Czech workers saving German and Austrian labour markets

Post-crisis joblessness in Austria and Germany
“We have hundreds of vacancies.” “In winter, we need more than 2,000 workers.” These and other phrases, as incredible as they might seem in the times of the post-crisis joblessness in the West, were heard at the German-Czech job fair that took place in the second week of October 2010 in Karlovy Vary, Western Bohemia.

It seems that the restriction of the German job market for Czechs, which is to expire in May 2011, was counter-productive.

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There were almost 40 hotel and gastronomy firms from Germany and Austria, looking for workers.

Some of them had said before the fair that the restriction for Czech job-seekers is not binding for them, and that they would hire Czechs for this winter season. They had claimed to have enough evidence of not being able to find workers in Germany or Austria.

German language a necessity

“The Salzburg region misses as much as 2,500 workers in winter season. Czechs who sign up will need a work permit, but they will get it without any complications. The condition is that they speak German well,” Brigitte Gruber from the job office in Bischofshofen said.

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The knowledge of German, at least on the basic communicative level, was important for all exhibitors. “The employee must understand the task he is given. In addition, even a chambermaid has to communicate with hotel guests sometimes,” they said.

“I came to Germany four years ago with almost zero knowledge of German,” a 30-year-old Czech disagreed. Now he works as a cook in Austria and is very happy with the conditions he has. He works 8 hours a day, and he claims to have learned to speak German perfectly.

However, the exhibitors were strict in demanding at least some knowledge of the language. “We haven’t found as many suitable candidates as we expected. It will be harder than we thought,” said a representative of Europa Park, one of the largest theme parks in Germany.

Vocational schools

German vocational schools employ a so-called “dual system” – students do not enroll at a school, but directly into a firm whose trade they would like to learn.

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“For three years, they alternate between one week of theoretical education in their vocational school and three weeks of work at our firm,” said a representative of the Richter butchery from Oederan.

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Richter tried to attract young Czechs interested in vocational studies, running across several problems. Above all, only few young Czechs who have just finished their primary education speak German on a level that would enable them to study in Germany. The other problem is that Czech vocational schools struggle with decreasing interest in vocational study among young Czechs.

Read more: Lost Generation: Young Czechs hit by unemployment

Read more: 2010: Czechs at the same level as East Germans in 1990

Read more: Economic recovery: Czech Rep lags behind Germany

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