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Why McDonald’s Is Offering Free Housing to Hungarian Workers

Hundreds of Hungarians and tourists waitHundreds of Hungarians and tourists wait
Locals and tourists stand in line outside a McDonald's restaurant in Budapest, Hungary.Photograph by Attila Kisbenedek—AFP/Getty Images

In an effort to reverse the labor shortage in Eastern Europe, McDonald’s (MCD) is offering free room and board to employees willing to travel to fill vacant jobs.

The eastern European nation is poised for economic growth, according to Bloombergbut a lack of qualified labor has stifled its potential. The region used to be a low-wage haven, abundant with willing workers, but today its aging labor market and reluctance to hire immigrants have curbed employers’ ability to find qualified help.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers (PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS) survey of Hungarian CEOs found 54% of respondents expected growth in their region, compared to only 27% of global CEOs. Yet those same regional business leaders expressed concern over a “lack of qualified professionals.”

“The labor shortage is what keeps executives up at night across Eastern Europe,” PwC director Robert Bencze told Bloomberg. “The first question investors now ask themselves before coming here is ‘will I be able to find enough employees to make my business work?”’


It’s not just Hungary’s problem: The Czech Republic reported a 166% rise in job vacancies over the last two years, growing to 110,000, according to Bloomberg. In Latvia, the problem is three times worse, while automakers like Kia Motors are struggling to find qualified workers to fill vacant positions at local factories in Slovenia.

“Increasingly, more applicants lack the skills needed in the car industry,” Kia spokesman Jozef Bace told Bloomberg. “Recently, it’s hard to fill even less-qualified positions such as assembly-line and paint-shop operators.”

While the region is ripe for investment, analysts fear the labor shortage could compel companies to move elsewhere if the trend continues.

“It’s a question of quantity and quality of labor across eastern Europe,” German-Hungarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce Spokesman Dirk Wolfer told Bloomberg. “This needs to be solved in the next few years, otherwise investment may suffer.”