Czechs still dislike foreign workers

Support for hiring foreigners lacks a majority, especially in depressed areas

Just under half of Czechs agree with the idea of employing foreigners in the country, and two-fifths oppose it, according to a recent poll.

The results come even though many firms are struggling to fill positions, and the number open job spots threatens to slow down economic growth.

The poll by agency CVVM was conducted in early March with 1,096 Czech respondents over the age of 15.

Only 8 percent of respondents strongly agreed with employing foreigners, with another 41 percent moderately agreeing, for a total of 49 percent.

On the other hand, 11 percent strongly disagreed with employing foreigners, and 30 percent moderately disagreed, totaling 41 percent. Some 10 percent had no opinion.

This is still a better result than when the question was asked in March 2016, when 34 percent in total favored hiring foreigners and 57 percent opposed it.

Support for hiring foreigners was as high as 68 percent in March 2008, with 25 percent opposing.

On subsequent questions, 67 percent strongly or moderately agreed that employment of foreigners should be reduced in areas with high unemployment, with 24 percent disagreeing.

Some 65 percent felt inexpensive foreign labor threatens the current employment of Czech citizens, with 29 percent disagreeing.

Slightly fewer, 61 percent agreed that foreigners should only be employed in professions that are not of interest to Czech citizens. Some 33 percent disagreed.

The percent of people agreeing with those three questions was higher in the past though, in surveys going back to 2003, and is now at it lowest level.

Some 61 percent felt that citizens from other European Union countries should get preference in hiring, while 31 percent disagreed. In March 2003, before the Czech Republic joined the EU, only 29 percent agreed.

“The most significant change was in the case of the statement that cheap labor threatens the current employment of Czech citizens, where agreement decreased and disagreement rose by 11 percentage points [from March 2016]. This change is probably related to the currently very low unemployment rate in the Czech Republic. The current share of agreement is the lowest for the whole period under review,” the survey summary stated.

The Czech Statistical Office on April 1 said the general unemployment rate for people aged 15–64 years, seasonally adjusted, reached 2.0 percent in February 2019 and decreased by 0.4 percentage points, year-on-year. The male unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted,attained 1.8 percent and the female unemployment rate reached 2.2 percent.

The EU’s statistical branch Eurostat uses similar methodology but for the age group 15–74 years. In the Czech Republic, they reported the general unemployment rate in February 2019 as 1.9 percent, the lowest in the EU. Overall, the EU 28 had an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent, the lowest since the start of the EU monthly unemployment series in January 2000. The highest rates, over 10 percent, were in Italy, Spain and Greece.

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