Do you know anyone who would work here? – asked bitterly a friend of mine who, the owner of the shop, was working as a cashier. He was not complaining about the work, but if he, the owner, was behind the cash register all day, then nobody was taking care of the matters of other two of his shops – which does have an impact in the life of the company, especially, if this problem lasts for too long. It was not the first time he asked me this question; similarly to other companies, he also has serious problems with the labour shortage.

*8-hour shifts a day net salary: 180,000 HUF + 30% discount

*8-hour shifts a day net salary: 180,000 HUF + 30% discount

My friend put out the vacancy notice (posted on the door) above, offering a net of 180 thousand HUF salary, a serious discount, and yet, he cannot find a stable and trustworthy employee.

Since we are good friends, we tried to identify and understand the root of the problem together, so that he can better adapt to these circumstances, however, we have not managed to come up with a solution that could help to find a reliable and stable employee, and he cannot offer higher salaries either.

I can relate to those employees who would rather not settle with a cashier job at a not too busy (but located in a great and safe area) basement-shop, because such vacancy is not the ‘bright future’ they envision, so they are not motivated to take the job. Nowadays, living on 180 thousand in the capital (and alone) is only possible if someone does not have fixed monthly expenditures (rent, for example), long-term goals, or is not saving for a flat or does not want to buy and maintain a car, and is satisfied with a relatively low standard of living. Such a job does not offer professional advancement, and the employee does not use his or her language skills – in other words, competencies that would be valuable at other jobs will not improve, but start to deteriorate, which would be the beginning of a risky ‘career-path’. This amount of money would be enough for a ‘middle-low’ consumption level without any chance to make substantial savings for the future. If the employee is disciplined and practical, then he or she can go on a holiday probably even twice a year (but nothing too ‘luxurious’!) during the annual leave, can ‘reproduce’ him or herself (and one or two private medical check-ups are also affordable if it is an urgent matter), and can dress and dine properly. However, no ‘additional’ costs are calculated, for example, if the washing machine suddenly brakes down and is beyond repair, then he or she has to choose between taking a loan or spending from the holiday-savings to buy a new one. It is important to note that with such vacancies it is already a big deal if it is declared as full-time; the cafeteria plan or other allowances (such as a phone, a laptop or favourable loan) that more serious employers offer are almost certainly not available here.

An employee who would be gladly hired by other employers (with better conditions) this is not an appealing offer, so only those remain who have no better options than taking these jobs. However, their number has dropped lately because the building industry, the social sector, emigration, and demographical (ageing) have had their effect – let’s not forget that if someone can and wants to work, then he or she can find other (better) options.

The other day I was talking to a young woman (one of the so-called Millennials) about her monthly budget, which turned out to be exactly the same as the salary offered by my friend. I mentioned her the vacancy, however, this lady is qualified, speaks languages, and has good computer skills, competencies that would not be utilized at a shop, and she was concerned she would depreciate herself in the labour market. Taking such jobs would not be worth it to a relatively young job-seeker, even if the conditions are sufficient in the short-term. (Additionally, in such a shop, employees have to ‘take care’ of customers, which is something not everyone can do, and it can be rather exhausting as well.)

It is typical for such jobs that they do not offer a bright future or too much hope. A job like this is good for people who are still mobile, reliable (the stock and the till is safe from them), and can work longer hours, but no longer have no substantive needs as for their income or working conditions.

My friend will have to face serious and long-term problems running his shop because of the labour shortage since his business model is strongly dependent on cheap and available labour.

There have been fluctuations in the company before but there was always someone who applied for the job by themselves. Nowadays, there are no new employees and he is having trouble keeping the old ones too – and not primarily because of the wages but the job conditions are not forward-looking, while employees find aspects other than income important too such as workplace atmosphere, working conditions, and the social image of the job.

Original date of Hungarian publication: 19 June 2018.