A new survey released by the STEM polling agency suggests that Czechs, in troubled economic times, largely blame foreigners for the loss of jobs. According to the poll, two-thirds stated there were ‘too many foreigners in the country’ (there are an estimated 438,000) while 45 percent said they were against foreigners being hired. Are jobs actually at threat or is the sentiment xenophobia plain and simple?
“Whenever there are difficulties on the labour market as is the case in the current Czech Republic the opinion here – like in every country - usually goes against foreign workers who work in jobs which could potentially be provided to Czechs.”
Is it not the case, though, that these are jobs that Czechs either wouldn’t want to do in the first place or wouldn’t do for the salary offered?
“This is the general opinion and I more or less share that view but unfortunately there is very little empirical evidence. That is quite poor and so what we have is largely anecdotal evidence. It’s a fact that the largest numbers of foreigners in the Czech Republic are from Ukraine and many are involved either in construction or in cleaning services while women are in the service industry such as shop sales.
“On the other hand, the third-largest group are Slovaks who have no language barrier and are employed here, taking more-or-less the same salaries as Czechs.”
The union head Jaroslav Zavadil told Novinky.cz that in his view the results of the poll were logical given the situation on the labour market, the difference in what foreigners get paid. Do you think that corruption or perceived corruption is another aspect because when you look at a field like construction there is the general impression that a lot of money isn’t being declared and so on.
“There is definitely a kind of shadow or black market where people are not paid officially but are paid directly in cash so that the money is never taxed and these people also don’t get regular insurance. This is widespread especially in industries like construction and the restaurant business where there are foreigners in larger numbers.”
The knee-jerk reaction, as we saw in the poll, is to ‘blame’ foreigners – shouldn’t that instead be focussed on calling for a stronger regulation of the labour market?
“Definitely there should be regulation but it is difficult. Monitoring is complicated and you’d have to watch all employers all the time. The government tried to introduce several restrictions which at the same time burdened employers – even those who follow the rules. So, at this moment the pros and cons of these measures are being debated again by the government but it doesn’t appear to be strong enough to take further steps.”
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