Shortage of professional & labor skills being felt in Eastern Europe
11 June 2007
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Eastern European nations who have recently joined the European Union have seen enormous growth in emigration of their citizens to other countries. Economic growth coupled with low mobility of the remaining labor force has exacerbated a growing shortage of qualified skilled labor to perform needed local work. Companies are finding it more and more difficult to find qualified workers and, in some cases, wages have increased by up to 50% during the last year.
Foreign investment has also contributed to the growing economies of the post-communist nations. Former communist countries in central Europe saw a total of €32.5 billion in direct foreign investment during 2006. At the same time, workers from such countries as Poland and Romania are lured to western European nations in search of higher wages.
These emigrants often have very good qualifications, causing a serious "brain drain" for the region. However, it's also difficult to find good repairmen, construction workers, and other vital skills in "New Europe" these days. Many employers are forced to look further east for workers.
Construction companies in Poland are looking to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and to China for workers. Developers in Romania's Transylvania region feel the construction boom is being held back by a lack of needed labor.
"We are planning more projects in the future," said Jacek Bazan, a spokesman for the company in an article for the Financial Times. "If we want to build we will have to find more foreign workers, whether from China or from the former Soviet Union."
While unemployment is high in the east, many are unwilling to relocate for work or lack marketable skills, especially those over 50 ... a significant portion of the population.
In countries such as Hungary, the culture lends itself to a general unwillingness to relocate.
"Based on our experience, Hungarian labor is not flexible enough, and many people refuse opportunities because they are unwilling to make the commute or to move abroad temporarily," said Edina Sinka, branch manager for Randstad Hungary, a consultancy firm.
Economists feel that growth in the region has been buoyed by investment lured by low wages. But they worry that if the continued crunch for skilled workers keeps wages on the rise and outpace profitability, Eastern Europe could lose its appeal.
Recruitment agencies have noted a lack of English language knowledge among would-be employees, surprisingly a deficiency being reported in new graduates. Professionals in the Central Eastern European region rarely speak each other's language, and English is therefore a must from all sides.
Opportunities exist for professionals at English-speaking firms, but that qualification has been disappointingly rare, according some agencies.
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