Number of foreigners residing in Czech Republic doubles in ten years, government tries to attract skilled foreign labour

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Figures have been released this week showing that the number of foreigners residing in the Czech Republic legally has almost doubled in the past ten years. They now make up 2.3 percent of the country's population, but that number is still incomparably lower than that in other EU member states.

Photo: European Commission
The Czech Republic will in future need to attract many more foreigners - both in order to boost its labour market and to increase the country's flagging birth rate. Last year the Czech Labour Ministry and the International Organization for Migration launched a pilot project aimed at attracting skilled workers from Eastern Europe. The main idea was to handpick qualified workers and help them to acquire permanent residence permits in a much shorter time that they could hope to do on their own.

Lucie Sladkova heads of the Czech mission of the International Organization for Migration. She told Radio Prague how the project was coming along:

"Well, the project is quite successful in terms of being attractive for the foreigners. Still there are many criteria or conditions of the project that have to be a little bit improved and implemented much better. What I'm saying is that we have to improve the information campaign in those countries and we see that especially the condition to have a work permit and a residence permit in advance, before joining the project, is too strict. So approximately 200 foreigners are part of the project."

What countries are they from?

"Mostly Bulgaria, some of them are Croats, and approximately ten Kazakhs."

Photo: European Commission
What are your plans for the future?

"The plans of the government, especially the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs are to enlarge [the number] of the countries, the source countries. The Czech government has already approved countries like Moldova and Belarus. And the same goes for the category. The category will be enlarged by students - those who are finishing their university studies here in the Czech Republic but they are not part of the so-called 'development aid'. So students who are finishing their studies this year are entitled to join the project."

You were in charge of an information campaign in the Czech Republic to inform foreigners about the possibilities here and also to prepare Czech society for the possibility of a large number of migrants coming to the Czech Republic. How successful was that campaign?

"Well, I would say that to a certain extent we are successful but I would say mostly with information for the foreign communities. While as for the Czech community it's a long run. We cannot change the opinion of the Czech society in one year. You have to be very careful in explaining that the foreigners are not taking Czech jobs or vacancies for the Czechs, so there is a lot to be explained, discussed and we need more public debate."