While Norway is looking for drivers and butchers, welders are demanded in the Netherlands. (ČTK)While Norway is looking for drivers and butchers, welders are demanded in the Netherlands. (ČTK)

Getting a job abroad is becoming increasingly difficult for Czechs. While unemployment in the EU is growing, and the number of jobs available to foreigners is declining, the Czechs are becoming even more interested in working abroad in the midst of a crisis.

According to the European Job Mobility Portal Eures, the number of jobs across Europe has declined by 41% year-on-year. Currently, the Eures portal is offering some 828,000 free positions. “Last year in March, employment offices in 31 European countries were reporting more than 1.4 million vacancies,” Eures’ adviser Jana Fojtíková told the daily E15.

The crisis has also affected demand for employees from the Czech Republic. “Currently, the Czech portal is offering 570 vacancies in which the employer explicitly requested Czech employees,” Fojtíková said. Comparisons with last year are not available.

Almost half of all job offers for Czechs are now coming from Italy, where they are looking for employees for hotel entertainment for the summer tourist season. Also Spain and Cyprus hotels are interested in seasonal staff.

Czechs’ interest in Great Britain and Ireland has been falling further, while they have become increasingly interested in the Netherlands and in northern Europe. “At the moment, we are looking for drivers for Norway, for example,” Grafton Recruitment agency’s consultant Michaela Nováková said.

Brtain and Ireland are trying to decide what to do with foreigners

Great Britain and Ireland, which were the first to have opened their labour markets to workers from new EU member states, now have a problem what to do with these workers. Statistics show that job seekers from post-communist Europe and other parts of the world have contributed to the growth of local employment. Because of the lack of interest of the natives, these workers acquired not only the lower positions – in shops, bars and hotels – but they have even made it to management posts.

This is the dilemma: Should we, now in the midst of a crisis when it is necessary to cut costs, sack the Polish receptionist who speaks two world languages or the British worker who has only elementary education? The answer seems clear. But it is politically very sensitive.

The issue aroused public debate in Britain. In the middle of February, when data on the highest quarterly unemployment rate in the last 12 years were published (1.97 million, 6.3%), the independent Office for National Statistics published data on employees of other than British origin. These revealed that the number of employed immigrants has been growing, while the number of working Brits has been on the decline. United Nations was criticised that it was trying to embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his strategy “British jobs for British workers”. The PM objected that with 8% of working foreigners the United Kingdom is still doing better than other countries.

This does not change anything about the situation. The question “What to do with them?” has to be answered by the employers themselves. “If someone travelled to our country because of work, they got permit for temporary residency. They didn’t come to be superfluous. However, their labour contract does not have to be extended if necessary,” Phil Woolas, the minister of state for borders and immigration said.

In Ireland, where unemployment climbed to 9.2% in January, thousands of Poles have lost their jobs because of the fall in the construction sector. Many made it easier for the government – they did not ask for social benefits and left the island. The demand for cooks and barmen remains. At least among those who have not succumbed to the nationalist pressure.

Norway is looking for butchers, Spain for chambermaids

While in the past Czechs were mainly going to the UK, now they are heading for the Netherlands, Spain and northern Europe.

“Last year we were looking mainly for jobs in Great Britain, like home nurses for senior homes or employees for customer service, but now the demand has been shifting to northern Europe, Grafton Recruitment’s consultant Michaela Nováková said.

The Czechs are heading to the north mainly because of the prospect of higher earnings. Advertisements on Czech web sites lure drivers by the prospect of CZK 80,000 salaries. “We are looking for butchers for Norway, where they offer an equivalent of CZK 70,000 a month,” Manpower agency’s manager Jiří Halbrštát said. The social system in Scadinavia is also appealing to many. “They won’t give you a minimum wage only because you’re a foreigner, but you will get a salary that’s comparable with what the locals get,” Eures’ consultant Jana Fojtíková said. At the same time she points out that Scandinavian countries ask for at least a basic knowledge of Norwegian or Swedish. However, job opportunities in Norway are also on the decline. Statistics show that the number of vacancies in the industry sector fell by 67%, in construction by 57% year-on-year. The unemployment rate in the EU was 7.6% at the end of January, a 0.8% increase year-on-year. The unemployment rate rose most significantly in Spain and Lithuania. Unemployment has also been growing considerably in Germany. Demand for skilled workers continues, however. The Czech healthcare system has a good reputation abroad, and there has been a long-term high demand for anaesthesiologists and radiology assistants.

The lowest unemployment in the EU is in the Netherlands where the unemployment rate is at 2.8%. Czechs are interested in this country as it is relatively close and they can use their knowledge of English or German there. Qualified craftsmen are the most likely to find jobs in Holland. “Since the Netherlands loosened its labour market, and it is no longer necessary to have a labour permit, we’ve been also looking for applicants for administrative positions with knowledge of foreign languages,” Michaela Nováková said.

Many Czechs are still looking for jobs in the border areas. “The majority of our clients are people who have already worked in Austria or Germany, they were sacked and after a short time they started looking for a new job,” Fojtíková said.

IT female experts missing on the market

The European Commission estimates that in 2010 some 300,000 qualified technicians will be lacking in the information and communication technologies sector in the EU. Companies say the situation would improve if more women were involved in this sector. Consequently, five big companies have signed a codex aiming at arousing bigger interest in the sector of high-quality technologies among female high school and university students, as well as among women who are already working in the sector. The companies, which include, for example, Microsoft or Motorola, would open female laboratories and computer clubs where women could create web sites.

Places where Czechs are looking for work

Norway: Salaries are relatively high. Firms give equal opportunities to domestic and foreign workers. The state has a developed social system. Norway is interested, for example, in drivers and butchers.

Netherlands: The country is relatively close and has a low unemployment rate. Most people speak English or German. Demand is for locksmiths, welders, house painters and other skilled workers.

Spain: Despite the high unemployment rate, there is a big demand for seasonal workers in the tourist industry. An attractive place for young people.