| BUDAPEST, March 3
BUDAPEST, March 3 Hungarian construction
companies are planning to lure guest workers from Ukraine and
Belarus to plug holes in the labour market created by migration
and rising economic growth, the head of the builders' alliance
Years of emigration to western Europe have created labour
shortages in countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech
Republic, making it tough for businesses to hire.
Poland employed about 800,000 Ukrainian guest workers last
year, while there are over 100,000 Ukrainians working in the
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has ruled out any major guest
worker programme, but his government is now trying to attract
Ukrainians in limited numbers with an advertising campaign.
"The Hungarian construction sector will not be able to
improve its efficiency at a pace that could keep up with an
expected increase in demand in the next two years," Laszlo Koji,
chairman of the Federation of Hungarian Building Contractors
(EVOSZ), told Reuters.
The sector, which contracted by 18.8 percent last year due
to a shortage of European Union funds, could grow by 10 percent
this year and add "significant" further gains in 2018, driven by
higher EU funds and a housing boom, Koji said.
He said the sector, which employs about 280,000 people,
would need up to 8,000 more workers to plug current holes.
The sector could employ about 2,000 workers from Ukraine and
Belarus within the next two or three years, Koji said, as any
such scheme would need at least a year to take off.
As a first step, EVOSZ will hold a forum next month for
companies from Belarus interested in the prospect. They could
then become subcontractors of Hungarian businesses, bringing
over their own workers, Koji said.
But in the longer term, more efficiency, not more workers
would be the answer, Koji said, as Hungary's potential to
attract workers was limited compared to central European rivals,
and the issue was also sensitive politically.
"The government's cautious labour market considerations have
put us at a competitive disadvantage to Poland or the Czech
Republic," he said.
Earlier this week, Orban told a business forum that he would
support companies in efforts to bring in guest workers but any
such measure should be limited and temporary and Hungary should
try to address the problem domestically.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Alison Williams)