Temporary "brigady" jobs not just a way for students to earn holiday cash

Photo: European Commission

With the holiday season in full swing, demand for short-term employment is peaking. Students in particular hope that through these temporary jobs, or "brigady" in Czech, they will earn enough money to pay for a vacation. I found out more about this popular practice of temporary employment.

At this time of year, Czech recruitment agencies always experience a high increase in demand for temporary work, or "brigady" as Czechs call it. Most applicants are students who plan to work in July in order to be able to enjoy holidays in August.

While many associate short-term employment with seasonal fruit-picking, it actually involves many sectors of the economy; not only manual labor, but also a significant number of white-collar jobs.

Depending on their skills and previous experience, temporary industrial workers in Prague are paid about 60-70 CZK per hour, which is about € 2, while administrative staff can earn 80-120 CZK per hour, or € 3-4. Wages outside of the Czech capital are even lower.

At a Prague recruitment agency, I met a couple of students getting ready for a new brigada.

Young man: "I got a job in a finance department, I should be account assistant, and this job would be for six weeks. I'm not satisfied with the money of course, I would prefer more but I think that the salary I have is quite good but it could be more."

Young woman: "My job which I'm going to do in the next two weeks is going to be a receptionist job. I'm going to work for an international company, and I hope I'm going to enjoy it. I'm supposed to have 80 CZK per hour and I'm pretty satisfied with this salary because it's much more than we usually get on any other temporary jobs."

However, according to Niall Keyes, the managing director of the Grafton Recruitment Agency, students are not the only social group interested in temporary employment:

"In the production area, in the regions particularly where a lot of the production facilities are located, many people find themselves in unemployment areas, and are looking for any opportunity to work at all, and are motivated to work even on a temporary contract to supplement what they already have."

Although the supply of candidates is especially high during summer, there are two main demand periods for temporary jobs:

"One is the summer, because many people need cover for holidays, etc. The second time of the year is just before Christmas, because a lot of companies tend to be very, very busy before Christmas, so there's a lot of seasonal demand at that particular time."

A moment ago we heard from two Czech students who were signing up for temporary work, but is this kind of short-term employment really an essentially Czech, or Eastern European phenomenon? Niall Keyes again:

"Quite the opposite in actual fact. If I could give you a statistic in Western Europe, the Dutch economy is staffed with approximately 8-10% of its whole labor force in temporary contract arrangement. Spain is another country that has a very high number of temporary contract staff in its market, and the UK and Ireland also. Indeed the US has a significant number of people also in the contract market. So it's actually something from the Czech Republic's perspective that is new to the Czech Republic. But it's something that's very, very common in other labor markets in Western Europe and North America."