Mother tongue creates tension in Transylvanian labor market

Hungarian Transylvanian employers are more likely to hire Hungarians, while Hungarian job seekers are more likely to select a company with a Hungarian majority, according to the latest sociological study penned by Zsombor Csata and shared with Székelyhon.

The study, entitled “Ethnic dividing lines in the labor market – characteristics of co-ethnic employment in Transylvania,” has found that workplaces are more “Hungarian” in the diaspora, that is, areas where this ethnicity is represented by a smaller percentage.

Hungarians employ Hungarians

To put it into perspective: Considering that Csíkszereda’s population is 85 percent ethnic Hungarian, you would expect that the percentage of Hungarian employees would match the aforementioned proportion in the labor market.

Girls in flower shop
Image source: Pixabay

“Our data show a different picture: While the Hungarian presence averaged 59 percent of the population in the sampled areas, when analyzing their presence in the labor market, we found that 69 percent of the employed workforce is Hungarian. This means, on average, that Hungarians are overrepresented by roughly 10 percent at their workplace. The higher the number of ethnic Hungarians in a county, the less characteristic the aforementioned trend is,” Csata explains in the study. Take Hargita/Harghita and Kovászna/Covasna counties, for example: The higher the Hungarian percentage of the population, the smaller the ethnic difference in workplace representation.

The bigger the workplace, the more diverse it is

The greater the number of people working at a particular workplace, the smaller the percentage of Hungarians, the study found. On the other hand, the growth of an institution is sustainable only if it operates on a wider scale – in terms of settlement and regional borders – which means that it must also successfully target ethnic Romanian customers. To reach that goal, however, employees need high Romanian-language proficiency, which is why Hungarian employers opt for an ethnic Romanian workforce when expanding their marketing, legal, and financial departments.

The reasoning is quite simple: Writing an official letter in Romanian is a harder task for a Hungarian-speaking employee than it is for a native Romanian because of the specific nuances of the language.

Crowded office building
Crowded office building. Image source: Pixabay

The study also found that the past 30 years of democracy has preserved the ethnic-based work divide, which, by the way, has several hundred years of tradition in the Transylvania area. The latest centralized intervention commenced in the socialist era in the 1970s and 80s when discrimination against minorities was backed by Bucharest. This meant that one could not find employment as a Hungarian in strategically important work segments and that there were serious limitations for Hungarians in terms of career development, the study summarizes.

Mother tongue usage creates tension

Sociologists say that the biggest issue is the tension generated by the use of the mother tongue in the workplace. This tarnishes the work ethic, affecting overall coworker performance. As a Hungarian, you may feel your value threatened if you are unable to express yourself properly due to incomplete knowledge of the Romanian language. On the other hand, if you switch to Hungarian, that terminates communication with Romanian colleagues, and you often have to deal with their resentment.

The aforementioned tensions and communication traps prompt employers to hire a co-ethnic workforce, Zsombor Csata concludes in his study.

Title image: Pixabay

Author: István Fekete