Czech government plans to lure skilled workers from the East

The Czech Cabinet is launching a long term project which should address the negative demographic trend in the Czech Republic - an aging population and a low birth rate. According to statistics, the Czech Republic, whose current population is just over ten million, will lack a total of 420,000 skilled labourers in twenty years' time.

After several half-hearted attempts at encouraging young people to start families the government has adopted an alternative plan - tapping the inevitable brain drain from the East. Citizens from Bulgaria, Croatia and Kazakhstan will be the first to be offered the opportunity. Those who meet the governments' strict criteria will have the chance to acquire Czech citizenship. A pilot project within which work permits will be given to the first 300 applicants is to be launched in a fortnights' time and will cost some 11 million crowns. The number of "green cards" offered should increase in coming years and the set criteria may change depending on the country's immediate needs. At present the ideal candidate is a university graduate in their thirties with children and a fluent knowledge of Czech and English. But primarily such a person should be seriously interested in settling in the Czech Republic. The government hopes that the plan will also help to curb illegal migration from these states. Reportedly, the idea has been well received abroad and thousands of people have shown an interest. Here in the Czech Republic many people are inclined to be sceptical. Among the reservations voiced is the opinion that the government should do more to assist unemployed Czech graduates and sponsor re-qualification courses. People are asking where migrants with families will live when there is not enough cheap housing for young Czech families. The plan's opponents moreover point out that educated foreigners have work opportunities in other more attractive European states and the government could be squandering tax-payers money on providing them with a mere stepping stone. Analysts are also opposed to the fact that the criteria stipulate a university education, claiming that this will not help to curb the number of illegal foreign migrants. Despite the objections, the Cabinet is determined to see this project implemented and claims that similar selections of qualified labourers from around the world will become a standard procedure in the Czech Republic as of 2007.