- 7 Sep 2023 1:17 PM
This fact reverses any wrong perceptions on the part of some longer-term foreigners in Hungary about the trend going the other way. Many of those who came here years ago may be socialising less these days, due to a more settled lifestyle, and such expats are perhaps interacting more with local contacts.
Expats on the rise in Hungary
The more recent expat arrivals are seen as high-value foreign nationals who come to Hungary for work reasons, be it business, diplomatic or educational, for a duration on average of 3 to 5 years.
To cite the comprehensive figures presented by the Hungarian Central Statistics Office:
As of 1 January this year, Hungary is officially host to exactly 226,267 foreign residents, over half of whom were from the European Union with the main origin country being Germany.
The recent official figures also show 55,000 Asians live in Hungary, over 17,000 of Chinese descent. Large sized groups of expats from America and Africa are also recorded, around 8,000 in each case.
Regarding the official purpose of their stay here, according to 2023 info 85,311 expats live in Hungary for employment reasons, 33,681 for education and 24,705 came to live here for family reasons.
The bigger picture about how many expat live in Hungary
Looking at longer-term trends, the number of expats has doubled in Hungary over the last two decades or so, again according to official Central Statistical Office (KSH) data.
This community of 200,000+ expatriate foreign nationals – expats for short, defined as a person who lives outside their native country – is twice as many now when compared to at the start of the millennium according to the Hungarian Demographic Research Institute.
Between 2009 and 2019, the number of expats living in Hungary remained stable at around 20-25,000. This number jumped to 55,000 in 2019, then dropped to 44,000 when Covid-19 arrived in 2020.
It is also important to note that there is a variety of reasons why a significant number of expats do not register with the authorities.
In 2016 Hungary passed a law allowing people from neighbouring countries to work here without a special permit if they were looking for a job in sectors experiencing employee shortages. This is a key reason why in 2019, almost half of all foreign nationals living in Hungary came from Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia.
The HDRI also underlined that in the last 20 years, the total number of immigrants coming into Hungary has exceeded the number leaving the country every year.
Where do most expats live in Hungary?
According to the data as of January 2021, Békés had the lowest share of foreign citizens among its population.
As you may guess, Budapest has the highest number of expats, totaling 50.3 per a thousand population.
This is all according to Statista.com - follow that link to see the most popular places for expats to live in Hungary.
Overall population situation in Hungary, refugees & 'foreign guest workers'
To close it's worth noting that while the number of expats in Hungary is more than ever before, the overall Hungarian population is gradually decreasing. On 1 January 2023 the country' s total population amounted to 9.7 million people, compared to over 10.4 million recorded in 1989, according to offical figures.
The higher number of deaths over births is a key reason behind the shrinking of the population of Hungary. Also of note is that the share of those who are 65 years of age or older is much larger than those who are 14 or younger.
Aiming to address this situation, over the past decade the Hungarian government has introduced measures such as financial incentives and childcare support schemes to encourage women in Hungary to have more children.
Hungary’s approach to refugees changed following the increased mixed migration flows of 2015, which left the country fearing a national security and social cohesion crisis, reports PragueProcess.eu:
"Actions and policies to limit immigration have been enacted ever since. Only refugees of Hungarian descent are prioritised, while the overall migration flow in search of international protection has been reduced.
According to UNHCR, in 2021 Hungary hosted over 5.600 refugees, with most being nationals of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The war in Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022 is changing the situation."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has vehemently objected to a planned reform of the EU refugee affairs system that requires countries to pay a fee if they do not accept refugees: “Brussels Wants to Re-Settle Migrants by Force in Hungary" Complains PM Orbán.
Despite the anti-immigration stance of the current government, migrants with specific skills - known as foreign guest workers - are being allowed into Hungary to sustain the country’s growth and development.
As well as the number of official expats being on the rise, Hungary is also witnessing an increase in the number of its own citizens returning to live in the country.
On the other hand, the number of Hungarian citizens emigrating stood at 21.730 in 2021, up from 7.318 in 2010, but down from the peak of 32.852 in 2015. The three key destination countries for Hungarian expats are Austria, Germany and the UK.
Words by Peterjon Cresswell for Xpatloop.com
Peterjon has been researching the byways of Budapest for 30 years, extending his expertise across Europe to produce guidebooks for Time Out and his own website liberoguide.com
Photo: Xpatloop.com's St George's Day Event 2023