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Political parties offer solutions to Slovak unemployment

Unemployment in Slovakia is currently at just under 19% - the highest rate in Europe. The government last year introduced a public works scheme in an effort to alleviate joblessness, but the rate has hovered around 20% for more than a year. With elections little more than a year off and a solution to unemployment likely to play a key role in the campaign, The Slovak Spectator on September 11 asked the members of four political parties how they would tackle unemployment in Slovakia.
Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) - ruling coalition
FRANTIŠEK HALMEŠ
The creation of long-term new jobs is key to decreasing unemployment. It's important to continue to improve macro and micro-economic conditions, which in turn improve business conditions.

Unemployment in Slovakia is currently at just under 19% - the highest rate in Europe. The government last year introduced a public works scheme in an effort to alleviate joblessness, but the rate has hovered around 20% for more than a year. With elections little more than a year off and a solution to unemployment likely to play a key role in the campaign, The Slovak Spectator on September 11 asked the members of four political parties how they would tackle unemployment in Slovakia.


Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) - ruling coalition

FRANTIŠEK HALMEŠ


František Halmeš
photo: TASR

The creation of long-term new jobs is key to decreasing unemployment. It's important to continue to improve macro and micro-economic conditions, which in turn improve business conditions. This includes access to 'cheap' money [low interest loans], getting rid of bureaucratic obstacles [to business], providing the opportunity to get information quickly, lowering corruption and increasing transparency in the public sector. The government as well as parliament has approved many economic and legislative measures for reaching this goal.

Much legislation must be approved to improve law enforcement and make it faster, mainly within the Slovak courts. The SDK has proposed several measures for bringing down 'black market' labour, the effects of which should be seen in the near future. Looking at the most endangered groups on the labour market, we will propose laws or support proposals of other parties, which enable the majority of young people to find jobs or send them for internships abroad after their university studies. We will also propose several more strict measures in amendments to the law on employment, which will exclude people who are misusing social welfare from receiving benefits.


Christian Democrats (KDH) - ruling coalition

VLADIMÍR PALKO


Vladimír Palko
photo: Courtesy KDH

We have many proposals for lowering the current level of unemployment, which were published last May under the summary title 'Big Bang'. Some of them were negotiated in parliament, some are still waiting to be put into legislative form. Basically, they are macro-economic proposals, generally focusing on the unemployment issue across Slovakia.

We see one of the main causes of unemployment as high labour costs, meaning high insurance premiums paid by employers on the salaries of almost every employee. However, our proposal to decrease premiums paid by employers from the current 38% to 29% was not accepted [by parliament]. But we are going to submit a new, similar draft. We also have more specific solutions, for example that employers employing long-term unemployed people should pay no premiums for half a year.

Another cause, we think, lies in the low motivation for people to seek jobs because there is little difference between a net wage, after deducting taxes and other expenses, and unemployment benefits, thus discouraging people from looking for a job. We want to increase this motivation by decreasing income taxes and premiums paid by employers, and subsidising travel expenses up to 1,500 Slovak crowns per month for half a year.

This last proposal has also gone to a second reading in parliament. After this we can then focus on solving the problem of black market labour, the reason behind high premiums. The proposals [on this issue] include increasing penalties for those employing people illegally, and punishing illegal employees by stopping their benefits for one year.


Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) - opposition

JOZEF KALMAN


Jozef Kalman
photo: TASR

The HZDS managed to lower unemployment by more than 3% in the past, during the years 1994 to 1998, by developing individual industry branches and regions. This experience is the basis for our future programme to solve the unemployment problem. First of all, we want to create specific development programmes which would attract large numbers of currently unemployed people.

Our second measure would involve improving the effectiveness of regional policy, which will give new life to regions. We simply want to bring order, a better level of law enforcement and, I am not afraid to say, a harder hand into discipline in the whole area of unemployment, including the fight against black market labour.

I don't want to talk about individual measures, the type of measures we were introduced to in the [KDH's proposed] 'Big Bang'. We wouldn't make any cosmetic adjustments, we would solve the issue systematically, complexly and vigorously. The fight against black labour, consistent legislation, the development of specific [industry] branches and regions, would create the basis of our goal to bring unemployment under 15%.


Smer - non-parliamentary party

ROMAN VÁCLAVÍK


Roman Václavík
photo: Courtesy Smer

Smer considers unemployment to be the most crucial problem in Slovakia. The only solution is to create long-term work opportunities in the economy. Only systematic reforms, which will get rid of ineffective handling of public finances (in health and education sectors, the social welfare system and public administration), are the qualifications for starting economic growth.

For that reason, Smer is preparing a national employment strategy, the main principles of which include establishing order and justice, motivating measures in employment policy, and economic and legislative measures. It is necessary to eliminate 'black' labour, and cancel the current subjective system for the approval of subsidies for the creation of new jobs.

For every new job created, we propose that an employer be able to deduct a fixed part of the taxes payable to a tax administrator. Concerning motivation measures, Smer proposes that employers not pay premiums when employing graduates for a period of two years after they have finished their studies, and supports self-employment of graduates and retraining of the long-term unemployed.

In terms of economic measures Smer wants to assure the acceleration of economic growth to a minimum of 4 to 5% per year.

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