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Czech Republic – Blue-collar migrant workers in decline

24 February 2012

The Czech Republic is in constant need of migrant workers, but work permits are increasingly difficult to get hold of for low-skilled labourers in the country. This is due to “a protectionist immigration policy”, which allegedly drives numbers of foreign workers down. According to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ), the number of foreigners living in the country has dropped by -7.6% in the last three years.

One newspaper, The Prague Post, says a policy, which tightens the issuing of work permits to limit the influx of low-skill migrant labour, is to blame for this trend as employers are to prioritise domestic applicants over foreign ones and employment agencies can charge high fees for these permits.  

Restrictions are expected to get even tighter this year as a directive issued by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry in January says that unemployed nationals should be favoured for low-skill job openings by limiting work permits for third-country nationals.

"When extending the validity of existing work permits, it's necessary to always analyse the labour market situation and consider if it's possible to fill a vacancy with a newly registered applicant and replace the foreigner," says Karel Machotka, Deputy Minister for the labour market in the directive.

The directive aims to decrease the level of unemployment but critics say that foreign workers need to fill the gap created by an aging population and point out that more and more skilled foreign workers are leaving the country because they cannot get a work permit.

At the same time Czech firms are reporting an increase of job applications from Southern Europeans whose economy is troubled by high unemployment rates. Many are supposed to be young and educated workers who seek employment in the white-collar sector such as in IT. 

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