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
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
photo: Courtesy KDH
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
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
photo: Courtesy Smer
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.
17. Sep 2001 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová