The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry has launched a project aimed at attracting foreign workers to the Czech Republic on a permanent basis. Foreigners who wish to settle here with their families should - in theory - find it easier to do so. A country with an aging population and a declining birth rate needs new blood - and the government is taking steps to ease the way.
If the unfavourable demographic trend continues, in thirty years' time the Czech Republic will lack a total of 420,000 skilled labourers. This has led the government to finance a project which would enable promising candidates for employment to settle down in this country and acquire permanent residence papers within two and a half years - a process that would otherwise take more or less a decade to complete.
In the first phase of this project the ministry wants to focus on foreigners already working in the Czech Republic from three selected countries: Bulgaria, Croatia and Kazachstan. As of this Monday they can fill in the respective application forms at the Labour Ministry. Czech embassies in these three countries will collect application forms as of September 1st. In its second phase, presumably after 12 months other foreign nationals will be able to apply as well.
Candidates will be expected to find employment, accommodation and cover their own travel expenditures to the Czech Republic. Such a degree of independence will serve as proof that the candidates are promising and will not end up on social support after a few weeks in the country. Successful candidates will be selected by computer, after having been graded for language skills, experience and so on. Families with one to three children, where both partners have at least a secondary school education, and an interest in residing here permanently are particularly welcome.
Lucie Sladkova is head of the Czech branch of the International Office for Migration, which is securing an essential part of the project.
"We were asked by the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to take charge of an information campaign in the Czech Republic to inform all the foreigners already residing here about the possibility to enter the procedures, about the respective criteria and also to prepare Czech society for the possibility of a larger number of migrants coming to the Czech Republic."
Do you think that will be hard to do?
"I would say that people need information. They need to know that these foreigners are going to pay taxes, are going to stay here, raise children here. So I would say that if they get more information they will be quite open."
How are you going to do that - through what channels?
"Well, my coordinators are now working on media coverage for this project. They are analyzing the current situation on the grounds of different sources and then we are going to prepare round tables, expert debates on TV, we're going to talk a lot about that."
You've been involved in similar projects - in New Zealand and Australia - so you know what the snags are. What are the main problems that we can expect - on both sides?
"The first moment is very difficult for the foreigner and for the country. The very beginning is the most problematic time. What can I bring with me? Is the country prepared? Is there really a job for me? Is it a job that cannot be taken by somebody from the country? That is the critical point and we would like to facilitate this."
For more information on the project please contact the press department of the International Organization for Migration tel: +420 2333 70 160, mob. +420 603 518 855.
Application forms can be filled in at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs ie. at Vysehradska street 43, Prague 2
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