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Published: 4 month

The secret labour reserve: what do pensioners know?

In 2022, 110,000 retired people were working, but many more could be brought into the labour market. What jobs are they coming for? What are their specific needs? What are their motivations beyond earning money? We asked HR experts who mediate retirees.

Nyugdíjas szövetkezet munkaerő-tartalék körkép-

The labour shortage in Hungary is getting worse. Experts say the solution lies not only in importing foreign workers, but in tapping into labour reserves, and pensioners can play an important role in this.2.6 million pensioners or people receiving pension-like benefits currently live in Hungary, 110,000 of whom are working. The trend is positive, though. In 2009, only 31 000 people were employed. From 2019, the number of people in employment has increased, since when no contributions have had to be deducted from the wages of retired employees, and another help for the elderly is that from 2022 their earnings will be exempt from the Soko tax, which exempts the employer.



Many jobs available



"If you look at statistics from Western European countries, the proportion of retired employees is much higher than in Hungary. I can see that we are moving in the same direction," says Attila Dolgos, president of the Northern Neighbours Public Interest Pensioners' Cooperative. "It's a great help for pensioners that they can get a job by just walking into a customer service office, they don't have to go to job interviews, they get help that allows them to find a job quickly, both locally and according to their qualifications and needs."



"Our cooperative was established on 1 July 2017. Initially, the ladies wanted some kind of administrative, mostly sedentary work. The men wanted to work as porters or security guards, but we had fewer such offers at the time," says Gabriella Tóth, president of the Viapan Group's retired cooperative. At present, they have a number of cleaning jobs and a relatively large number of retired people are taking them up, as well as a large number of jobs as kitchen assistants, restaurant assistants, cooks, cashiers, cashiers, sales assistants, stockers and also as trainees. Sometimes they are looking for retired people to work as accountants and administrators, and engineers, CNC programmers, locksmiths and painters can also find work here, adds Gabriella Tóth. In addition, they are looking for retired people for a number of agricultural jobs, which of course usually last from March to November. Retired workers can fill almost any job vacancy on the market, including fashion professions such as IT. This is not the case, of course, but there are also retired cooperatives that work exclusively in the IT sector.



Similar opportunities exist at Pannon-Work. According to Kitti Beleznay, deputy head of the Budapest branch, retired workers generally work in clerical, administrative or professional jobs based on their previous experience, as well as in lighter physical positions. It is important to adapt the job to their different needs and skills, she adds.



Morning work and part-time work are a hit



Hourly rates vary according to the different jobs and fields. Mental or light manual jobs requiring no qualifications typically range from gross 1,600 to 1,900 euros per hour, while jobs requiring qualifications start from gross 1,847 euros. According to Attila Dolgos, gross hourly wages of over HUF 2,500-3,000 are also common, depending on qualifications, working hours and position. (Employment through a pensioner cooperative deducts 15% personal income tax from gross wages.)



Ritka, when a retiree applies for a full-time job. Morning shifts are often sought and 4, 6-hour/day jobs are popular, adds Kitti Beleznay. The president of the Northern Neighbours Public Interest Retirement Co-operative says that some people work for them intermittently, but there are also many who work 120-140 hours a month. If they want to work eight hours a day, it is not necessarily five days a week, but working between 25 and 35 hours a week is something that older people are keen to do. Also, the location of the workplace is very important, so that they don't have to travel an hour or two to get to work. Attila Dolgos, who is a member of the National Interest Protection Association of Public Interest Pensioners' Cooperatives (KözÉSZ, the organisation of the larger pensioners' cooperatives - ed.) also believes that night-time work is not a popular and first-choice alternative, also because of age, and neither is heavy manual work. Many would prefer to stay in the same job they have always had. But there are also a good number of people who would not want to work in a job where they have "spent 40 years".

The majority of people would prefer to work in a job where they have "spent 40 years".

Attila Dolgos said it had also become clear in recent years that there are certain periods, such as the run-up to Christmas or spring, when more people would like to work, and then in the summer or at Christmas they would prefer to look after their grandchildren or spend more time with their families. It's not uncommon for retired people to have to go to the doctor, or children suddenly arrive from abroad, or a grandchild suddenly falls ill and needs to be looked after by a grandparent, so they don't want to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week," says Gabriella Tóth, explaining the specific challenges. At the Viapan Group's pensioner cooperative, if a company asks for a retired worker every day, they suggest not sticking to one worker, but allowing two workers to be delegated by the recruiter. If necessary, they can swap days or weeks between them, and the alternate can take care of ad-hoc tasks. "They are a kind of performance teams. The partners are more sure of getting the job done, and we are more sure of our performance," says Gabriella Tóth.



The community is also a big attraction for them



Working in a cooperative allows elderly people to earn an extra 60-80% income on top of their pension, which results in a qualitative improvement in their standard of living. According to the Viapan Group, financial motivation only motivates 20-30% of retired people to work. But what is at least as important for older people is a sense of importance, building social relationships and meeting new people," says Attila Dolgos. retirement cooperatives therefore have a social engagement arena where they offer extra programmes or educational opportunities, which is very attractive for the retired age group.



"We don't just give our retirees jobs, we also care a lot about their mental health" . Gabriella Tóth continues. We organise regular programmes for them, we have screening opportunities, we offer weekend activities, we have organised everything from social trips to Santa Claus Day with the grandchildren, film screenings, cooking competitions and much more. In fact, this is how our members feel that they belong, some come to us for this, others because they simply don't want to spend all day doing nothing, but would like to spend their free time doing something useful and feel that there is still some activity left in them. Others are thinking about their family, their grandchildren and their children, putting their own existence aside, so that they can help them financially. Robert De Niro put it best in the movie "The Beginner": "A musician doesn't retire until he has music in him", says the president of the Viapan Group's retirement cooperative.



Loyal, reliable, easy to fit in



"When we negotiate with multinational employers, we sensitise them from the outset to the need to ensure that the generations are brought together. Many of them are open to this, and in really few cases it causes difficulties. In many places there are good examples of young people working smoothly with older people and being able to learn a lot of valuable experience from their retired colleagues," says Attila Dolgos. In Pannon-Work's experience, the process of integration is generally positive, but it is important to be aware of generational differences and to show mutual respect. We emphasise the opportunities for knowledge sharing and mentoring, and we also try to foster mutual understanding in communication," says Kitti Beleznay.



Employers prefer this age group because they are loyal and reliable."Otherwise, we use retired work as a supplement to student employment, for example. For many of our partners, the two branches complement each other well, for example, while the students are at school, say in the early hours, the retired people are very keen to go to work, but they don't go late in the afternoon or evening, when the students are absolutely receptive to work and have the opportunity and time to do it. At the same time, this solution makes it easy to get through the exam period," said Gabriella Tóth. "Whether for a large company or a small company, professionalism, loyalty and reliability are very important values for this age group, and companies are becoming more and more aware of this," said Attila Dolgos, President of Northern Neighbours.



In trade, cleaning jobs an important reserve



As he sees it, retired people can certainly be a huge reserve of labour in the retail sector, and in cleaning jobs too. In light manual work, there is clearly great potential in retired people, of course there are many more blue collar than white collar positions to be filled, but they can also do a maximum in office work - of which there is much more demand for open positions than the current supply, says the vice-president of the Public Sector Association.


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