The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose in the third quarter of 2009 to 7.4%, the Czech Statistical Office has reported. The increase of 3.1% compared with the same period last year marks the largest year-on-year jump in joblessness on record since 1993. Analysis suggests that while the Czech Republic has the sixth lowest unemployment rate in the European Union, it is also among the 10 countries with the strongest growth in unemployment over the course of the last year due to the continuing global economic crisis. The highest rate of unemployment is among individuals with only basic education, 25.5% of whom are without work, while the rate among college graduates is nearly 3%.
The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday established a parliamentary commission to investigate the Plzeň law faculty scandal involving plagiarism and a fast-track diploma scheme that has been the focus of much attention in recent weeks. The Social Democratic Party, which tabled the proposal, said they fear the college’s new dean, Civic Democrat Jíři Pospíšil, constitutes no guarantee of an independent investigation into the matter. Mr Pospíšil assumed the post of dean without giving up his parliamentary mandate, which some argue will make him unable to investigate the diplomas of his fellow MPs. The majority of Civic Democratic MPs voted against the commission, in which they will have equal representation with the rival Social Democrats. A number of Czech politicians have been implicated in the scandal over fast-track-diplomas, with prominent Civic Democrat Marek Benda the latest to come to attention in the highly publicised affair.
A special poll published by the agency CVVM for the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution suggests that 45% of Czechs believe that societal standards are better today than before 1989, primarily thanks to greater access to information and freedom of movement. All age groups surveyed reported similar results, though 25% of those under the age of 30 responded that they did not know. The survey also showed high faith among young people in today’s political system as compared to that of the communist regime, with only 14% responding that things were “good as they were”. Roughly a third of people aged over 30 have an ambiguous feeling about the changes since the 1980s, and almost one third of seniors aged 60 or more believe life was better before the revolution. There was vast consensus as to the significance of the Velvet Revolution, with 74% responding that the main cause was the desire for freedom over economic concerns, and almost the same number stating that the revolution is worth commemorating.
Members of Parliament on Wednesday voted to decrease the salaries of constitutional office holders – including themselves – by four percent. The bill also includes taxation of compensation, due to which it failed to pass in the Senate. Senators had previously returned the bill to the Chamber of Deputies because it stated that compensation for travel abroad, accommodation and assistant services were not subject to income tax. The pay cuts will only apply to the year 2010.
The average wage in the Czech Republic adjusted against inflation grew by 70% between 1988 and 2008. The director of the Czech Statistical Office, Dalibor Holý, reported the figure at a seminar on Wednesday. In 2008 employees’ gross average wage amounted to 27,247 crowns per month compared with 3,431 in 1988. The greatest growth was seen among managerial workers in the insurance and financing sectors, the salaries of whom grew by 239% to 106,800 CZK per month. A number of jobs have however seen a decline in the average wage over the last 20 years such as miners (-11%).
President Václav Klaus has signed a treaty with the United States requiring airline carriers from the EU to provide American authorities with data on passengers. The agreement requires 19 pieces of information to be kept on record for a period of 15, during which time it should serve to map and uncover terrorist activity. Airlines must provide the information within 15 minutes of takeoff. The president also signed a similar treaty with Australia Wednesday, however there are no direct flights from the Czech Republic to Australia at present.
Art restorers from the Prague City Gallery have begun examining the inside of the Jan Hus Monument on the city’s Old Town Square. It is the first time that the bronze statue has been opened since it was erected in 1915. The first day’s work has apparently shown the statue to be in extremely poor condition, and a team of restorers and structural engineers will be examining its interior for the next several months before selecting a restoration company. The statue of the 15th century church reformer and intellectual is one of the country’s most famous monuments.
One-fourth of drivers who have received the maximum 12-point penalty never possessed a drivers’ licence in the first place. The figure was reported by the daily Lidové Noviny citing research from the Ministry of Transport. Since the point system was introduced three years ago over 23,000 people (96% of them males) have received the maximum penalty, which results in the loss of the driver’s licence. Operating a motor vehicle without a licence is penalised with 7 points.
Prague Police and criminologists inspected the documents of nearly a thousand foreigners over Tuesday and Wednesday in a crackdown at nine metro stations and Wenceslas Square. 84 individuals were detained for lack of proper documentation, at least 11 have been deported and five are to be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. The crackdown also resulted in a number of fines for foreigners lacking relevant insurance or other particulars required of foreign residents.
Conditions across the Czech Republic are expected to be overcast over the coming days with scattered showers and highs of 3° to 7° Celsius.