Unable to live off their pensions, Hungarian pensioners are eager to work again

August 30, 2017

Photo: abcug.hu/Márton Magócsi

The government would ease the pressing issue of staff shortages in specific fields by employing pensioners. Retired citizens seem to be eager to work again, primarily to supplement their meager pensions but also to do something meaningful in their free time, reports daily online abcug.hu.

Although it has only been open since the beginning of August, already around 250 pensioners have joined the Third Age Public Interest Pensioner Cooperative in the eastern industrial town of Miskolc. The cooperative is still negotiating with employers eager to take on pensioners. Once negotiations are over, cooperative members will be able to browse vacant positions on the internet.

“Here comes the pension, then the rent, then the electricity bill, then the television bill,” said the 65-year-old Györgyi who lives on a monthly HUF 54,000 (USD 210) pension. “There must be a job or else I cannot get by. It’s not that I’m bored and want to walk around. I’m poor even if you can’t tell.”

Even though many pensioners are eager to work, employers have little incentive to hire them. This might change with Christian Democratic People’s Party parliamentary faction leader Péter Harrach’s proposal to reintroduce approximately 1 million pensioners to the job market. Some of the highlights of the proposition are:

  • Only the income tax would be subtracted from the gross salary of employed pensioners;
  • Pensioners could return to the public sector without having to give up their pensions;
  • There would be no limit on salaries; and
  • If an employer is not satisfied with a pensioner employee, they would not have to fire the employee but just contact the cooperative.

“We would like to have at least a hundred employed pensioners in 2-3 months, and have one thousand members in a year,” said Gábor Kiss, manager of the Third Age Public Interest Pensioner Cooperative. “So far more than twenty enterprises have contacted us who would like to employ pensioners. And we have not even launched our campaign; all of them came by themselves.” There are hospitals and GPs that are looking for doctors, nurses, support staff and janitors, Kiss told abcug.hu.  A school, a small family enterprise, a 100-personnel commercial company, a tender company and a city council also had noted that they would like to hire pensioners.

Kiss was deputy mayor of Miskolc between 2012 and February 2017. Since resigning, he has been working on developing dual vocational training at the Ministry of Human Resources. The cooperative run by him was set up just two days after the modification of the corresponding law. When asked how they could react so fast, Kiss said they had already been dealing with this issue.

Although according to the central statistics office the average pension was HUF 108,000 (USD 420) last year, most pensioners abcug.hu contacted said theirs was about HUF 50,000 , far below the subsistence level of HUF 88,000 (USD 350) for a single adult. Still, many pensioners said they are motivated not just by the additional income but also to do something meaningful in their free time.