Unemployment rate goes up for the first time since February

Josef Středula et Michaela Marksová Tominová, photo: Filip Jandourek

Unemployment in the Czech Republic rose in July after a steady fall since February of this year. Currently, unemployment stands at 5.4 percent – up from 5.2 in June. The rise, at least in part, is due to new graduates entering the labour market who have yet to secure work. In all, more than 392,000 people are out of work.

Lucie Lžičařová, photo: ČT
Unemployment in the Czech Republic has gone up to 5.4 percent, in part due to the influx of graduates now seeking work and also the fact that firms generally hire fewer new employees during the summer lull.

Significantly, coinciding with the new unemployment figures just released, some 136,000 jobs are now on offer, the highest total in eight years. Many firms, from courier services to online sales companies, are offering jobs; some, Czech TV reported Monday, have been hiring as many as 70 new workers a month. Lucie Lžičarová, who works for a courier firm told the broadcaster she was happy to have found a job which suited her. “I like the fact that I don’t spend the day in an office, that I’m on my own and that I am not working freelance.”

Josef Středula and Michaela Marksová, photo: Filip Jandourek
Not all those currently out of work feel the same way, leaving companies with staff shortages little choice but to cast their net more broadly, turning to foreign workers to fill the gap. These include hiring nationals from Ukraine, a move supported by the government. Josef Středula, the head of the unions’ umbrella organisation ČMKOS, suggested that in his view one reason why more skilled jobs were not being taken by unemployed Czechs was because some firms were offering miserable wages.

“There are large barriers to attracting new workers. One of them is the level of wages. I was looking at the gross wage offered, for example, of a machinist and the total is between 15,000 – 18,000 crowns a month. That is a wage which is barely above the poverty line. That is not okay. So we see that as a major barrier to some people taking jobs.”

Illustrative photo: Filip Jandourek
In all, more than 392,000 people are seeking work, but some perhaps harder than others; the government would like that to change, outlining proposals which would motivate those out of work to redouble their efforts to find it and also to make it harder for them to remain on benefits. The government wants to ban certain types of contracts, to increase funding for commuting to work, and to toughen controls on those getting welfare. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Michaela Marksová spelled out steps under consideration.

“What we are planning is to makes things considerable tougher for the long-term unemployed and to make it more difficult for them to make undeclared money on the side.”