Under pressure: working conditions  in ICT production in Central and Eastern Europe

Recently, the German NGO WEED released a report, entitled 'Under pressure: working conditions and economic development in ICT production in Central and Eastern Europe'. The report attempts to provide a better understanding of the role of Central and Eastern Europe in the global division of labour in ICT, the main problems regarding working conditions and of how working conditions are influenced by brand companies’ permanent restructuring of their global production networks. This last factor was highlighted against the background of the global economic crisis and its effects on the ICT industry.

Under pressure: working conditions  in ICT production in Central and Eastern Europe

Recently, the German NGO WEED released a report, entitled 'Under pressure: working conditions and economic development in ICT production in Central and Eastern Europe'. The report attempts to provide a better understanding of the role of Central and Eastern Europe in the global division of labour in ICT, the main problems regarding working conditions and of how working conditions are influenced by brand companies’ permanent restructuring of their global production networks. This last factor was highlighted against the background of the global economic crisis and its effects on the ICT industry.

The report starts with a short overview of the global ICT industry and the current economic crises and introduces key characteristics of the ICT industry in CEE, based on country profiles that can be found in the appendix of the report. In cases where no detailed information on the ICT subsector was available, the report refers to the conditions in the electronics industry as a whole.
In the second part, three countries are analysed in more detail: Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic.
The third chapter is on Hungary which was the first country that benefited from relocation of production to CEE and is still the most important producer country in the region. This chapter focuses on the upgrading process in Hungary and outlines its effects on working conditions.
The fourth chapter deals with Romania which emerged as an important competitor to countries such as Hungary because of its lower wages. In a case study that is based on interviews with workers from the CM Celestica, the precarious working conditions and the effects of the economic crisis are discussed.
The fifth chapter takes a closer look at the ICT industry in the Czech Republic. It is of particular interest due to its comparatively large computer industry and, regarding its working conditions, because of its widespread use of migrant workers in the last few years.
A brief analysis of the Taiwanese CM Foxconn illustrates the challenges faced by migrant workers who are often hired by temporary employment agencies.

In conclusion, the report reveals that the expectations regarding economic and social development that have been associated with the ICT sector are rarely met in the CEE region. Certainly, exports and new jobs arise from these investments and this in turn often leads to a (temporary) decline of unemployment. However, the quality of these employment opportunities remains ambiguous as working conditions are increasingly precarious and wages are relatively low. This process has been aggravated by the global economic crisis – and will have lasting effects after the crisis when companies have recovered. Further investigation about the division of employment into core and non-core workers and the relation between native and migrant workers as well as between temporary agency workers and workers directly employed by the company are necessary.