Based on statistical data, the permanent population of the Lake Balaton Region was 275,000 persons. Slightly more than half of the population lives in towns. With 25,000 permanent residents, Siófok is the most populated town, while the tiny village of Óbudavár, located in Veszprém County, is the smallest settlement with just 49 residents.
In line with national trends, the population of the region has been decreasing steadily in recent decades. The natural decrease of population is only partly compensated by the positive migration balance of the region. Since migrants into the region are not from the younger age bracket of the population, the ageing population ratio of the region is growing faster than in other regions resulting in socio-economic stresses. The ratio of the young population also decreases as young and qualified people move out of the region due to high real estate prices and the shortage of year-round employment opportunities. Consequently, aging of the local population is slightly more intensive than the national tendencies.
There is a significant number (more than 70,000) of holiday houses in the region with an estimated population of 210,000 to 280,000 persons (domestic and foreign owners), which increases temporarily the total population of the region to about half a million.
EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATION
In terms of education level, the region is in a relatively favourable situation. The general level and adaptation capacity of human resources are high. At the same time, however, qualification and language skills do not always meet the special requirements of the services in the Lake Balaton Region.
Qualification level of the population of the region (primarily those living in shoreline settlements, and particularly in towns) is higher than the national average. All together there were 124 kindergartens and 103 primary schools in the Lake Balaton Resort Area in 2011, including the special education and care institutions as well.
Post-secondary education in the fields of commerce, hotel and tourism services have become considerably stronger in recent years (schools in Fonyód, Keszthely, Siófok, Tapolca, Balatonfüred, Zánka, etc.) to meet higher market standards.
Post-secondary level education for traditional sectors of economic and environmental importance such as fruit production, viticulture and wine making is carried out in Balatonfüred and Balatonboglár. There are also various secondary schools (grammar schools, technical colleges and vocational training institutes) offering high-quality teaching and education in the region.
There is one institution for higher education in the region:
– Students can learn agricultural studies at the Georgikon Faculty of the Pannon University at Keszthely;
Although the city of Veszprém, situated only 8 miles from the lake, does not belong to the legal area of the Lake Balaton Resort Area, but its influence to the region is significant. The Pannon University, located in Veszprém, offers courses in tourism, engineering, information technology, environmental sciences, economics and teacher’s training.
Citizens throughout the region feel significant emotional attachment to Lake Balaton. According to the results of sociological surveys, “Balaton identity” exceeds the otherwise strong “county identity” to practically undetectable levels in the settlements belonging to both the Lake Balaton Region and a county. For example, when residents of the region introduce themselves outside of the region, they mention their settlement’s name first, some 30% mention Lake Balaton Region, and only 2% mention the county, where the settlement belongs to. About 65% of the adult population of the region counts his/her settlement as part of the “Lake Balaton Region”, while fewer people think their settlement belongs to the NUTS2 level EU regions (14% for South Transdanubia, 12% for Central Transdanubia, and 9% for Western Transdanubia).
82% of the population shares the idea of separate territorial self-government of the region, while 81% agree with the establishment of a separate administrative entity of the region and only 19% are against it. The perception of belonging to Lake Balaton is dominant even in settlements situated further from the lake.
In addition to residents, a strong regional identity can also be observed in the institutional structure and in the economy. Good examples for this type of regional identity are the followings: the establishment of Lake Balaton Alliance by local governments, the establishment of the Association of Civil Organisations of Lake Balaton (in 2001), the creation of “Lake Balaton Wine Region” by merging the 5 historical wine areas, the establishment of the Regional Chief Architect Office and the creation of the Regional Tourism Destination Management Association of Lake Balaton.
LABOUR MARKET AND EMPLOYMENT
Employees find jobs primarily in the tourism industry and related businesses. In the summer high season, the economic activity and the employment rate of the population in the Lake Balaton Region is higher than the annual average.
In the last decade, the employment rate of the potential employee age group has dropped significantly. Simultaneously, the number of unemployed people has increased. In the beginning of 2013, the unemployment rate in the Lake Balaton Region was 10%.
Seasonal employment (from spring to autumn) is dominant in tourism and related businesses, as well as in construction and agriculture. As a result, the unemployment rate decreases by about 2-2.5% (acc. by 3,000 people) in the tourist season, but increases again after that.
In the high season, labour demand can be met only by recruiting Hungarian and foreign employees from outside of the Lake Balaton Region. Salaries are somewhat lower than the national average.
As a result of the situation described above, the effects of seasonal employment can be observed primarily in lake-side communities. Unemployment is a more serious problem for people living in background communities (settlements further from the lake) as they can less and less feel the benefits offered by seasonal employment. The unemployment rate is multiple times higher in these communities than in those situated right on the lake shore.
In line with national trends, many employees are looking for jobs in the off seasons (autumn and spring time) in Western Europe, particularly in Austria and Germany. In addition, it is getting more common that younger generation is working abroad for shorter or longer period of time.