Don´t fear to request for help – Fears, Visions and Vulnerability in the Working Society of Hungary

Don´t fear to request for help – Fears, Visions and Vulnerability in the Working Society of Hungary

„ To be brave, you need to be scared. ” – Thomas Mann


Fright is coded in our genes. Vulnerability of existence is one of the strongest of fears. While at work, primarily as an employee, you will offer your labour force, knowledge, skills and principally your time in exchange for the salary. Salary is requisite for subsistence. Services and goods are acquired in exchange for money. Money is devoted to investments and provisions. The foregoing two are needed to material independence. Our subsistence will become jeopardised without material independence.

Job related anxiety was examined by Policy Agenda with the support of the Budapest Branch of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Certain anxiety factors were clustered considering everyday fears, fear of future and fear of becoming defenceless. The survey was made among workers and this category was broadly interpreted not merely the employees were involved. The target group involved those claiming to work and being paid for it even when it was an enterprise under compulsion.

Nine topics were considered:

  • fear of encountering new situations;
  • conflict between private life and work;
  • health risks of the workplace;
  • overtime;
  • loss of job;
  • challenges of the fourth industrial revolution;
  • declining life-standard;
  • pensioner life;
  • protection of employees’ rights;

The working population was categorised in accordance with the foregoing.

15% of the workers have no fears at all, or a minimum rate of fear is felt among workers, 38% of this group belonged to those feeling a moderate rate of fear. They fear present and future challenges regarding more than one issues, or have strong fears any of the segments. The third group included those who were very anxious. 41% of the working population form this group, while a narrow layer – merely 6% – belonged to the extremely anxious workers.

Everyday Fears

In the work of labour, everyday fears might be very common things for certain persons, while others may be shocked by such circumstances.

  • 7% of the workers become intensely anxious when a new employee arrives or the worker takes up a new job. The absolute majority (58%) claimed not to fear from any such situations for they could adopt to new circumstances perfectly.
  • 51% of the workers thought their present job and work conditions did not jeopardise their health. That is nearly half of this group claimed to be afraid of that;
  • the survey showed we do not mind overwork: 53% of workers were glad to work overtime either for material reasons or for deeming overtime served stability of the workplace. Merely 14% of the respondents claimed never working overtime and further 20% said to be unhappy about overtime for it kept them away from their families. 10% of the workers felt overburdened even during normal business hours;
  • job/family “conflict” is closely correlated with working overtime. 23% (approx. 1 million employees) felt to have troubles with reconciling job and family life.

Fear of future;

Financial balance is the main drive of the fear of future. What am I to do without a job? What if I earn less than now? What will happen to me after retiring? The mentioned anxiety-factors might even unintentionally affect and entail self-overexploitation.  For fear of losing the current material status more work is undertaken, and less rights are claimed.

  • 52% of the workers claimed not to be afraid at all of losing job in the forthcoming six months. For that is not a long period of time, it can be stated they did not feel their positions too secure. 13% of the workers were afraid of or were immensely afraid of changes at work in the following six months or became sacked;
  • technical development is a catalyst of changes in the work of labour. The fourth industrial revolution will abolish jobs and may even change the notion of work and workplaces. However workers were not afraid of it. Only 7% claimed to be afraid of robotics and digitalizing;
  • changes entail hazards. The decline in life-standard will be an outcome of the foregoing. According to our survey, one-thirds of the working society fear of not having enough income in the forthcoming years to sustain their current standard of life. 70% of the male and 59% of the female respondents claimed not to be afraid at all, or more rather did not fear of any such problems to be faced.
  • Most serious dilemmas are associated with pensioner life. Only 10% of the workers told to be anxious about not having enough pension in the future to lead a live similar to the present standard. At the same time, 40% feared to face day to day subsistence difficulties in the future.

Fear of becoming defenceless;

Being defenceless is when you feel or experience to remain without defence and you are unable to control your own life. In the realm of labour this is realized in the observance of employer’s rights and discrimination.

  • 21% of the workers claimed to have experienced any type of discrimination at work. Child rearing was the main cause for discrimination while the second one was expression of political opinion.
  • were they afraid, and did not trust others? This issue is obviously not so simple. Anyway it is surprising that 72% of workers felt they must protect their rights themselves while 25% felt it was more efficient ly done with the assistance of the community.
  • 11% thought it was better not to say anything when a specific case required to be stood for, because they feared of the consequences while 70% told to be willing to fight for a case even alone. 16% of the workers would request assistance from the colleagues when rights were to be protected.

In this study we also examined whether there was any difference between the answers concerning the presence of trade unions. 50% of the workers who reported to have no trade union functioning at work belonged to the group where workers were very anxious. At workplaces with functioning trade unions 42% was the rate. We cannot state that only the presence of trade unions could be the reason for a lower anxiety factor. Other factors might also contribute to that. However detailed data showed that workers believe in the power of community at workplaces where they have ever experienced it.

Anxiety is present in the world of labour. Feeling the lack of defence may as well make sick, but at least affects sovereignty. It has an antidote. Two steps are absolutely needed to be taken. Causes for anxiety must be revealed and one must learn to ask for assistance. This survey was suitable for discovering causes, but the rest of measures and tasks need to be taken and done by the community and trade unions.