Business News

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In business news this week: Labour Minister Petr Necas promises to reform the "demotivating" unemployment benefit system; a new report shows a sharp increase in the number of foreign-registered Czech companies; figures show the Czech antique market booming; the jewellery business records rising fortunes for gold after years of decline; and Czech insurers join forces against drivers with accident records.

Necas vows to reform "demotivating" dole system

The Minister of Labour, Petr Necas, said this week that he wants the state to gradually cut unemployment pay during the first five months after employees becomes jobless - after that they would receive nothing at all. Speaking at a Hospodarske noviny forum in Brno, he described the current system as "very demotivating" and compared benefits to a drug habit. Half of the country's 373,000 jobless are defined as long-term; Minister Necas said retraining programmes and public works could help fight the problem.

Employers complain of severe labour shortage

At the same conference in Brno bosses reiterated complaints about their difficulties attracting workers. Over 130,000 jobs are officially unfilled at the present time, though employers say the real number could be tens of thousands higher.

Jump in number of foreign-registered Czech companies

The owners of over 30,000 Czech companies are registered abroad, according to a new report by Dun & Bradstreet quoted in Hospodarske noviny. That figure is almost 5,000 higher than last year. The overseas owners control Czech capital worth more than CZK 641 billion (almost CZK 33 billion), and are mainly registered in the Netherlands, followed by Germany and the UK. However, they are by no means all foreign - some are Czechs keen to avoid paying taxes. The best known of the latter is the country's richest man Petr Kellner, whose PFF group has its headquarters in Holland.

Czech antiques market booming

The Czech antiques market is booming, the Czech Press Agency reported this week. Hundreds of millions of crowns worth of antiques are now being sold at auction every year, and experts say precious objects are a relatively good investment. While fifteen years ago artefacts worth CZK 15 m were sold at auction, in 2004 it was up to CZK 265 m.

Gold sales up after years of decline

Similarly, the sale of gold jewellery has increased this year after several years of decline; in the first eight months of 2007 the Czech Assay Office hallmarked over 2,500 kg of gold jewellery, a year-on-year in rise of over 500 kg. Both increases have been put down to a rise in the number of wealthy Czechs; according to a report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini, the number of Czech citizens whose financial assets top USD 1 million stood at almost 15,000 last year.

Insurance firms team up against drivers with accident record

Czech insurance firms are teaming up to prevent drivers who have been involved in accidents avoiding higher premiums by simply changing providers, Hospodarske noviny reported. The insurance companies have set up a joint database of accidents, and will use this shared information to check if motorists are telling the truth about their driving past when they sign up. However, some insurance experts fear that errant drivers could take out new policies under the name of a family member who has not been involved in an accident.