Expert: “Several dangers” exist but Ukrainian workers can benefit CR

In recent weeks the Czech Republic has been providing essential services to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Now many are entering the labour force, but what impact will that have? And how best can they be integrated? I discussed this with labour expert Daniel Munich of CERGE–EI, who believes Ukrainian workers could benefit the country.

“It’s conditional. Definitely it’s conditional.

“It depends first on whether these immigrants will decide to stay here forever or will return home, or will move further on to the West.

“If they stay, it’s quite important that they are incorporated into Czech society, the Czech economy.

“This means that they get reasonable accommodation, not just some refugee camps, that they get education, retraining, education for kids including teenagers and at universities.

“And then for the labour force that they get the necessary additional training, both in the Czech language and to the skills which are close to their original work.”

The Czech Republic is known for having a shortage of labour, for a long time now. I expect to some degree the refugees could help to fill that shortage. But can you see any downsides, any dangers, to this number of new workers appearing on the labour market at more or less the same time?

Daniel Münich | Photo: Vít Svoboda,  Czech Radio

“Yes. There are several dangers.

“The key barrier is language, despite the fact Ukrainian is a Slavic language.

“So it’s not so difficult to learn Czech, but it still requires additional language courses for – it depends of course – a year or two.

“Without knowing Czech, the jobs that these people will be offered will be only low-skilled, low-paid jobs.

“So there will be a downward push on wages in these jobs, even for Czechs.

“And it may also mean that these people will be squeezed out to the shadow or even black economy.

“These are definitely dangers, so it’s in the great interest of Czech society to provide the necessary housing but also training and language courses, so that these people really can work in professions they are used to working in.

“Because these are in many cases professions that are desperately needed in the Czech Republic.”

But is it possible to learn the language skills required for some professions, for example medicine or something like that?

“Becoming a full-fledged doctor in the Czech Republic may take time, due to the certificates necessary.

Illustrative photo: Andrea Piacquadio,  Pexels,  CC0

“But serving as a nurse or social assistant or social service worker, the procedure should go must faster.

“And also, it should be noted, many of these services can be provided to Ukrainians, because a great deal of the immigrants are women, children and seniors.

“So these will require social work and assistance, so many, many jobs can be created in this area.”

You’re an advisor to the prime minister, Petr Fiala. What would you, or what will you, be telling the government to do to help integrate Ukrainians as smoothly as possible?

“Let me summarise into three headlines.

“The first is to ensure that the immigrants are spread more uniformly, more equally across the country, because the capacities are there, but they are not located at one place.

“The second headline is to ensure that the allocation of immigrants is such that at the locations there is accommodation of reasonable quality, education available for children and jobs.

“This requires the third headline, which is to ensure that there is enough good quality information about that, so that this demanding and fast-moving process is optimised and people are really located to where they can find not only housing but also jobs and education.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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