Ministry proposes subsidized transport costs for jobless in bid to boost mobility

Photo: archive of Czech Government

Czechs have often been criticized by international economic institutions, such as the OECD, for their reluctance to seek work far from their homes. Commuting is not, it appears, part of the national psyche. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has now come up with the idea of encouraging more mobility among the unemployed by allowing them to claim at least a portion of their transport costs.

Photo: archive of Czech Government
The Czech Republic has one of the lowest unemployment rates across the whole of Europe. But the overall picture is complicated by many regional disparities. While the capital Prague and surrounding region have jobless rates of around three and four percent, and other cities such as Plzeň, also have low rates and problems filling vacancies; unemployment rates around 40 minutes to an hour away stand at around 10 percent and over.

The proposal from the ministry in its current form would allow jobless people facing a trip to work of more than 10 kilometres to claim back around half their transport costs for the first six months of their new work. Most of the expected bill of around 225 million crowns for the initiative would be covered by European Union social funds.

Local job offices would make the final decisions on who would be eligible for the mobility help with an eye on the applicant’s situation and the local employment market.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
If approval for the idea is given by the Cabinet, then the mobility incentive could be up and running by the end of the year. Depending on how the funds are used, a maximum of around 37,000 people could take advantage of the support.

Jitka Součková is the marketing manager for the Grafton recruitment agency in Prague. She says the ministry initiative does address a real problem but she has reservations whether in practice it will help fill many of the job vacancies.

“Contributions for transport costs is certainly not a bad idea. On the other hand, we should stress at this moment we are offering many positions where transport costs in some form or other are subsidized by the employer. The mobility problem is most acute in large cities. In particular in Prague and the whole of Central Bohemia there is a reluctance to travel far to work. In other cities, Brno, Olomouc, and Ostrava that willingness to travel to work is a lot weaker than for people living in villages.”

Jitka Součková,  photo: archive of Jitka Součková
Součková says that another way that some employers, especially those with manual or manufacturing vacancies, have found of filling vacancies is to offer accommodation, partly or fully subsidized, along with the jobs. That, she says, has allowed companies in Central and Eastern Bohemia in particular to bring in workers from much further afield, for example from the Ostrava region, or even from other countries.

Talks over the shape of the jobs mobility proposal are expected over the next two months. Employers have suggested it be widened to include those in work who are seeking to move onto other jobs or those facing the sack.