Hungarian Migrants in the UK Labour Market: A Pilot Study on the Former Education of Hungarian Migrants and on Underutilisation of their Skills in the UK
Migration is a hugely contested area and the widely differing views, statistics, and attitudes to migrants are infused with politics. EU migration is a special case because EU citizens have free movement rights, may live and work in any other EU country, and have almost the same rights as locals. During the past 10 years there have been two waves of EU accession: in 2004 eight East European countries received the right to take up employment in the UK freely, and in 2007 when the UK introduced restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to work in the UK, which were lifted on 1 January 2014.
In 2004 a much larger than expected number of A8 citizens moved to work in the UK, which raised the alarm in particular among the wider public. Questions were raised concerning the impact of the A81 migrants on social and welfare benefits, on youth unemployment, on the labour market, on wages, and whether or not the A8 migrants contribute to the UK economy and generate financial benefits for the country. This study investigated the views and experiences of 10 Hungarian migrants living in the south-east of England. The data suggest that the UK offers better opportunities for Hungarian migrants to find employment than Hungary, and that there are better chances for them in the UK to establish financial security. Many of the interviewees have already worked excessive hours in Hungary, and some also engaged in low-skilled and low-paid work before coming to the UK. All interviewees were well educated at levels 3, 4 and 5 and often had two to three qualifications. In spite of this most interviewees found employment in the UK in lowskilled and low-paid work. English language skills, unknown Hungarian qualifications, lack of UK work experience, lack of time, and lack of financial resources were the main reasons for not being able to negotiate better jobs and starting higher on the job ladder. Most interviewees felt uncomfortable in their low-skilled jobs and often felt that they would be able to offer so much more. They also felt they brought their positive attitude, flexibility, high standards, and, in particular, intelligence to their jobs. Career progression was very slow, and often they had one low-skilled job after the other, making horizontal moves rather then vertical. However, all were engaged in learning and professional development and education was considered as the means to success. All interviewees felt they had established financial security for themselves by 2014, they had permanent posts and their wages had increased over time. However, progressing in their chosen career or working according to their highest qualifications was a distant future for many.