According to Finance Minister Mihály Varga, the opposition wants to deceive the people, and is intentionally misinterpreting the law on the extension of voluntary overtime.

On Kossuth Radio’s programme Sunday Paper, the minister highlighted that no one initiated anything that goes against EU directives or practice; this is equally true of the amendment of the overtime frame and overtime systems.

The Hungarian practice also allows workers to earn more with overtime which, however, can only be completed on a voluntary basis, with each worker’s written consent.

The minister also said that in the present situation workers are in a better position. While in 2010 unemployment stood at 12 per cent, today it is around 3.6 to 3.7 per cent, near to full employment.

The minister was asked about the minimum wage negotiations which were closed repeatedly without an agreement on Wednesday. Mr Varga said it would be most convenient and best for all parties concerned if the representatives of workers and employers were able to come to an agreement. Trade unions are demanding a 13 to 15 per cent pay rise, in contrast to a 5 to 7 per cent increase offered by employers. The minister said the parties concerned should seek to find a point of balance. There are a few days left in the year. If no agreement is reached, then the government is required to make a decision on the matter.

He also said they had asked negotiating partners to come to an agreement regardless of the rate of the social contribution tax. He highlighted that regarding this they are adhering to a six-year agreement. Tax reductions started from 27 per cent, and this year the rate of the tax has been reduced to 19.5 per cent. Pursuant to the government’s decision, from next July the social contribution tax will be cut by another 2 per cent to 17.5 per cent.

Mr Varga further pointed out that the growth recorded in the third quarter – that the Hungarian economy grew by 5.2 per cent – took everyone by surprise. This has been unprecedented since the assessment of quarterly data started, he stressed, adding that they are expecting a growth rate around 4 per cent next year as well. We are observing a highly positive, dynamic economic growth, the Finance Minister said in evaluation, which rests fundamentally on two elements: the expansion of retail consumption and an increase in investments.

Regarding the Year of Families, he said the issue of demography takes priority over economic issues. A country whose population is declining necessarily has lesser economic significance, and so a lesser economic output, the minister concluded. The government’s number one priority is to reverse the current demographic processes. This is why they support families deciding to have children or already raising children, and this is why they seek to help families with first home programmes, family tax allowances, and nursery and school programmes. They wish to continue these measures. He mentioned as an example that the existing benefits and allowances will remain in place, and additionally the family tax allowance of families with two children will increase further from 2019. Based on the results of the national consultation now under way, the government will consider what further measures to propose in this area, the minister said.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)