With unemployment having reached an all-time high in January the authorities are looking for ways to create new jobs in the worst-affected regions. One of the projects in the pipeline, discussed at a conference in the Senate this week, are state-supported personal and household services which have played an integral role in the recovery of the employment market in many other EU member states.
The new government is planning to amend its programme statement to take on board comments from union leaders and employers, the prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said after a tripartite meeting with both groups on Tuesday. Following the talks, the president of the Confederation of Industry, Jaroslav Hanák, said it was still unclear how the coalition aimed to finance its plans. The cabinet aims to approve its programme on Wednesday before seeking confidence in the Chamber of Deputies on February 18.
Switzerland’s vote in favour of imposing quotas on EU migrants has put migration issues very much in the spotlight. While the Czech Republic has criticized the Swiss decision and stressed it has no plans to restrict the movement of EU citizens, it has its own migration headache. Its immigration policy with respect to non-EU members remains tough, despite an aging population and a need for skilled workers. Commentator Jiri Pehe says that this is something that will need to change.
The jobless rate in the Czech Republic hit an all-time high in January, when it increased to 8.6 percent from 8.2 percent in December 2013, the Employment Office said Monday. The number of unemployed reached 629,274 at the end of January, which is 32,441 more than at the end of 2013. Despite the mild winter, unemployment was affected by the suspension of seasonal work in construction, agriculture and forestry. A moderate decrease in unemployment can be expected in the second half of this year, when economic revival should influence the labour market.
More than half a million Czechs are currently out of work, and the prospects are particularly bleak for people in their 50s who are too young to retire, but by all accounts too old to be of interest to potential employers. People who find themselves out of a job in this age group have only a 50 percent chance of getting employed and the threat of never finding work again is very real. This is something that the NGO Alternativa 50+ is trying to change.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Public Television on Sunday that civil servants would get a two percent wage rise in 2014. The finance minister denied claims that he was against wage increases this year, saying that police officers would get an additional 1.4 billion crowns for wage hikes and the creation of a thousand new jobs.
The incoming minister of labour and social affairs, Michaela Marksová-Tominová, is on the supervisory board of a company that is in a legal dispute with the ministry, Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Monday. The Social Democrat politician said she was aware of the conflict of interest but had a purely formal role at the company. She added that cabinet members have 30 days to quit such positions. The company is in receivership and the ministry is claiming CZK 20 million it gave the firm to provide social services; the ministry halted the project when doubts emerged over how it was being run.
Two of the three main Czech telecommunications operators, Telefonica and Vodafone, will together layoff some 700 employees, according to Czech business website iHned. All three mobile phone network operators in the Czech Republic, which also includes T-Mobile, have faced worsening conditions and a long-term drop in profits. At the same time, the firms have been forced to invest billions of crowns in the next generation mobile phone network. According to the website, Vodafone, the third-largest operator on the Czech market, will let go around 11 percent of its 1,800 employees, continuing in lay-offs from last year. T-Mobile, which let go several hundred people in 2013, confirmed it would lay-off several dozen people this year.
The Social Democrats’ human rights and family spokeswoman Michaela Marksová Tominová is in the frame to become minister of labour and social affairs in the emerging Czech government. The party’s leaders selected her after their previous nominee withdrew citing family tragedy. The Social Democrats are set to have eight seats in the next cabinet, alongside ANO with six and the Christian Democrats with three.
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