"A friend I once lived with had a fever and couldn't go to work for three days. Our boss said 'Ukrainians do not have fevers'. That must mean that we are machines," a quote from 39 year old Ilja from Ukraine. Ilja is just one of the 50 or so non-EU Eastern Europeans who was interviewed by the Multicultural Centre in Prague as part of a study to determine how first generation immigrants, who have been living in the Czech Republic since the 1990s are faring on the Czech labour market.
"The main issue of our research was qualification. [In the Czech Republic] Qualification is not only determined by one's education, diploma, courses that have been taken, or language skills. It's rather determined by a combination of different features like age, gender, and also the country of origin - your ethnicity. If you are American, you are qualified for other types of work than if you are Russian or Ukrainian. Czechs do not have problems with qualified university degree Eastern Europeans holding low positions but if it were Americans, for example, it would be unimaginable for them."
"We had the 56 interviews and as we went through them, we found out that there were things that started to repeat themselves, there were certain patterns that showed us something about the position of certain groups, people of certain backgrounds, and in particular situations. In questions like how they got here to the Czech Republic, how they arranged their lives, how they brought their families here, we could see certain problems that arose and we would like to deal with the later on."
Could you name some of the problems that you found in the study?
"The issue of inviting grandparents to see grandchildren came up in a number of interviews. The difficulties they face when organising visas for the families that start to settle here."
Are some of the migrants from particular countries treated differently than people from other countries?
"When it comes to people from the east, I don't think there are any differences. Czech society labels these people as one group. Based on the information that we got from the interviews, Czech society sees them as one homogenous group and that outlook contributes to their situation on the labour market."
"You can also see very clearly that there are great differences, as far as qualifications are concerned, within a different kind of employer - a Czech employer, an ethnic employer, or an international corporation. For example, a manual worker from Ukraine who works at a car factory that is owned by an international corporation and actually has some previous experience from the automobile industry could advance if he has some knowledge of English and it wouldn't really matter that much what his knowledge of Czech is."
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