In this week’s Business News: the most absurd bank fee is announced; a study finds that a third of young Czechs are working flexible hours; fears that eurozone unemployment could hit Czech exports; the Finance Ministry is seeking to lure investment funds into the country and Czech Railway cutbacks mean fewer train conductors.
Most absurd bank fee poll winner announced
The winner of the seventh annual poll for the most absurd Czech bank fee has been announced. The poll, conducted by the anti-fee watchdog website bankovnipoplatky.com, found 40% of respondents from the Czech Republic and Slovakia voting for a fee imposed for the early repayment of credit loans. In second place with 25% of votes was a fee for using an ATM machine to find out one’s balance and in third place with 16% of votes was a fee for the generation of an electronic balance statement. During the organisation’s first ever poll, the winning fee was for incoming payments into one’s bank account; in the second year, the most absurd fee was for taking out money from an ATM machine of one’s own bank. Last year’s winner was a fee for withdrawing cash via a teller at one’s own bank. The annual survey is designed to highlight the problem of excessive and ridiculous bank fees levied by Czech banks.
Third of young Czechs work flexible hours
A third of Czechs aged 25-34 work flexible hours according to the labour news website platy.cz. The site also found that this age group receives the greatest number of benefits from employers such as extra vacation time or a laptop computer to use both at work and for personal use. Around three-quarters of all working Czechs received extra benefits last year from their employers, according to a study by Profesia. The most popular form are so-called “stravenky” – food coupons which are used to purchase groceries. In second place are flexible work hours, while the third most common benefit are workplace education programmes. In fourth place are free laptop computers, followed by extra vacations, ability to work from home and the use of a company car. According to the Profesia survey, 23% of Czech employees do not gain any of these benefits.
Czech Republic fares relatively well as eurozone unemployment hits 10.7%
While new Eurostat unemployment figures have raised alarm bells, the Czech Republic continues to fare relatively well in relation to its European neighbours. Eurozone employment rose to 10.7% in January, while in the entire EU the figure was up slightly to 10.1%. Czech unemployment for the same period stood at 6.9%, the sixth lowest rate in the EU, with Austria having the lowest unemployment rate of 4%. Conversely, Spain has the highest unemployment rate, 23.3% (while for under-25s, the rate reached an astonishing 49.9%). The eurozone represents the Czech Republic’s number one export market, with analysts expressing concerns that eurozone nations may fall into recession in the first quarter of 2012 and that this will then have a knock-on effect for Czech exports.
Finance Ministry seeks new law to lure investment funds
The Czech Finance Ministry is seeking legislative changes, which would result in the country being able to lure greater numbers of investment fund managers. According to the weekly Ekonom, the ministry wants to create a similar environment to that which exists in Luxembourg, which is one of the largest centres in the world for this kind of financial activity. Legislative changes would entice investment funds to set up shop in the Czech Republic before a new EU directive comes into effect in 2014 stipulating that all hedge funds, capital investment funds, real estate and infrastructure funds and private equity funds that manage the assets of EU investors must locate within one particular EU country. The new Czech plans would not see specific capital pouring into country – as this would remain in free-flow across global markets - but rather money would be made from the fact that the funds’ administrative duties would be undertaken in the Czech Republic. According to one market analyst cited by Ekonom, if the Czech Republic administered just one-tenth of the funds that Luxembourg does, it would stand to make 16 billion crowns.
Czech Railways cutbacks hit conductor numbers
Budget cutbacks at Czech Railways mean that on numerous lines, train drivers rather than conductors are selling tickets to passengers, reports Právo. Of a total of roughly 6800 services daily, around 1500 are now travelling without conductors. In turn, this has led to a loss of passenger numbers, but according to Czech Railways spokesman Radek Joklík, the company has no intention of backtracking on budget-saving measures. Joklík also added that self-service machines have replaced conductors on many lines, but conceded that in many cases train drivers were now the ones selling tickets. However, this was only occurring in low volume services, where a conductor would not be financially feasible, he added. In addition to these changes, Czech Railways have opened up a tender to manage ticket vending machines, which they hope to install in the country’s 80 largest railway stations by 2015. These machines would not only sell tickets, but entirely replace the need for staff by assisting with timetable and journey planning information as well.