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Jobless rate hits record

Some 565,000 Slovaks were out of work in the first month of 2002, setting a new jobless record of 20.89 per cent. Labour analysts do not expect any major improvement in the data this year.

More than 565,000 people were out of work in January. The Dzurinda government, which included lowering unemployment and doubling wages among its campaign promises in 1998, has seen the jobless rate climb steadily from under 14 per cent at the end of the Mečiar government's term in office.

Analysts say that massive foreign investment inflows are behind the unemployment problem, as new owners of unrestructured firms cut jobs to increase labour productivity. They also say firms are discouraged from hiring by high social insurance levies on companies employing full time workers, and the relative ease with which the unemployment benefit system can be abused.

The government estimates that as many as 150,000 people registered as unemployed are actually working.

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