep in mind that taxes will be deducted from your salary so it is important to figure out how much you will finally earn after deductions.
Chambers of Commerce in Budapest
Whether you are looking for a job or if you are about to start working in Budapest and need some support, chambers of commerce often offer a lot of support. There are branches of various countries in Budapest you can turn to. The chambers of commerce which are present in Budapest include:
- American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary
- British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary
- Hungarian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce
- Hungarian-French Chamber of Commerce
- German-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce
- Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Italian-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce
- Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hungary
- Swiss Chamber of Commerce in Hungary
In addition, there are different organizations which are not affiliated with a particular country, such as the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Budapest Enterprise Agency, or the Joint Venture Association.
Budapest’s Business Centers
There are various business centers and commercial areas in the city where business life is booming and expats will feel right at home. The Budapest Fair Center, also known as the HungExpo Center, is one of the largest conference and exhibitions centers in Hungary. It is located in District Ten and hosts various high-profile business events and conferences.
District Five is the heart and soul of Budapest and home to important businesses, the Parliament Buildings and ministries. It is also the major economic center of the city. Slovak, on the other hand, is the commercial core of Budapest and offers a cosmopolitan mix of bars, restaurants, shops, and clubs. District Ten is the major manufacturing zone of the city. The name of the district, Kobanya, literally means “stone quarry”. Today, many breweries, the largest of them being Dreher, use the stone quarries in the area.
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Budapest: Tax, Social Security, and Etiquette
In 2010, a super gross tax rule was introduced. This is a rate with which your taxable base is multiplied, making for higher tax revenues. In the past, the super gross rate amounted to 27% which had to be paid in addition to your income tax. In 2012, this applied only to employees with an annual income above HUF 2,420,000. Employees with a lower income only had to pay the 16% income tax. In 2013, however, a new tax system was introduced which eliminated the super gross.
Since the tax reform, all employees pay the 16% income tax, regardless of how much they earn, however the rate of income tax is due to be reduced in 2016 from 16% to 15%. This, coupled with the lack of high-skilled workers in Hungary could prove to be an advantage for expatriates looking to work in Budapest.
Hungary’s social security system covers retirement, sickness and maternity, work injury, unemployment, and family allowances. In some cases, you will need to pay social security contributions for a few years before you can claim any benefits. Employees all contribute to the social security system with a percentage of their income. Those who are not covered by compulsory insurance can opt for voluntary coverage. The monthly employee contributions are as follows:
- Pension and Work Injury: 10% of declared monthly earnings
- Sickness and Maternity: 2-4% of gross monthly earnings
- Unemployment: 1.5% of gross monthly earnings
Keep in mind that, while the social security system functions as a safety net, the benefits you can claim are not always sufficient to make for a high quality of life. If you are going to retire in Budapest, it might make sense to invest into a private savings or pension plan.
Dealing with the Locals: Business Etiquette in Budapest
Hungarians are very direct and tend to speak their mind even when dealing with their business partners, meaning vague statements have a rather negative effect. Therefore, it is important to be very clear during business meetings. Explain all the details of your offer and be prepared for further discussions. Despite this straight-forward way of negotiating, business is conducted very slowly.
Socializing, eating, and drinking are vital parts of Hungary’s business world. Invitations to dinners and cultural events are just as important as the actual meetings. It is important for you to take these invitations seriously: make sure to show up on time or call ahead if you are about to be late. Cancelling a dinner invitation at the last minute is a huge faux pas and considered incredibly rude. In the worst case, it can irrevocably damage your business relationship.
Hungarian Work Atmosphere: Unions and Commuting
After the Hungarian government distanced itself from a communist economy and introduced a free market economy, the unemployment rate in the country peaked at 13%. Since then, the unemployment rate has been constantly changing and has decreased substantially to the current rate of 6.7%. Most Hungarians are migrating or commuting to the country’s urban areas for work. The labor code which was passed in 1992 gives employees the right to strike and the right to organize into unions. The largest union is the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions.