The Czech Republic in desperate search of manpower

When you visit the production lines of Alcaplast, the Czech leader in sanitary ware and bathroom kits, located in Breclav, in the south-east of the country, you are struck by the scarcity of workers who are active. “We have more machines than employees. They work non-stop and without the need for rest ”, welcomes Frantisek Fabicovic, the CEO of this family business employing 850 people, whom he has co-managed with his wife since its founding in 1998. On this Monday, September 27, they are only a few to package PVC pipes, while that technicians watch the ballet of the impressive machines which model in rhythm flushes of water and amounts of shower.

“It is very difficult to find a qualified operator in Breclav”, explains the boss, especially since the headquarters of his company is hung on the Austrian border, where wages are still much better than in the Czech Republic. His growing company has a plethora of job vacancies on its website. “As it takes up to six months before finding good operators and we plan to open a new production line, we are already recruiting”, emphasizes Mr. Fabicovic. He crosses his fingers: “So far, we have been able to maintain production, even during the pandemic. “

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While all of post-Covid Europe is overheating, the Czech economy is booming. The central European country posted an unemployment rate of 2.7% in July, the lowest in the entire European Union (EU). According to the local employment center, more than 360,000 jobs are vacant, which is even more than in France, yet six times more populated than this nation of barely 10.7 million inhabitants. “It’s simple: the lack of manpower is the number one problem in the Czech economy. We must refuse contracts, because we cannot produce or meet the deadlines ”, summarizes Radek Spicar, vice-president of the Confederation of Czech Industrialists.

So if Mr. Fabicovic praises the mechanization of his factories, he now does like many of his counterparts: look for immigrants. “With us, they represent around 10% of the unskilled workforce. We have a lot of Slovaks, but also Hungarians and Ukrainians. The pandemic has further accelerated this trend, when many of our employees have taken a standstill. “ In front of the factory, two large dormitories were built to accommodate these arms coming from ever further to the East. Pampered for their ease of employment, European citizens have long since not been sufficient to meet the needs of Alcaplast, like those of the entire Czech economy.

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