Czech companies tend to employ refugees from Ukraine mainly in low-skilled positions, such as warehouse worker, machine operator and auxiliary worker, research by experts at the SYRI National Institute shows. The main obstacle to Ukrainian refugees getting more highly skilled and better paid positions is their limited knowledge of Czech. Moreover, companies in the Czech Republic are concerned about the possible return of the refugees to Ukraine. Job applications from Czech citizens are preferred to applications from Ukrainian refugees also due to the fact that Czechs have qualifications required in the Czech Republic. SYRI researchers collected data in a questionnaire survey conducted in six waves between April and September 2022.
“The most significant barrier to employment of refugees is their knowledge of Czech,” says Štěpán Mikula of the SYRI research group focused on the labour market. “This obstacle is greater with more highly skilled occupations. Companies are also concerned about the possible return of Ukrainians to their country. More highly skilled positions logically require greater investment in skills training, which would be completely wasted were the employees to leave the Czech Republic.” A possible return to Ukraine becomes a risk factor which, unlike easily verifiable language skills, cannot be influenced or tested by employers when they are hiring refugees.
Czechs also have an advantage over Ukrainians when applying for positions that require higher qualifications. For foreigners, the process of qualification recognition has long been problematic because it lacks transparency, requires excessive paperwork, and is very time-consuming. Lex Ukraine, a package of government bills that entered into force in March, has eased requirements in this regard, albeit only for some professions; most refugees still fail to meet the standard requirements, not least as many lack the relevant documents and have no way of acquiring them.
“In some segments of the Czech labour market there is still a shortage of workers. Therefore, it would be good to clarify the status of Ukrainian refugees currently provided with temporary protection,” Mikula explains. “The rules should show a clear path by which permanent residence status can be obtained. This would allow workers to maintain their current status in the labour market, motivate refugees to invest in their integration into Czech society, and so reduce the risk of their returning to Ukraine.” Researchers also recommend increasing the availability of language courses. Poor knowledge of Czech is most frequently mentioned by companies as a major obstacle, and adequate knowledge of the language is crucial for successful social integration.
The SYRI research was conducted in six waves between April and September, using a sample of 621 companies that were potential employers of Ukrainians. Among other things, the study indicates that companies understand changes to the employment of refugees as established by Lex Ukraine. Employers consider the new legal norm easier to meet than the standard procedure for employment of foreigners. However, the study shows that during the research period the proportion of Ukrainian refugees among applicants for employment in low-skilled positions remained unchanged, at around 11%. Another important finding of the study is that over 60% of companies are willing to accept employer testing as sufficient proof of qualification when hiring for more skilled positions.