Foreigners now account for nearly 11 percent of the Czech workforce, despite making up just 5 percent of the population. In light of an ongoing labour shortage, business leaders are now urging the government to make it easier for non-nationals to work in the country.
That economic migrants are currently highly beneficial to the Czech economy is shown in data recently released by the Czech Statistical Office. The organisation’s director for Labour Market and Equal Opportunities Statistics, Dalibor Holý, explains.
“10.7 percent of all employees in the country are foreign nationals. When we take into consideration that they make up roughly 5 percent of the population, that is a great imbalance. We can see these are mainly foreigners of working age.”
At the beginning of 2018, there were around 200,000 more foreign workers than before the global financial crisis hit the country in 2008. Mr. Holý offered more details on the latest statistics. “When talking about foreigners on the Czech labour market, people tend to imagine them as a monolithic mass, but that is not true. Those from states such as Slovakia or Romania stand out for being very young. Others such as Bulgarians and Ukrainians have the same age structure as Czechs. Each nationality has its specifics.”
There is a strong influx of highly qualified workers from Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Slovaks and Romanians make up much of the middle ranking work force, with the latter often working in areas such as communications.
With unemployment levels currently at their lowest for over 20 years, businesses are facing an acute labour shortage. Both the Confederation of Industry and the Chamber of Commerce are now appealing to raise quotas for qualified workers from countries outside the EU.
Furthermore, business leaders are also urging the list of countries from which this labour force can be drawn be extended.
Speaking to Czech Radio, the Minister of Industry and Trade Marta Nováková said that the government was doing its best to attract highly qualified workers from abroad.
“We have also proposed an amendment to the foreign residency law in Parliament, which includes a special working visa. This would allow us to attract the best ‘brains’. At the same time, we should also think hard about how we can ensure our intelligent workforce remains in this country.”
Unqualified labour is in even higher demand, however. December statistics show that employers were mainly searching for builders, cleaners and lorry drivers.
Trade unions, meanwhile, are not against the influx of foreign workers. However, they insist foreign nationals should not work for lower salaries and in worse conditions than Czech citizens.