Former employees of the Pratex Čadca firm after mass layoffs in 1999.
"Our economy was directed towards the market in communist states; we were oriented towards the heavy weapons industry and unsaleable textiles."
Economist Pavol Kárász
The north-central Žilina region will be the most adversely affected as 34 firms lay off nearly 5,000 workers. According to the director of the Žilina regional labour office, Dušan Laššák, the current wave of dismissals will bring the region's unemployment figures close to their record high of 67,999.
At the end of last year, Žilina region had 60,512 registered jobless, giving it an unemployment rate of 17.67 per cent. Most of the recent job cancellations were announced last year, and are a part of the process of corporate restructuring, said Laššák.
"There are long-term problems, such as companies which were state-run in the past. During the transformation process in some places there was a change in ownership relations; in some places there were few market opportunities for the manufacturing programs they had."
The hardest hit sectors are manufacturing and machinery, with hydraulics producer AHP Hydraulika in Turčianske Teplice and automotive component producer AVC in Čadca announcing combined layoffs of 260. Machine tools producer Martinské Strojárne also allowed 170 contracts to expire without renewal at the end of 2001 and has reduced its workforce to 48, say company officials.
The eastern Prešov region and the central Banská Bystrica region have also been badly affected by the recent trends, and each will see layoffs of around 2,900 this year. Workers already have already been or will soon be dismissed from 24 firms in Prešov and 26 firms in Banská Bystrica.
Slovakia's labour offices have yet to be computerised.
The largest single layoff in the Banská Bystrica region is taking place at electro-technical producer Bo-Ha, which is in the process of releasing 840 workers.
Also in the Banská Bystrica region, aluminium foundry operator Závod SNP in Žiar nad Hronom, which had been called the most stable employer in the region in 1999 and which regularly offers practical training for young unemployed secondary school graduates, was also forced to release workers from some of its daughter companies.
The Trnava region should see 1,600 people released from 26 firms. The largest layoffs in the region were announced by chemical fibre producer Slovenský Hodváb and construction company OSP Danubius.
The Bratislava and Košice regions are the least affected in the latest round of layoffs. Eleven firms in Bratislava are expected to release 950 workers in the coming months, including 335 from state-owned Slovenská televízia (STV). Košice's loss of 810 jobs is the lowest regional result, but analysts emphasise that this is largely because mass layoffs in east Slovakia have already taken place.
Explanations for the continuing employment crisis vary. Most analysts see the roots of the problem in Slovakia's socialist past.
A sign reading "a chance" hanging above job applicants.
While Kárász predicts the national unemployment rate may soon surpass the historic high of 21 per cent, others are more optimistic.
Laššák believes that the situation is not as bad as it appears: "Of course, now they [firms considering layoffs] are re-evaluating, because some of the firms did not let as many workers go as they had announced - now they are reconsidering the layoffs and probably the number will be smaller."
The total number of unemployed in Slovakia at the end of 2001 reached 533,652, according to government statistics. This marked a year-on-year increase of 27,600 and brought the total unemployment rate to 19.79 per cent.
Eastern regions continue to suffer the most. According to government statistics, the two regions in Slovakia's far east - Prešov and Košice - had year-end unemployment rates of 25.36 per cent and 27.09 per cent respectively.
In central Slovakia, the Banská Bystrica region finished the year with a 24.84 per cent unemployment rate, while in Žilina it was reported at 17.67 per cent.
In western Slovakia, only the Nitra region exceeded the national average of 19.79 per cent, reporting unemployment at 24.32 per cent. The Trenčin and Trnava regions reported rates of 13.73 per cent and 16.60 per cent respectively.
The Bratislava region continues to lead the country in employment, and reported a thrifty 6.21 per cent unemployment rate at the end of 2001.
25. Feb 2002 at 0:00 | Dewey Smolka