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Factory work is much easier here: visiting guest workers from the Philippines

Why did they choose Hungary? How do they feel? How is the work? How satisfied are they with their salary? Among other things, we asked three Filipino workers who have been working at a manufacturing company in Gyöngyös for four months.

I meet the three Filipino ladies in the dining room of a workers' hostel a few hundred metres from the centre of Gyöngyös on a Tuesday morning in September. They were selected and brought to Hungary by Get Work Trend, a certified temporary employment agency, and have been working as temporary workers for a large manufacturing company in Gyöngyös since May. 

They came with factory work experience

Right from the introduction they smile, joke, are curious and easy to communicate with in English. Janice was previously employed as a process supervisor at a food processing plant in Bulacan. She is the mother of a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old girl, who are now being raised by their father in their home country. Juvy worked in a factory for five years, most recently as an assembler in Laguna. Baby has worked for solar panel manufacturers, as a guest worker in Taiwan in a PET bottle plant, and most recently for a café in the Philippines.

All three came to Hungary as part of a team of 50 people. What was their first impression of Hungary? "That it's cold," one of them replies. No wonder: compared to the tropical climate, the cool Hungarian May was a stark contrast. (And they haven't experienced the winter yet...)

Juvy was recommended the job opportunity in Hungary by an acquaintance who already worked here, while others saw the offer on social media and at an agency. Why Hungary? The answers include that Hungary is developing, it is in the EU, it is cheaper to live in compared to other European countries and it is one of the most liveable countries in Europe. 

They applied in February and were shortlisted in March in a two round process. First, Get Work Trend tested the manual dexterity, vision and speed of the job applicants in a test of dexterity and logic. They then took part in an oral interview to showcase their previous work experience, and were also tested on their language skills in an informal interview. They were then selected, followed by a medical aptitude test. They passed this test and received their visas in April, and boarded their flights on 8 May.

Janice, Juvy, Baby
Janice, Juvy, Baby


Shorter working hours and easier work than in the Philippines

They speak only in superlatives about their workplace and working environment. "In the Philippines, I had to work 12 hours a day, here it's only 8. There I had to walk a lot, carry heavy objects, here we do assembly sitting down," says Juvy. She adds that the Filipino workers' strengths are patience, quick learning and perseverance, which they are now putting to good use in Hungary. The three ladies learned the ropes in a week, and after two weeks they were doing full-fledged productive work.

"The Hungarian staff and my managers are very friendly, welcoming and supportive. They didn't forget my birthday either, they took me to Mátra," adds Baby. Janice was also greeted on her birthday by manager with a gift and was sung to by the staff. "We don't feel different in any way, we are treated the same as our Hungarian colleagues" sums up Juvy. 

On the financial side, they say it is very rewarding to work here. In net terms, they earn at least twice as much as in the Philippines, and three times as much as in the poorer regions there. At least as much of an advantage is that they have free accommodation (rent and utilities are paid by the employer), whereas back home the cost of housing was paid by themselves. They also experience a big difference in getting by. Baby in Manila travelled two hours, Juvy an hour and a half to get to work, here it takes 10 minutes by bus from the sublet to the factory gate. 

They don't officially learn Hungarian, but words come out of their mouths when I ask them to demonstrate their skills: köszönöm, szia, jó napot, álmos, lángos, bocsi.... Although they speak English well, they have an interpreter available at work if needed. And if there are any problems, even personal ones, they can call their contact at the rental company, "Miss Réka" as they call her, who has also arranged this meeting for us.

After work: video calls, sleep, mass, cooking, Netflix

They are also happy with their accomodation. Nearby shops, market, church, hospital, well-equipped, comfortable apartment. How do they spend their free time? All three are passionate cooks, so they cook regularly in the sublet. Among the Hungarian dishes, goulash and lecsó are in their repertoire, and their national dish, adobo. The latter is a delicacy made of chicken or pork with onion, garlic, vinegar, potatoes and paprika. The ingredients for Asian cuisine are sourced from a specialist shop in Budapest. Juvy notes, however, that she fell in love with lángos during her stay.

When they're not cooking, they keep in touch with people back home through video calls, watching movies online, sleeping in, going for morning walks and attending mass at a church in Gyöngyös on Sundays. One of their roommates has an aquaintance who is a priest, who sends them messages with sermons online before mass. Janice has been to Eger before, which reminded her of Vigan (a Philippine town that preserves medieval Spanish architecture). But for the time being they travel little. In December they are planning a major trip "somewhere in Europe". 

Are you homesick?"- I ask. The two singles, Baby and Juvy, are coping well with the absence and enjoying the new impulses. For Janice is the hardest, having left her two young children at home. "I came to work here to make things better for my kids," she says. She notes that she occasionally sheds tears, but with video calls online, it's easier to stay in touch and not feel so far away from her family. She hopes the time will come when her family members can move in with her. 

When I ask them about their plans, they tell me they have signed a 1-year contract. If their employer is happy with them, the contract can be extended for another year. But Juvy and Baby laugh and say that they would stay here for life, so satisfied are they with their four months here...

The original article in Hungarian

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