Coronavirus: Applications for Hungarian army soar as youngsters seek stable job amid economic crisis

New recruits participate in a training exercise at the military camp in the north-western Hungarian city of Gyor on May 28, 2020
New recruits participate in a training exercise at the military camp in the north-western Hungarian city of Gyor on May 28, 2020 Copyright ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP
By Alessio Dell'Anna with AFP
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As Hungary's coronavirus-hit economy shrinks and unemployment soars, thousands of Hungarians are seeking to join the army, attracted by job stability and a government scheme that fast-tracks recruits toward a military career.

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Young Hungarians are turning to the army to make a living amid the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

Applications have "doubled" since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Major Tamas Durgo, in charge for the national recruitment, and the Defence Ministry said some 2,500 requests were submitted last week only.

The Hungarian economy was doing well before the crisis.

It grew by 4.9% in 2019, and the unemployment rate was close to zero.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, it could now contract by 8% this year - or even 10%, in case of a second wave, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Those who are unemployed receive a €200 to €350 monthly wage for a maximum of three months.

So far, Hungary, a country of nearly 10 million people, has recorded over 4,000 cases and more than 570 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

27-year-old physiotherapist Peter Kamondai had just opened its business activity when coronavirus struck in Hungary.

The fact that his wife was pregnant gave him no choice but to enlist in the military, which was also used as a support in hospital operations during the health crisis.

"My wife will soon have a baby and confinement has given me no chance to get started," he told news agency AFP on a training ground near Györ, 120 kilometres west of Budapest.

"So what I want now is a stable income from the state," he adds after a combat exercise with a dozen other candidates.

After a medical test, the cadets begin a six-month training course that leads to a possible career as a soldier, engineer, computer scientist, driver or cook.

The GDP share for defence under the governments of Viktor Orban has risen from 0.95% in 2013 to 1.21% in 2019.

In July, it was announced that the Hungarian army was planning to open ten new military schools in the next ten years.

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