There were not enough skilled workers in the Czech Republic.
Many businesses report that the labor shortages that blighted the Czech economy before the pandemic are already an issue again. Joblessness at the end of the first quarter stood at just 3.2%, the second-lowest in the EU after neighbouring Poland.
Despite the import of hundreds of thousands of workers from Ukraine and other selected source markets, the lack of factory hands, builders and drivers — as well as more skilled workers — had become a major brake on economic growth.
A dearth of foreign workers is an issue for other sectors. The supply of Ukrainians and other nationalities invited to Czechia under government visa schemes dried up during the pandemic as embassies and borders closed and those already in the country began to wend their way home. Construction has been particularly hard-hit. Further up the skills ladder, the IT sector's heavy reliance on foreign workers meant that before the pandemic it could take up to two years to fill vacancies. Whether those foreign workers will soon start making their way back to Czechia is not yet clear. Border restrictions and limited transport links persist, while the government is only now discussing restarting its visa easing schemes.
One study by the Mendel University in Brno released in May called for politicians to stop offering the view that immigration is a security threat and instead explain that the country needs a long-term strategy to attract foreign workers. The rhetoric since the migrant crisis of 2015 "actually went hand in hand with the admission of a large number of migrants in the industries that required it," the researchers noted with irony. However, the likelihood that the long-term needs of the economy can push ahead of politics just four months ahead of national elections in October is slim.
Although not Czech-born, Prime Minister Andrej Babis was not shy of using anti-migrant rhetoric to help win the last election in 2017. Now, with his ANO party trailing in polls, the populist billionaire is already beating a similar drum, warning voters that his opponents want to force them to share their houses with migrants.