The website for critical discussion about migration in Central and Eastern Europe.

Publication Foreign workers in the labour market in the Czech Republic and in selected EU countries - a comparative study

The quite comprehensive publication Foreign workers in the labour market in the Czech Republic and in selected EU countries - a comparative study posed a seemingly simple question while examining the migration policies of the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Great Britain. Namely, what should the migration policy, that takes into account the actual needs of the labour market while ensuring fair and non-discriminatory treatment of all, including foreign workers, be? Within this framework the study focuses using multiple perspectives on the extent to which European countries are able to implement a policy of migration control; how the policies for the entry and stay of foreign workers are defined, and what residence and social rights are granted to migrants.

The first chapter, which explains the background of the analysis and the current overall situation of migration in the EU, and the second chapter, which introduces the classification of labour migration and goes over the major issues of migration control policy in relation to the labour market, in particular allow better understanding of the publication to readers who are not very familiar with the topic of migration. The third chapter offers a brief overview of the migration policy settings in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and the UK, including basic migration trends and contemporary migration statistics. A thorough study of the basic features of the examined migration policies (or a short recap of this chapter) will help readers to follow the significantly more complex parts of the publication. It is not unusual that this chapter also highlights the fact that much of the commonly presented statistical data on migration tends to compare incomparable data due to different definitions of the term migrant. Chapter four deals with the admission of migrant workers into the compared countries and their labour markets. A mere flipping through this chapter would finally convince the reader that what seemed quite clear from the previous chapter, is, in fact, much more complicated and the setting of the conditions of labour migration is not easy in any of the studied countries. I dare say, however, that an attentive reading of this chapter will captivate those who are interested in migration issues, and to such an extent that they would scroll back and forth to compare the differences in policies in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. The authors wisely kept the case of the UK until the end of the chapter, since its policies in the field of foreign employment, so to say, stand out. The UK's example, however, shows in a quite refreshing way (though not entirely easy one) that migration policy can be conceived of quite differently. Chapter five then deals with the stay of migrant workers and freedom of movement in the labour market, describes the social rights of foreign workers in the countries surveyed, and brings about the rights to obtain permanent residence and citizenship. Without exaggeration it can be said that this part is what makes the publication so valuable, especially if one considers that the present text provides a deep and holistic overview of topics which are not usually easily found, especially in the form of a comparison among countries. The case of the UK again presents a quite varied approach. A comprehensive overview of a distinct British social system also deserves special recognition.

In the concluding chapter, the publication notes two basic common features / objectives pursued in migration policies: the preference of qualified (or possibly wealthy) migrants and the tendency to grant low-skilled migrants fewer rights (in the questions of residence, social security and social assistance). Let the readers explore themselves how the Czech Republic is doing in these areas. The publication subsequently explicitly encourages readers to explore what stands behind the objectives of migration policy and whether these objectives should be considered desirable. The following considerations point out that this kind of discourse about labour migration ignores the objectives of integration in a society, or the legitimacy of actions of governments towards migrants. However, the authors themselves quite realistically, or perhaps with some degree of hopelessness, admit that the reversal of the current discourse against migrant workers is not expected. The Czech Republic, however, is encouraged not to hesitate and be an attractive country for at least those migrants who are desired (skilled and wealthy).

Therefore, the publication offers so many views on migration issues that a very wide range of readers can find something that appeals to them. For some it includes valuable insight into labour migration issues, others will appreciate the discussion of current main issues around labour migration, and perhaps all readers, especially those who respond mainly to the hard facts, will appreciate the detailed processing of chapters four and five. The study, thus, allows readers to critically distance themselves from specific migration policies, and, in the context of a detailed examination of Czech, German, Austrian and British situations, create their own opinions of what these individual countries consider functional and satisfactory in migration policy.

In conclusion, it can be acknowledged that despite the fact that sometimes in the study a reader would feel the tendency to balance out securitized and repressive thinking about migration (which the authors come across in their work on daily basis) with another, in particular human rights based approach, the authors were able to describe the labour migration policies of the four countries with great precision and detail. The end of the publication is perhaps a bit deprived of a more specific description of a functional model of labour migration suggested by the authors. However, due to the fact that this is already a fifth extensive publication of this team of authors, specific suggestions and answers to some questions, perhaps, will not be far off.


The text was written under the project called "Foreign workers in the labour market," which was carried out by the Association for Integration and Migration, in cooperation with the Organization for Aid to Refugees and the Multicultural Center Prague. International project partners are Caritasverband für die Diezöse Osnabrück from Germany and the Anti-Slavery International from Great Britain.

Marie Jelínková


PhDr. Marie Jelínková Ph.D., works as a researcher at the Center for Social and Economic Strategies of the Faculty of Social Sciences in Prague and externally lectures on international migration at the same faculty. In her research she focuses on the issues of migration and integration of people with migration background, she has focused in detail on the situation of persons without a residence permit, access of migrants to health care or labor exploitation. She defended her dissertation thesis on the issue of Mongol migration to the Czech Republic. She studied at FSV UK and at the University of Queensland. In the past, she has also worked as editor of the migraceonline.cz portal.

29. 9. 14

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