We’re seeing the biggest migration of nations since World War II, says ManpowerGroup boss

For the 22nd consecutive year, he heads the Czech branch of the American recruitment agency ManpowerGroup, which under his leadership has become the largest job broker in the Czech Republic. She is also president of the Association of Personal Services Providers, which she co-founded in 2002.

According to Jaroslava Rezlerová, the war in Ukraine and the associated wave of refugees have and will continue to have a major impact on the Czech labor market, which has been marked by a covid pandemic for the past two years. So what can we expect?

Your company in the Czech Republic normally organizes work for people from different countries, including Ukraine. How did the war affect this?

In March and April, several hundred candidates for employment in the Czech Republic were to come to us from Ukraine. And our Brno team, which prepares visas and organizes the administration, just sits on the phone and finds out where these people are. Not that we think they are coming, but we want to see if they need anything and offer help.

And what are you doing at the headquarters in Prague?

You know, a few days before the outbreak of war, I bought a big Ukrainian flag and hung it in the window of our office in Florentin. It was a very emotional day for all of us because we knew the conflict would break out. But then it really came up and it was just as shocking and I felt completely helpless.

At such a time, you urgently need to start doing something meaningful, so in a few days we launched a free helpline for Ukrainians in Ukrainian, which now serves about 50 people a day, and I expect that number to double within days. We also created and distributed flyers offering help and collecting within the company, all common things that any employer does now. Instead of employment services, we now provide, to some extent, simply humanitarian services…

When it comes to the core of your work, how do you coordinate connecting potential employers with quick job seekers?

Very soon after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, we started asking our customers what capabilities they would be able to offer. Many of them quickly prepared for the opportunity to employ Ukrainians, and we were surprised how quickly new positions began to appear. In one week, we collected about two hundred job offers, most of which are long-term.

What is the position?

Currently, this mainly concerns the fields of assembly and logistics, and most of them are light work suitable for women. At the same time, employers are aware that they are very often mothers with children, so they anticipate the need for flexible working hours.

So there are opportunities now, and we are still not entering areas where I see great potential for the future, such as health and social services or the gastronomy segment. Social protection is an important topic in the Czech Republic, because we are starting to lag further and further behind. The population is aging and we are not ready for it either in terms of capacity or quality workforce.

And the situation of the gastro segment?

It’s just as bad. During the pandemic, many people have left gastronomy, for example, for the already mentioned logistics, where they have stable income and working hours and do not want to return there. Or take the construction industry – you won’t find a single official agency employee there today…

You encounter a gray area. How to prevent job seekers from falling into it?

Already last week we were in APPS (Association of Personal Service Providers, note. writing) drew attention to the danger that various mafias and pseudo-agencies operate among asylum and job seekers, deceiving and abusing them. Getting the right information to people is absolutely essential. Fortunately, from our point of view, the ministry reacted quickly and well and began to send inspectors to the necessary places to properly inform the applicants.

Does APPS help anything else?

We are preparing a new beacon that would direct job seekers to solid contacts that will provide them with work under comparable conditions. Comparable conditions are an important concept in this case, people need to know what is the good hourly wage in the Czech Republic and what they have the right not to be exploited. And we are very sensitive to comparable conditions in the companies we work with.

Many qualified people also come from Ukraine, what is the market situation for them?

At the moment, a lot of attention is paid to the best way to help people with a specialization, because at least in the medium term, it would be good if they could apply their knowledge. However, the situation is not easy because the recognition of a diploma or a specialized internship is a rather long and complicated process. Although, on the other hand, I know that its simplification is actively pursued.

And one more important thing, let’s say – it’s important for us here to fully realize that the people who come to us are from a country that has the same access to education as we do, so it’s a total mistake to see as cheap labor .force. It is simply not true.

How many people affected by the war in the Czech Republic are looking or will be looking for work?

There are now about 250,000 Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic, and about 180,000 of them are registered. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said this week that at least 100,000 to 200,000 more people were expected to arrive, and according to our estimates, we could expect a total of half a million refugees.

Of course, our ambition is to find work for as many people as possible through us. However, the situation is already complicated by insufficient accommodation capacity. All hostels we are in contact with have become completely full in the last ten days. This is a completely new situation.

ManpowerGroup also has branches in Ukraine and Russia. Are you collaborating with them at the moment?

These branches are under the direct care of our global management, which has been helping local employees to leave – I know this has been handled very intensively. There are several dozen people in each country. However, we helped our contacts in Ukraine, sent financial aid and organized their transfer to the Czech Republic.

So far people are fleeing Ukraine to save themselves and economically they are not so determined where they are going. But ultimately, do we have something to offer them in the Czech Republic to make them want to stay here?

I don’t think there will be massive relocations to Western countries like Germany. People are more likely to stay in countries close to them where there is a community of safety nets. And language is a big hurdle – why would you go somewhere where you don’t know anyone and can’t speak when you don’t necessarily have to? Just for the money? Rather, these will be individual cases.

How do you think the labor market in the Czech Republic will continue to develop?

I am quite sure that in the medium term, that is to say around six months, there will be major and rapid transformations in the labor market. Let’s not forget that the covid crisis continues to abate, supply chains are disrupted… and that’s where the war in Ukraine came in.

As a result, I expect a significant transfer of people between areas, but further changes are difficult to predict due to the current situation. However, by the end of the year at the latest, I think we will have a clear idea where we are going.

You say we are handling the situation well so far, but the initial enthusiasm to help people is slowly starting to wane. What do you think we will need now to maintain the situation?

Perseverance and longevity in what we do. Pathos gradually decreases and pragmatism increases, which makes sense. Most of those who had to flee, of course, hope that when this terrible situation is over, they will return home. But I fear that this idea is reaching strict limits. Ukraine is already devastated in many places and its recovery will take time.

With normal migration waves, about two-thirds of migrants stay in the countries they came from. In the current situation, it is expected to be half or more. We are witnessing the greatest migration of nations since World War II, a totally unprecedented situation caused by senseless and cruel aggression. I think this is all just the beginning and we have tough times ahead of us.

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