Prague, Czech Republic – The share of foreigners in the Czech Republic’s workforce has doubled in the past decade, according to figures released by the Czech statistical office.
While foreign-born nationals accounted for 6% of total employment in 2010, their share has skyrocketed to 13% of the labour force last year – cementing the Czech Republic’s status as one of the most attractive and sought-after EU countries for foreigners and expats.
The share of foreign workers is particularly high in the capital Prague, where previous studies indicated that non-nationals accounted for one-fourth of the workforce.
Out of the 567,000 foreigners officially working in the country today, less than half of them have permanent residency (290,000) and some 275,000 are registered on a temporary basis. The rest of the tally, to which we should also add tens of thousands of foreigners estimated to be working illegally in the grey economy, is made up of those who have been granted or have asked for asylum in the Czech Republic.
The majority of the foreigners working in the Czech Republic come from Ukraine (132,000), Slovakia (117,000) and Vietnam (61,000), traditionally the three biggest foreign-born communities in the country, although there has also been a surge in arrivals from workers from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania or Russia in recent years.
Third-country nationals slightly outnumber the share of EU citizens working in the Czech Republic – which boasts the highest employment rate in the bloc for non-EU nationals. Less than 40% EU citizens have permanent residency, compared to over 60% for third-country nationals.
With a record-low unemployment and the highest job vacancy rate in the EU (341,000 open positions in December, according to the labour offices), the Czech government and companies have been forced to look abroad to fill the vacancies and scramble ways to fast-track and ease the import of foreign labour. Last year, the Czech government doubled the annual quotas for Ukrainians allowed to work in the country, bringing it up to 40,000, and introduced new measures to attract workers from non-EU countries, like Serbia, Mongolia or the Philippines.
Analysts have nevertheless warned that, as the Czech economic growth continues to slow down, the need for and interest in foreign workers – moreover often employed in part-time and seasonal jobs – may slowly drop over the next few years.
A recent poll has shown that, although Czechs are increasingly in favour of employing foreign workers to bridge the labour gaps, the latter are still seen suspiciously by large parts of the population who perceive them as a threat to local employment.