The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic rose to 8.1 percent in February, up from 8.0 percent in January. According to figures released on Friday, 593,000 Czechs were out of work last month. The unemployment rate in the capital Prague reached 4.6 percent. The Czech economy is at present going through its longest recession on record.
In Business this week: Korean Airlines bid for a 44 percent stake in the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, hackers attack the websites of leading Czech banks and the Prague Stock Exchange, there has been a further growth in unemployment and a drop in spirits sales in the wake of last year’ s methanol poisonings.
Unemployment in the Czech Republic hit a record high at the start of the year. January saw close to 590,000 people out of work, the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The government says this is largely the result of external factors, but critics and trade unions claim the government’s ill-conceived austerity measures have undercut growth.
The police have begun investigating 10 people in connection with a suspicious contract for IT services at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, a spokesperson said on Saturday. The story was reported in the newspaper Lidove noviny, which said that the supreme state attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, had said the suspects included both present and former employees of the ministry. Jaromír Drábek resigned as labour minister in October after a close associate, who was had been his deputy, was accused of corruption.
Doctors around the Czech Republic held a symbolic protest on Friday against what they perceive as a threat to funding for clinics and hospitals this year. For the most part patients were not affected by the protest; they received flyers outlining the medics’ concerns and were asked to sign a petition entitled Let’s Save our Health System. The Ministry of Health says the protest was uncalled for and insists the healthcare system will receive more money this year than in 2012.
Around one third of homeless people living in the Czech Republic seek assistance, according to a new survey by the Czech Statistical Office and social services providers which was released on Friday. About the same number of them also have jobs. The survey counted 11.500 homeless people; however, the real number of people living in the streets could be three times higher. The highest number of the homeless – 2,600 – was registered in the northern Moravian-Silesian region, followed by Prague and South Moravia.
In Business News this week: The Czech economy is passing through the lowest point of the recession, says the head of the central bank; the EC predicts the Czech economy will stagnate in 2013; CEZ and Czech Coal are reported to be close to a deal worth a whopping CZK 200 billion-plus; 40,000 Czech customers file a class action for the return of bank charges; and a fifth of Czech medicines are being resold in more expensive markets.
Doctors’ unions have called on hospital physicians to join a protest against the government’s health-care reform which is to be held on March 1, the unions’ chair Martin Engel said on Friday. The unions asked doctors to take care of their own health on that day, and to inform patients of the risks related to the reform. Only emergency cases should be treated during the protest. The Czech government has implemented a broad reform of the health care system including changes to the structure of hospitals and cuts to their budgets. Doctors also complain the Health Ministry has failed to raise their salaries as promised two years ago.
According to older methodology, unemployment figures reached their highest in January in the history of the independent Czech Republic. Older tabulation methods reveal more than 10 percent of people remained out of work in the first month of 2013. That translates as more than 580,000 people without jobs. Historically, former Czechoslovakia had a higher jobless rate during the 1930s, when some 740,000 people were out of work. Under the new methodology, the rate of unemployment in the Czech Republic rose to eight percent, up by 0.6 percentage points from the previous month. According to analysts, the worsening situation on the job market was expected due to the economic recession and decrease in hiring. At the end of last month there were approximately 33,800 open positions around the country.
Business news from the past week: ČNB released a new prognosis for GDP growth for 2013; Unemployment figures are up again in January; Russian and Chinese tourists boost profits for luxury items retailers in Prague; Russian bank Sberbank set to open Czech branches; ČEZ has filed international lawsuit against Albania; Fuel sale regulations bill passes through the first reading in the lower house.