Features

“Slave law” sparks unrest in Hungary

Hungary’s efforts to deal with chronic labour shortages have led to one of the strongest challenges of Viktor Orbán's eight years in power.

927-Hungary-634

Protesters reject Orbn's labour reforms

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbn "has defined himself by his opposition to immigration", says The Times. So it is ironic his efforts to deal with "chronic labour shortages" have led to "one of the strongest challenges of his eight years in power".

Orbn has introduced directives (dubbed a "slave law") to increase the amount of overtime that staff can be asked to work from 250 to 400 hours a year. The idea of employees in effect being forced to work for "one day a week for no extra pay" means 83% of the population opposes it.

It may be that Orbn is "overestimating his ability to fight battles on several fronts", says Leonid Bershidsky on Bloomberg. He has successfully fended off efforts by European Union officials "to constrain his authoritarian impulses".

But suppressing domestic protest against laws that affect regular citizens' lives "is a more difficult undertaking". And what makes the current protests especially significant is that the demonstrators come from two distinct sections of Hungarian society, writes The Economist. "Veteran protesters" with "ideological grievances against the regime" have been joined by those who are simply "concerned about their everyday lives." That could prove a "potent mixture".

However, it would be a mistake to overestimate the threat to Orbn. The protests are still relatively weak, with just 10,000 taking part in the main march. What's more, the Hungarian leader "looks secure", with polls indicating that more than half of all Hungarians support the ruling party, Fidesz, with opposition groups still trailing "far behind".

Recommended

The Information Age is about to get interesting
Economy

The Information Age is about to get interesting

The IT revolution has been around for a while now, says Merryn Somerset Webb. But we're just getting to the good bit.
24 Sep 2021
I wish I knew what contagion was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask
Too embarrassed to ask

I wish I knew what contagion was, but I’m too embarrassed to ask

Most of us probably know what “contagion” is in a biological sense. But it also crops up in financial markets. Here's what it means.
21 Sep 2021
Warsaw and Stockholm: the unexpected new threats to the City of London
UK stockmarkets

Warsaw and Stockholm: the unexpected new threats to the City of London

London has seen off challenges from Frankfurt and Paris, but two other booming financial centres are a bigger threat, says Matthew Lynn.
19 Sep 2021
The charts that matter: more pain for goldbugs
Economy

The charts that matter: more pain for goldbugs

Gold investors saw more disappointment this week as the yellow metal took a tumble. Here’s what’s happened to the charts that matter most to the globa…
18 Sep 2021

Most Popular

Should investors be worried about stagflation?
US Economy

Should investors be worried about stagflation?

The latest US employment data has raised the ugly spectre of “stagflation” – weak growth and high inflation. John Stepek looks at what’s going on and …
6 Sep 2021
Two shipping funds to buy for steady income
Investment trusts

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income

Returns from owning ships are volatile, but these two investment trusts are trying to make the sector less risky.
7 Sep 2021
The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021