UK government records high number of Czech workers

Photo: European Commission

In the months leading up to last year's expansion of the European Union, many member states expressed concern about a potential influx of cheap labour from the new member countries. Most chose to introduce a transitional period of restrictions, while Sweden, Ireland, and Britain opened their labour markets. A British government study conducted last year forecast that between 5,000-13,000 workers from the new EU member states would register for work every year. But that number has been the average registered every month.

Photo: European Commission
Since the EU's expansion to the east in May 2004, over 230,000 people have applied for jobs in Britain. Statistics released by the British Home Office on Tuesday show that an average of 14,000 from the new Central and Eastern European member states (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) register for work every month; some six percent of them are Czech citizens. 28-year old Stepan Zraly is one of them. He moved to London in search of work in September:

"My friend, who has been living here for six years, said I could come here if I wanted. So, I went to London straight away. After a week, I found a job in an Italian restaurant as a waiter. Now I work in an Indian restaurant on Oxford Street."

Stepan is one of over 12,000, who work in restaurants. Most new workers, 41,000 according to Home Office statistics, are employed in factories. While the number of workers registered in Britain is much higher than government estimates, most locals are not concerned. In a Home Office report, "accession workers help to fill the gaps particularly in administration, business and management, hospitality and catering, agriculture, manufacturing and food, and fish and meat processing".

Photo: European Commission
Britain has also introduced a scheme that ensures new workers cannot abuse the country's welfare system and public services. Stepan says most workers are young and willing to work long hours, and yet it's a long and windy road to better work:

"I also worked with people from Poland and they worked every day without a single day off. They got 200 British pounds a week, for 14 hours a day. If you want to get a good job, it's very difficult here. For example, you need to have a bank account and the companies do not help you. It took me five months. Three months ago I finished a course to work in a travel agency and I'm looking for a job in the travel industry now. I'm trying, but it's not very easy."