Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drábek went before the Social Affairs Committee of the lower house on Wednesday to explain last month’s serious fallout in dispensing well-fare payments. A new computer system introduced within a far-reaching social reform proved highly unreliable leaving many people in the lurch. Charities even handed out emergency food supplies to those who had no money for basic necessities. The minister came under fire from both coalition and opposition deputies who said the task had clearly been underestimated and ill-managed. Mr. Drabek argued that any new system had teething problems and assured the committee that all problem areas had been resolved. He said he would hand in his resignation should there be a repeat of last month’s problems.
The Constitutional Court on Tuesday made a landmark ruling regarding the difference in pensions between the Czech and Slovak Republic. Cases exist where Czechs who worked in the other half of Czechoslovakia now receive the lower pension rate of the Slovak Republic. According to the new decision of the court, such citizens never worked in a foreign country and thus are entitled to compensatory payments to raise their pensions to Czech standards. Among the chaos this creates for the Social Affairs Ministry now is that fact that the ruling directly
Low salaries in the sphere of social services are undermining the quality of care for old, disabled and helpless persons, according to health and social care trade union leader Dagmar Žitníkova. Mrs. Žitníkova warned that there was a massive drain of experienced and qualified staff and if measures were not taken to correct the problem, the system of care for old people would soon break down. Social care workers earn around 10,000 crowns a month, which is markedly below the country’ s average monthly gross salary of 24,000 crowns. Some 43,000 people work in social care services in the 10 million strong Czech Republic.
In Business News: The government debt has reached almost 40 percent of the GDP; unemployment in January rose to 9.1 percent; the Czech state loses an estimated 25 to 30 billion crowns every a year on account of tax evasion; union representatives have rejected a 2.5 percent salary bump offered by car manufacturer Škoda Auto; the sale of winter clothing and apparel – including winter wear for dogs – has jumped markedly in the cold snap.
The Czech Republic’s unemployment rate in January rose to 9.1 percent, up by 0.5 percent from the previous month, according to figures released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The jobless rate crossed the 9 percent mark for the first time since March last year. However, most analysts expected an even higher surge. The Jeseník district in the north-east of the country registered the highest unemployment rate of 17.8 percent; the lowest, of 3.4 percent was recorded in one of the capital districts.
Charities have come to the aid of needy people left in the lurch by the late distribution of social welfare benefits. A new computer system that was introduced as part of a far-reaching social reform has proved unreliable resulting in the late distribution of social welfare benefits to thousands of people, including families with children. Charities have been providing people in need with emergency aid, distributing packages containing basis food products to help tide them over the next few days. The Labour and Social Ministry is under fire over the scandal and the minister has promised to dismiss those responsible.
Officials from the Šluknov region in northern Bohemia, where racial
tensions have been building for years, have slammed the government’s
agency for social inclusion. The mayors of the region’s biggest towns met
with MPs on Thursday to discuss the escalating situation, stating the
agency had done little to improve social problems in Varnsdorf, Rumburk and
other muncipalities across the region. Public Affairs’ leader Radek John
told the press that at the very least, the way the agency is organized will
have to be reconsidered. Currently, it has an annual budget of 25 million
Czech crowns. Šluknov’s mayor Eva Džumannová also criticized the
agency’s 100-point strategy aimed at fighting social discrimination,
which was approved by the government in September. The document, drafted in
a reaction to the demonstrations and violent incidents in the region,
proposed measures that were downright absurd, she said.
Demonstrations, escalating violence and high unemployment in the Šluknov region made headlines last summer. Due to a series of demonstrations and growing tensions between Romanies and locals, police maintained a heightened presence in the region for weeks.
Controversial former Education Ministry employee Ladislav Bátora, who resigned from his post as head of Human Resources last year and later as an advisor, received a severance package of 250,000 crowns, the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported. Both Mr Bátora, the former head of an ultra right-wing think tank, and the health minister, Josef Dobeš, declined to comment. The ministry’s spokesman, Antonín Zelenka, explained that Mr Bátora had a right to severance pay as his post had been abolished. Mr Bátora was at the centre of several scandals last year, voicing – for example – highly-controversial opinions about a gay rights event in the capital; he also made insulting comments on the internet about the country’s foreign minister, for which his boss - Education Minister Josef Dobeš – later apologised.
Air quality, the unemployment rate and the cost of public transportation – many factors influence the perceived quality of life in urban spaces. A fresh survey suggests that there is much left to improve when it comes to the quality of life in the Czech capital, with the most-cited nuisances of Prague residents being garbage and graffiti. By contrast, public transportation is viewed as adequate and fairly priced by most.
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