(Adds higher quota numbers after clarification by ministry)
PRAGUE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The Czech government decided on Wednesday to double its quota for easy admission of Ukrainian workers, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said, due to an acute labour shortage as the economy continues to grow.
The Czech Republic has the lowest rate of unemployment in the European Union, and leading corporate lobby groups urged the government on Monday to relax rules for bringing in foreign workers, particularly from nearby Ukraine.
"We have approved broadening the programme in Ukraine," Zaoralek told a news conference.
Ukraine, which is not in the EU, has been a favoured source of migrant workers for the Czech Republic due to its geographical proximity and cultural and linguistic links.
Ukraine's own economy has been badly damaged by a nearly three-year conflict in the east of the country with pro-Russian separatists as well as by endemic corruption and mismanagement.
Prague's foreign ministry later said it would send four more consular officials to a consulate in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which will now be able to handle 9,600 applications under a special fast-track process per year, above 7,600 earlier announced by Zaoralek.
Until January, the quota was 3,800 applications per year, rising to 4,800 as of this month, the ministry said. The current quota will be doubled, it said.
The ministry said there has been a backlog of applications by Czech companies to bring in Ukrainian staff, with waiting times to handle applications even under the fast-track procedure at 99 working days.
Manufacturing is a key driver of economic growth in the Czech Republic, with foreign-owned firms feeding into multinational supply chains in the auto, machinery and electronics industries.
Although unemployment in the country of 10.6 million edged up by 0.1 percentage point to 5.3 percent in January, the number of job vacancies increased by 3,000 to 136,000, compared with 367,000 people out of work.
Labour costs are vastly cheaper in the Czech Republic than in neighbouring Germany, with the average gross monthly wage at 27,220 crowns ($1,076.91) in the third quarter of last year.
Unions want higher salaries for workers and have opposed bringing in foreigners in larger numbers. ($1 = 25.2760 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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