Four European Union countries announced this week that they were throwing open their labour markets to newcomers from the east. Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain said they would no longer place restrictions on citizens from new EU members, the Czech Republic included. But there's little sign Czechs are even interested. Take the example of Germany: the country hasn't lifted its restrictions on foreign workers, but does have a quota for qualified Czech workers. Amazingly, just 18 percent of that quota has been used. Daniel Munich is a labour market
Ireland, together with the United Kingdom and Sweden opened its labour market to citizens from the 10 new EU members in 2004. Since then, according to Ireland's statistics, some 10,000 Czechs have used the opportunity and come to work in Ireland. Drawing from two years of experience, the Irish Government's Training & Employment Authority has now launched what they term the "Know Before You Go" campaign in the Czech Republic.
The lower house has passed a new labour code, outvoting the Senate which has previously rejected the bill. It has yet to be signed into law by the president. MPs for the ruling Social Democrats and opposition Communists voted for the new labour code, saying it allows for a greater freedom of contract while ensuring necessary protection for employees. Critics of the new labour code argue it will reduce competitiveness and increase costs for employers.
The upper house of Parliament, the Senate, has rejected a new Labour
Code, which was pushed through the lower house by the Social Democrats
and the Communists. The opposition Civic Democrats and the two junior
ruling coalition parties the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union
say the bill threatens the flexibility of the labour market and is
unconstitutional because it gives trade unions too much power, and
makes it difficult for employers to let go of unproductive staff and
employ new people.
In November, over 25,000 members of 51 trade unions flocked to Prague to support the proposed new Labour Code in a demonstration that was the biggest that the country has seen since the Velvet Revolution sixteen years ago.
A survey by the European Union's statistics office, Eurostat, suggests that Czechs spend more time at work than any other EU citizens. While the average EU citizen works for 37.9 hours a week, Czechs spend almost 43 hours at the workplace every week. According to Eurostat, the Dutch have the shortest working hours, with 31.4 hours a week.
This week Spain, Portugal and Finland become the latest members of the "old" EU to announce they will open their labour markets to workers from the "new" Europe - the Czech Republic included. France and Italy are also said to be considering relaxing restrictions on EU newcomers. But will Czechs - so attached to their families and country cottages - be keen to take up the offer?
According to figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has dropped to 9.1 percent in February from 9.2 percent in the first month of the year. The ministry's news release attributes the drop to the high number of jobless workers on government re-training programmes. The rate of unemployment continues to vary greatly across the country with a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in the Czech capital Prague and an unemployment rate of over 20 percent in the eastern parts of the country.
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