Sharp increase in Czech unemployment
Before 1989 unemployment was virtually unknown in Czechoslovakia. The situation began to change a few months after the "velvet revolution" of November 1989. At the end of 1990, the newly-created Labour Offices had almost 40,000 unemployed on their books. By the end of 1991, this had risen to 222,000. In 1997 unemployment began to grow rapidly again. It reached 8.4 per cent in March of this year, when there were 433,000 registered "job seekers". The real number of unemployed is 20,000-30,000 higher, if those looking for work outside the Labour Office system are included. Unemployment no longer affects only marginal elements of society. It is now a national problem, affecting almost everyone. In several districts it already exceeds 16 per cent. The rise in unemployment is caused by a long-term decline not only in industrial production and construction, but also in agriculture and transport. According to the experts and Czech Government ministers, unemployment will go on rising — to 10 per cent by the end of this year and 12 per cent or even 14 per cent, in the view of some forecasters, by the year 2000. The Government does not have any specific program of job creation. The main emphasis is on harmonising Czech employment policy with the system and principles followed in the countries of the European Union. Typically the Government's plans call for employment to be made "flexible" meaning changes in working times and the organisation of work. The Government also envisages support for enterprises, incentives for new investors, creation of industrial zones, help for small and medium-size businesses (both direct financial aid and tax cuts), expansion of consultancy services, use of public orders to provide work for registered job seekers, and a "revitalisation" program for ailing enterprises. However, a fundamental and rapid reduction in unemployment is only possible if the continuing economic decline is halted and effective growth resumed. But this requires the creation and implementation of a new economic policy which remedies the damage done by a decade of economic "transformation", a euphemism for the reimposition of capitalism.
* * *Acknowledgements to Postmark Praha