PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government is aiming to make it easier for firms to bring in foreign workers to fill a labor shortage that industry leaders warn is becoming a barrier to growth, the industry minister told Reuters.
The Czech economy has been growing while unemployment has dropped to the lowest level in seven years, prompting businesses to complain they cannot fill skilled or even unskilled positions.
The main association for the car sector, a major exporter, warned on Thursday that it needed tens of thousands more workers.
Industry Minister Jan Mladek said the growing labor shortage, especially for skilled positions, is becoming a risk.
“We have growing employment, that is the great news. The bad news is that many of the positions are low qualified and not sustainable long term,” he told the Reuters Eastern Europe Investment Summit on Friday.
He said the ministry was working on expanding a program to make it easier to attract skilled workers in IT, engineering and also doctors from other countries.
A plan has opened for 500 Ukrainians. Mladek said officials are now discussing how it can expand.
He said in an interview that the scheme could grow and eventually attract people from other countries of the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia, whose languages were similar to Czech, assisting their integration.
Czech unemployment is among the lowest in the EU, just behind Germany. In April, the jobless rate was 5.7 percent while job vacancies were up almost 50 percent to 124,000.
The economy grew 4.3 percent in 2015 to post one of the European Union’s fastest growth rates as a record influx of the bloc’s development funds gave it an extra boost. While growth is likely to slow this year closer to 2 percent, it is seen picking up again later.
First-quarter gross domestic product growth slowed to 3.0 percent on an annual basis, statistics office data showed on Friday.
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Reporting by Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Ruth Pitchford