Companies hiring foreign workers to fill skills gap

A survey of Czech employers by the recruitment company ManpowerGroup found businesses were struggling to hire qualified staff, despite high unemployment. A fifth of companies had solved the problem by employing foreign workers. Businesses were most likely to take on foreign workers in manual positions, but they were also hired to fill top managerial roles. The majority of employers say they are not concerned about the movement of workers either into or out of the country.

Employer survey

A survey of employers in the Czech Republic has revealed that large numbers of foreign workers are being hired to fill skills gaps across the country. Demographic development, rapid technological change, new approaches to work and the globalisation of labour markets appear to have resulted in a lack of qualified workers for specific positions. The employer survey was conducted by ManpowerGroup, one of the leading employment and recruitment agencies in the Czech Republic. The survey focused on opinion and experiences from employers about the employment of foreign residents. It asked about the benefits of hiring workers from this segment of the labour force.

Mismatch of job skills

According to the survey, 35% of employers were unable to find appropriate employees for specific positions. This was in spite of the economic crisis and the consequent increase in unemployment.

This finding would seem to imply that the qualification structure of the Czech workforce does not correspond to the needs of employers. It suggests the labour market is unable to provide employment for a relatively large group of unemployed workers because they do not have the required qualifications. At the same time it is unable to provide employees for specialised positions.

The Manpower study suggests that the lack of human capital can, to a certain extent, be compensated for by the legal migration of workers. However, it notes that the administrative burden of employing foreign workers can be substantial, especially for non-EU residents and low-skilled occupations It says more than 300,000 foreigners currently work in the Czech Republic both as employees and as self-employed people.

The survey data suggest that employers are particularly interested in taking on foreign IT specialists, mechanical engineers and specialised tradesmen, including welders, casters, locksmiths and lacquerers. They are also keen to find call centre operators who often need advanced foreign languages skills.

Foreigners in manual professions

Of the companies surveyed, 19% employed foreign residents. In the construction sector 31% of respondents reported having foreign employees. Companies in the electricity, gas and water supply sectors were least likely to employ foreign workers (5%).

Labourers made up the largest group (27%) of foreign workers employed by the respondent companies, followed by craftsmen (9%).

Senior managers are not widely represented among foreign workers (5%), but were present in 35% of the companies surveyed. More than five foreign managers were employed in 16% of the respondent companies.

By nationality, the highest proportion of foreign workers were Slovak (39%), followed by Ukrainian (22%) and German (17%). Less than one third of foreign workers were non-EU citizens – from Ukraine, the USA and Russia.

Slovak workers represent a significantly large group within the foreign working population because there are historic ties between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and there is no language barrier. Since a considerable proportion of these workers have been educated in the Czech Republic, the range of professions in which they work does not differ considerably from that of the Czech population. However, other eastern European workers are more likely to do manual jobs regardless of their level of educational attainment.

Little concern over worker mobility

The majority of companies in the survey (77%) told researchers that the employment of foreigners did not involve any additional administrative costs. Only 6% of those surveyed had found it difficult to become familiar with the relevant legislation and visa requirements.

The research showed 77% of employers said they felt neither the government nor other companies took effective measures to retain talented workers in the Czech labour market or to attract them from abroad. More than half (55%) said they did not fear an outflow of qualified workers from the Czech Republic. This compared with 34% who felt that an outflow of workers would have negative consequences for the Czech labour market.


Halbrštát, J. (2013), ‘Zahraniční pracovníci v České republice’ [Foreign workers in the Czech Republic], Práce a mzda [Jobs and Wages], Vol 61, No. 10, pp. 42–44.

Štěpánka Lehmann, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

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