In the Business News this week: Korean Air completes deal for 44-percent stake in CŠA; jobless rate falls for first time in nine months, but only slightly; labour costs in Czech Republic are below half EU average; car production slows; mobile operators are offering new low monthly prices for unlimited calls; and forest owners want state compensation for recreational use of land.
The Czech government on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on whether the controversial system of welfare payments, known as S-Cards, should continue. The cabinet refused a proposal by the labour and social affairs minister, Ludmila Müllerová of TOP 09, to use the cards as identification for welfare recipients. Prime Minister Petr Nečas said the best solution would be to scrap the system, a move opposed by the coalition TOP 09 group.
The Office for Personal Data Protection has imposed a CZK 100,000 fine on the Prague High State Attorney’s Office for making public the salaries of all its employees, along with their names and positions, the news website lidovky.cz reported. For her part, state attorney Lenka Bradáčová has stood by her decision. She says the information was released in response to a public request and that she acted in accordance with a 2011 court ruling. Her office plans to appeal the decision.
Unemployed people who start businesses that operate for at least two years could receive a handout of up to CZK 80,000 from the state, while firms could get support for employing parents part-time or the under 30s, as part of a wide-ranging government plan to fight unemployment discussed by the government, unions and employers on Tuesday. A commission comprised of representatives of the three groups – known as the tripartite – are to work on developing the plan, which will be discussed again on April 25.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic fell from 8.1 percent in February to 8 percent last month, according to figures released on Tuesday. Some 573,875 people were out of work in the country in March. Analysts said the slight improvement was down to seasonal factors and pointed out that the Czech labour market was still beset by negative trends linked to the overall economic development. The jobless rate in Prague last month was 4.6 percent, the same as in February.
The minister of labour and social affairs, Ludmila Müllerová, says her ministry will this year lack billions of crowns needed for social welfare payments. Speaking on a TV debate show on Sunday, she said she would ask the Ministry of Finance for increased funding. However, the minister of finance, Miroslav Kalousek (who is also from the TOP 09 party), said he could find no extra money for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Mr. Kalousek said Ms. Müllerová would have to find the money needed within her own department, which receives the greatest amount for outlays of any ministry.
In Business News this week: government plans to tighten rules for firms bidding for public contracts; Parliament releases parties’ accounts for 2012; Telefónica considers selling stake in Czech division; new film incentives programme attracts foreign productions; women’s salaries grow faster than men’s; and every other Czech would struggle to pay unexpected expenses of 15,000 crowns.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has openly acknowledged that the government’s S-card project, an electronic system for social and welfare benefit payments, was fraught with problems and should be scrapped. At a joint press conference with Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerová, the prime minister said his proposal would be put to the cabinet at the earliest possible date. The S-card system has come under fire from the opposition, trade unions, recipients of welfare and even the Ombudsman for burdening those whom it is meant to serve and for leaving their personal data open to possible abuse. The system was criticized as being unethical and possibly even in violation of the Constitution. Some recipients of welfare benefits had threatened to take it to court despite the fact that the government backtracked and made significant concessions.
Lufthansa airlines have announced that it will cancel most of their flights inside Europea on Thursday due to a planned employee strike over salaries. Passengers are advised that Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf flights from and to Prague will most likely be cancelled in the first part of the day. The strike is scheduled to begin at 5 a.m., Central European time.
The Czech Republic has been experiencing a sort of mini baby boom for the past six or so years, with one of the first generations of well-educated Czech women deciding to put off motherhood until their thirties. These mothers, who had held high-level jobs, travelled around the world and started their own businesses before having their first child, have initially enjoyed the government-subsidized maternity leave, but for many of them this benefit turned into a burden.
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