Employers question bill tightening restrictions on foreigners

Czech MPs have just passed a bill aimed at tightening conditions for foreigners and curbing economic migration. The government argues that the new rules are necessary for security reasons. But employers are struggling to fill positions and fear the legislation may make things worse.

Illustrative photo: Ondřej TomšůIllustrative photo: Ondřej Tomšů The Chamber of Deputies has passed an amendment adding stricter conditions to the law on foreigners.

If Senators also approve the bill, employers will be barred from taking on foreigners from outside the EU if the firms get into debt, fail to pay social insurance or are found guilty of making illegal hires.

The legislation also targets so-called hidden agencies, which hire foreign workers without Office of Labour approval.

In addition, foreigners who apply for residence will see that procedure halted if they provide false information or documents. Prior criminal conviction may also be taken into account.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec welcomed Friday’s vote.

“The bill responds to the migration crisis. It responds to the state security audit, so we’re satisfied. So the law helps the Czech Republic. It is not a restriction. It is not aimed at hounding out foreigners. It is an effort to establish clear rules which apply to everybody.”

But not everybody approves of the move. Radek Špicar is a deputy president of the Czech Confederation of Industry.

“We are concerned about the new legislation, mainly because it could make hiring foreign workers even more difficult than it used to be before. The reason we are so concerned is the current situation on the labour market. Because at the moment the Czech Republic’s labour market is completely exhausted. It’s very difficult for employers to hire new people, both low skilled workers and highly skilled experts.”

Speaking in Monday’s edition of Hospodářské noviny, Czech National Bank governor Jiří Rusnok suggested the restrictions would be a brake on the economy, arguing that it would do no harm if the government were to allow in 100,000 Ukrainians.

Radek Špicar, photo: Jakub WojtovičRadek Špicar, photo: Jakub Wojtovič Radek Špicar welcomes a current fast-track programme for Ukrainians that the Czech Confederation of Industry supported. It allows for 10,000 workers – but that figure is not enough, Špicar says.

“We will be trying to persuade the government to expand this programme. First of all to include more people from Ukraine. And also highly skilled experts, because at the moment if you want to hire a coder or web developer, you would have big problems in the Czech Republic. So we need highly skilled experts from abroad as well. And we will also ask the government to expand this programme to countries like Belarus, for example.”

Meanwhile, unemployment figures released on Monday underlined employers’ concerns. The Czech Republic’s jobless rate has fallen to 4.8 percent and is expected to keep declining until at least the summer.