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22 August 2019

The battle for high skilled workers is all over Europe (from east to west)

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Déhora – The Czech Republic is one of the least risky countries, ranking 19th out of 164 countries in the Global Economic Risk Evaluation by Oxford Economics. Currently the country has to deal with one major thread to its economic performance: the current shortage of workers.

According to Robert Ruhl*, founder of Next Markets Advisory, “the shortage of workers reduces GDP growth.”

The number of Job vacancies has continued to rise at the beginning of this year to 6% of all jobs, meaning that the labour market remains extremely tight. Tight labour conditions are the result of a rapidly growing economy and a negative demographic development. The Czech Republic is no exception in the region. All Central and Eastern European countries must deal with a decreasing working age population, migration of young people to other EU countries, and an increase in demand for workers.

But the situation in the Czech Republic can be called extreme since the number of unfilled jobs was 309.330 at the end of 2019 Q1.(6% of the total of jobs), while in Poland, with a working age population of 3,5 times the number of Czech Republic, that number was 139.193 (1,4%). Although GDP growth is expected to slow down this year, it will not solve the problem.


“What can companies do, confronted with this shortage of workers?”

According to Robert Ruhl, of Next Markets Advisory, companies are reacting by

  • Boosting wages in order to keep their workers or to attract workers from outside. Annual wage increases of over 7% a year are no exception. Even considering the higher purchase power of each US dollar earned in Czech Republic compared with Germany, it will take at least 30 years to have the same wages in the Czech Republic as in Germany.
  • At the same time corporations invest more in robots to keep productivity growing fast. Especially in the automotive industry robot automation is implemented rapidly. The number of installed industrial robots per 10.000 employees in the manufacturing industry amounts to 119 in the Czech Republic according to the International Federation of Robotics. In Germany this number is 322 while Poland has only 32 robots installed.
  • More robots require less machine operators but asks for workers that are highly (technically) educated. Unfortunately, already one of each 8th job in the professional, scientific and technical sector cannot be fulfilled in the Czech Republic. The battle for high skilled workers therefor is all over Europe now, from East to West.
  • Corporates, government and universities must closely cooperate to stimulate education for the highly wanted jobs in the Czech Republic. The government could offer Incentives for Czech experts abroad to return to their home country. The Brexit may help a bit, but it certainly is not the solution.
  • Corporates can boost productivity growth by improving staff planning and schedule employees more according to their wishes, as was made clear in a nationwide survey carried out by Déhora in the Czech Republic “

“What can Czech companies do to keep their employees happy other than just increase their wages?”

Czech shift workers would like to plan shifts according to their needs

Bad shift planning can have a negative impact on family and social life, as well as health. How are employees in the Czech Republic coping with shifts, what would they want to change and what would suit them?

Déhora conducted a nationwide survey to find answers to those questions.

May 29, 2019 - More than a quarter of employees works in shifts in the Czech Republic. Shift work is mostly found in the production sector, where 31% of employees work in schedules. Shift work is not very popular, and it is hard keep on doing it for a long time. According to the Déhora’s survey, only 18% of shift workers has been able to do so for more than 20 years. More than a third of employees (36%) has ended shift work within the first five years. One of the reasons may be poor scheduling by the employer, with a negative impact on physical and mental health, as well as the private life of employees.

What is it that employees dislike about their work in shifts?

The results of the survey show that what employees dislike most about shift work, is how it affects their work-life balance. A third of employees has difficulties with aligning work time with obligations in their private lives. People older than 36 years old (35%) suffer the most from these problems. This was to be expected. Most people around this age already have families with children and need to combine their work with school, clubs and home care related tasks. Also night shifts are a burden. 26% Of respondents answered that this was their biggest problem. This may be due to the fact that after night shifts workers suffer from sustained lack of sleep, much more than after than after other shifts. Night shifts are the worst aspect of shiftwork for almost a third (32%) of 54-65 years old respondents, causing considerable health problems. 27% Of respondents do not like weekend shifts. Under 18 to 35 this is even more (32%). They are losing contact with friends who work regular 9 to 5 work weeks and go out to have fun during the weekends.

And what do they think are the benefits?

Shift employees appreciate especially the free time during the normal working week, with more than half of them agreeing (58%). Another half of respondents in shift work appreciate the possibility to arrange things in the mornings or afternoons for a given shift and the extra pay work in then the night, weekends or holidays.

Which shifts do employees prefer?

More than half (57%) of respondents prefer morning shifts. This is the same for all age groups and regions in the Czech Republic. Obviously this is because they are most natural to the human biorhythm and therefore the least social and physical disruptive. The least popular among all ages are afternoon shifts, with a preference only 16%. After evening shifts, people go to bed late, having to rewind from work, and sleep till late in the morning. “Like that, I lose my day, and my evening”. The exception are young people aged 18 to 26, who prefer the afternoon shifts to the night shifts. Only 12% of them would choose to work at night. At the same time, with a preference score of 27% of all respondents night shifts are not so bad in the overall rating. This could be because of the extra pay night shifts generate and, day workers and managers not being there, they are often perceived as more quiet, they are less disturbed when doing their job. Overall people like schedules with 8 hour shifts (57%) more than those with 12 hour shifts (43%).

What shift systems are most common in the Czech Republic?

According to the Czech survey, more than a third (37%) of employees are working in the most preferred shift model of 8-hour shifts with 5 day in a row. With only 3%, the least frequent are 8-hour shifts models with mostly 3 days in a row. This notwithstanding that for the human body so-called rapid rotation models, with 2 to 4 consecutive shifts are better. Such rotation helps prevent accumulation of sleep deprivation after night and (early) morning shifts. So called slow rotating shift models, with 5 or more equal shifts in a row result in high workload, fatigue and increased risk of health problems. The results of the survey thus show that the planning of shifts of employees in Czech companies is not ideal and employers, but also the employees themselves, are not preventing the influence of badly planned et shifts on health and productivity.

“Based on our experience with clients in the Czech Republic, we know that unadjusted shift models still prevail in domestic companies. Employers are often bound by years of fixed rules that do not take into account the mental and physical needs of employees. Therefore, we advise our clients to give employees greater freedom when planning their shifts. This is the only way for companies to get a more sustainable workforce with satisfied employees, avoid high turnover or illness, and even increase productivity, ”says Roman Urban, Senior Déhora Consultant in the Czech Republic.

The results of the survey also show that the employees would be very much in favor of increased worktime autonomy. Almost 94% of those surveyed said they would be happy to be able to plan all or at least some shifts according to their needs. The solution for companies in this regard can be the concept of self-scheduling, which Déhora is introducing to companies in various sectors. It is a method by which the employer allows his employees to plan his or her shifts, as well as potential overtime hours, according to their own preferences, thus optimally combining private life with the work.

About Robert Ruhl and Next Markets Advisory

Robert Ruhl graduated in Economics. He worked as emerging markets specialist for ING Bank in Amsterdam, with focus on Central and Eastern Europe. In 2014 he founded Next Markets Advisory. Advising companies on their strategic decisions to invest in emerging markets. He is advisor to the Netherlands Polish Chamber of Commerce and Oxford Economics in London. At 23 May Robert presented his views on the labour shortages in Europa at the conference organized by Déhora and NPCC in Amsterdam.

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