Thousands of Hungarians demonstrate for teacher payhikes

·2-min read

Thousands of Hungarians protested in Budapest Friday against low pay and poor working conditions for schoolteachers amid worsening staff shortages.

A crowd estimated at around 8,000 by an AFP photographer urged better conditions for teachers in a solidarity demonstration that was organised by students.

"Pay our teachers! Without them there is no future!" read one protester's placard, referring to an exodus of teachers from the profession in recent years.

The number of unfilled teaching jobs in primary and secondary schools soared from 7,000 in 2014 to 35,000 in 2019 according to latest official data.

According to OECD figures, a teacher's salary in the EU is just 60 percent of that received by similarly-educated employees in other sectors.

That compares with 90 percent in other developed countries according to the OECD.

"Teachers have to work in humiliating circumstances, it's no wonder few want to be a teacher here nowadays," Orsolya Udvari, a 22-year-old student protestor, told AFP.

Teachers also complain that they were left out from a round of government handouts to other groups like pensioners and doctors before Prime Minister Viktor Orban's re-election for a fourth straight term in April.

Some teachers staged so-called 'civil disobedience' actions this week by temporarily stopping work as schools reopened after summer recess.

Teachers unions meanwhile say they are currently organising a national strike despite a government decree in February that limits strike action.

The government says it can only meet teacher demands once the EU releases billions of euros of long held-up pandemic recovery funds.

Budapest has been allocated 5.8 billion euros but its spending plan for the monies has not yet been signed off by Brussels due to corruption concerns.

The delay comes as the Hungarian economy is under pressure from a weakening local currency and fast-rising inflation which have both hit new records this year.

The Hungarian central bank hiked its base rate to an 18-year-high of 11.75 percent on Tuesday in an effort to stabilise both negative trends.

pmu/pvh