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Dedicated workforce or illegal minority? Challenges of the Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic

Dedicated workforce or illegal minority? Challenges of the Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic
Author: Eliska Studena
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Abstract: This discussion paper is evaluating the current situation of the migrants working in the Czech Republic, with focus on the Ukrainian minority, as they are the largest migrant labour in the country. The paper will further discuss and evaluate the employability of this minority in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Keywords: Migrants, Labour, Tourism, Czech Republic, Ukrainians

While the numbers of migrants working in the tourism and hospitality are very high and still growing, especially due to the globalization. The exact numbers are difficult to estimate as many of the migrant workers are working illegally, however the numbers are believed to be around 105 million migrant workers worldwide. The migrant labour is often preferred among the tourism and hospitality industries, as they are often used for entry level positions, which tend to be seen as unattractive for the local employees. The seasonality and common labour shortages in the tourism and hospitality industry also lead to the necessity to employ more migrants (Drbohlav and Valenta, 2014). Even though this seems to be the usual pattern of this industry, the Czech Republic migrant situation in the hospitality and tourism industry seems to be different (Drbohlav and Dzúrová, 2017)

Czech Republic is a country which experienced a significant change of its migration over the past 30 years. The communist regime in the country, lead to a large emigration wave of the Czech people to western countries, such as Germany, USA and the UK. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 the situation changed, as many people started to immigrate to Czech Republic from Eastern European and Asian countries (Drobohlav and Valenta, 2014). During the communist era the country was not allowed to take any immigrants besides the workers from USSR and Vietnam, to this day there are still very large minorities of these nationalities living in Czech Republic. The most significant immigrant groups include Slovaks, Ukrainians, Vietnamese, Russians and Poles (Drbohlav and Valenta, 2014), though the largest amounts of migrant workers are coming from Ukraine (Leontiyeva, 2016).

The Ukrainian minority is quite controversial as there are many challenges and problems tied with this particular migrant group. According to Leontiyeva, 2016 the numbers of Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic are increasing rapidly. This minority have grown from 10,000 to 100,000 Ukrainian immigrants in the past 20 years. Most of these migrant workers seem to be showing very similar behavioural patterns. Ukrainians are usually based in the secondary labour market, and 81% of them have unskilled or low skilled job positions (Leontiyeva, 2016). Accordingly, the most common work sectors where is the Ukrainian labour based include building and construction, housekeeping and agriculture. Nevertheless, this seems to be slowly changing, while some of the Ukrainians are able to get hired by retail, hospitality or sometimes healthcare companies (Leontiyeva, 2016). Following the similar behavioural patterns, about 80% of the Ukrainian immigrants are only coming to Czech Republic for better job opportunities and are planning on returning to their home country in the future. From the economic perspective of Czech Republic, this could be one of the issues with this minority, as the migrant workers send most of their income to their families living in Ukraine and often even travel to invest their earnings there. While the money is constantly being spend outside the country, this behaviour might become inconvenient for the Czech economy (Leontiyeva, 2016).

Another issue of the Ukrainian minority might be the fact, that they are quite infamous amongst the Czech people for their illegality of stay, or illegal labour. Although, the numbers of Ukrainians who come to Czech Republic without valid documents is actually really low, they tend to often become illegal over time. This can be often caused by very strict and rigid Czech immigration policy, which is even stricter towards the third-country nationals, such as Ukrainians (Drbohlav and Dzúrová, 2017). This issue is also tied with another challenge of the Ukrainian migrant labour, the discrimination. Besides commonly getting only the entry level position, which are also classified as the lowest paying jobs, the migrant workers are more prone to experiencing abuse and discrimination in their workplace, than the Czech employees. The migrant labour is often expected to work harder and for less money than other workers. Moreover, the migrants, especially women, are more likely to experience bullying, harassment, abuse, violence, or sexual harassment in their workplace (Drbohlav and Valenta, 2014).

The last of the most important challenges of this minority, and one of the possible reasons for working mostly on entry level positions, would be the language barrier. Most of the Ukrainian migrants are unable to speak English, Czech or any other foreign language, which is a significant problem when working in higher paid jobs, as communication is vital there. Consequently, it is not very common for the Ukrainians in Czech Republic to work in industries such as hospitality and tourism. However, this is currently becoming to change, as more well educated Ukrainian migrants with appropriate language skills are coming to Czech Republic (Leontiyeva, 2016). Thus, there might be notably more Ukrainians employed in the hospitality and tourism industry in the near future.


Drbohlav, D. and Dzúrová, D. (2017) Social Hazards as Manifested Workplace Discrimination and Health (Vietnamese and Ukrainian Female and Male Migrants in Czechia). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(10), 1207

Drbohlav, D. and Valenta, O. (2014) Czechia: The main immigration country in the V4. In: Eross, A. and Karácsonyi, D. (eds.) Discovering Migration between Visegrad Countries and Eastern Partners. Budapest, Hungary:
Geographical Institute, 41-71.

Leontiyeva Y. (2016) Ukrainians in the Czech Republic: On the Pathway from Temporary Foreign Workers to One of the Largest Minority Groups. In: Fedyuk O., Kindler M. (eds) Ukrainian Migration to the European Union. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 133-150.