Czechia seeking to draw skilled workers by opening labour market to nine non-EU member states

The Czech government has moved to open the labor market to foreign workers from nine countries outside of the European Union. As of July 1, foreign workers from the selected states will no longer need employment cards or work permits in Czechia.

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there are currently close to 818,000  foreign workers in Czechia. Employees from the nine selected countries ‒ Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Israel, and Singapore ‒ only comprise about 1.2 percent of the Czech labor market, approximately 10,000 employees. However, 80% of them are in highly skilled positions. The country needs to attract more of these foreign experts to fill vacancies on the labour market.

We spoke with Kateřina Štefánková, Head of the Employment Section of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, on what basis they chose the countries included on the list:

Illustrative photo: Sora Shimazaki,  Pexels

“We have had a long-term influx of people from these countries, with highly skilled backgrounds. Of course, security issues also played an important role. We do not have any recorded cases of irregular travel documents or forged documents from these countries. These people integrate well into our society.”

The move will not only help employers, but also administrators who were tasked with laborious paperwork when admitting foreign workers. The process of getting an employee card, which is the document Czechia uses most frequently, can take up to 3 months.

Klára Boumová from the NGO Charita Česká Republika (Charity Czech Republic) says the amount of red tape puts many people off:

“Obtaining a work permit in the Czech Republic is a difficult and lengthy process that takes many months. Administrative offices are overloaded and deadlines are often even longer.”

Even without a work permit, there are still conditions to be met, namely evidence of an employment contract or an agreement on employment and a minimum of 15 hours of work per week.

Kateřina Štefánková is hopeful that the change will have a positive impact in the months and years to come:

Illustrative photo: ThisIsEngineering,  Pexels

“It is the first time we’re introducing such a broad change, so we’ll certainly see the numbers start to increase. We know from our embassy colleagues in New York, for instance, that it has already generated interest, that people have already asked about it. There will definitely be a quick evaluation after about 6 months to a year to see to what extent it has actually helped us draw the highly qualified workforce in.”

The Ministry of Labour, which came up with the proposal, says the countries on the list are economically among the strongest in the world. Czechia has long been interested in attracting high-skilled workers from these destinations. However, it admits that "reciprocal access" to these countries for Czech workers cannot be expected.