Brief overview of the migration from Hungary to the United Kingdom since the EU accession

The first blog post about Hungary aims to offer a very brief overview of the estimated volume and main features of migration from Hungary to the UK. The post is based on academic articles and on-line press sources. In the compilation of datasets, we rely on the results of Gábor Csontos, who spent three months in the Geographical Institute RCAES as an intern. He graduated as geographer of Cambridge University and currently studies at London School of Economics. His internship was financed by the NKFIH 2020-1.2.1-GYAK programme.

The population of Hungary is considered relatively immobile in European comparison. Based on the data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, since 1989 approximately 350 000 Hungarians moved abroad. Importantly, neither the economic collapse after 1989, nor the country’s EU accession in 2004 induced significant out-migration. It was the 2008 global economic crisis and its local consequences which was followed by increasing out-migration.[1]

The availability of reliable data about emigration from Hungary is limited, the mirror statistics of destination countries provide a basis for a realistic estimation.[2] The published estimations about the number of Hungarian emigrants oscillate between 195 000 and 335 000 in the 18-49 age group.[3] Among the main factors of out-migration from Hungary the multiplied household debts[4], unemployment, and low salaries were mentioned, however in the surveys conducted after 2010 the unfavorable career perspectives and the general political atmosphere were also mentioned.[5]

In the post-2008 period a significant change can be observed in the destination countries as well. Traditionally, the main destination countries for Hungarian nationals have been Germany and Austria, due to historical links and geographical vicinity. Prior to 2008, the United Kingdom was not among the favored destinations, which is reflected in the Eurostat statistics: in 2004 54 714 Hungarian national lived in Germany, in contrast to the 6021 registered in the United Kingdom.[6]

Hungarian grocery in the UK. Source:

Based on the calculations of Chris Moreh (2014), both the stock and flow numbers of Hungarians increased between 2002-2014.[7] He estimates the number of Hungarians in 2014 at around 80,000 and approximately 110,000 in the last few years.[8] According to the data of United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics the number of Hungarian residing in the UK has reached its peak in 2017 (98 000) and drop to 77 000 in 2018.[9] In their analysis Gellér-Lukács, Töttös and Illés estimated the number of Hungarians in the United Kingdom between 80 000 and 150 000.[10] The online magazine Portfolio estimated the number of Hungarians in the United Kingdom both in 2017 and in 2018 at around 250,000, based on an analysis of EU statistics and bank transfers.[11]

The Annual Population Survey (APS) estimated the number of people born in Hungary and residing in the UK at around 100,000 in 2019 (many experts and observers found this number underestimated).

However, taking into consideration various UK databases, it seems probable that the number of Hungarians permanently residing in the UK was around 100,000 in 2020. Nevertheless, we assume that additionally there was a sizeable group of Hungarian citizens, who remained undocumented, worked seasonally and circulated between Hungary and the UK, – and simply did not appear or remained invisible in the statistics. This might explain the huge discrepancies in data reported by different estimates.

Stock of Hungarian migrants to the UK (thousands), Source: Office For National Statistics. Edited by Katalin Kovály

Regarding the geographical distribution, more than half of the Hungarian population was concentrated in London (16 000), South East (17 000) and East England (11 000) in 2018.[12]

Relatively few research investigated the Hungarians living in the UK, mainly analysing on-line surveys[13] and/or interviews.[14] These studies found that the majority of Hungarians landed in the UK to seek employment, however the number of university students show a significant increase in the last couple of years.

We are excited to share more details about the Hungarians living in the UK with you in the upcoming months!



[2] Gödri, Irén – Soltész, Béla – Bodacz-Nagy, Boróka (2014): Immigration or emigration country? Migration trends and their socio-economic background in Hungary: A longer-term historical perspective. Working Papers on Population, Family and Welfare, no. 19. Hungarian Demographic Research Institute, Budapest.

[3] See Moreh, Ch, 2014, citing: Blaskó and Jamalia 2014, Kapitány, Rohr 2013.

[4] Moreh, Ch. 2014: 85.

[5] Kováts, A. 2014

[6] Moreh, Ch. 2014: 80.

[7] Moreh, Ch. 2014:87.

[8] Moreh, Ch. 2014.

[9] Office for National Statistics, 2019

[10] Gellér-Lukács, É. Töttős, Á., and Illés, S. (2016)


[12] Office for National Statistics, 2019

[13] Kováts, A. – Papp. Z. 2016

[14] Michalkó, G. and Irimiás, A. 2018

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