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EXPERTS SAY THAT OLDER GENERATION REMAINS HOME-BOUND BY REGIONAL ECONOMIC DISPARITIES

Young Slovaks on the move for work

THE TWO sons of 53-year-old Ľudmila from the north Slovak village of Terchová travel for two-week shifts at jobs in the neighbouring Czech Republic to make ends meet. The family, which lives in a region with few jobs, is part of a growing trend among Slovaks, long considered reluctant to travel for work, to do just that.
"There's no other possibility. Most men in the village do the same because they want to survive," Ľudmila says.
While labour mobility in Slovakia is still lower than in western European countries, experts say that young Slovaks are showing increasingly willing to take jobs abroad and travel long distances from their home towns.


THE YOUNGER, the more mobile.
photo: Vladimír Hák

THE TWO sons of 53-year-old Ľudmila from the north Slovak village of Terchová travel for two-week shifts at jobs in the neighbouring Czech Republic to make ends meet. The family, which lives in a region with few jobs, is part of a growing trend among Slovaks, long considered reluctant to travel for work, to do just that.

"There's no other possibility. Most men in the village do the same because they want to survive," Ľudmila says.

While labour mobility in Slovakia is still lower than in western European countries, experts say that young Slovaks are showing increasingly willing to take jobs abroad and travel long distances from their home towns.

Research by the Institute for Labour, Social Affairs and Family showed that every third interviewed person would consider travelling abroad for more than a month to find work. Of this group, 75 per cent said their main motivation for doing so was a higher salary than they could earn at home.

On the other hand, the survey also found that as much as 17 per cent of the people interviewed still travelled to work on foot.

"Labour mobility is always about motivation and offer. There is a greater motivation to go abroad because as far as money goes, offers there are generally more interesting than in Slovakia," said Martin Novotný, co-chairman at the human resources firm Amrop Jenewein Group.

Miroslav Danihel, head of the institute that carried out the survey, said that while Slovaks were traditionally unwilling to travel for work out of their local regions, the younger generation was proving more flexible and adaptable to the demands of the labour market.

"There are still many who would like to have social guarantees such as a steady job for 10 years where they live, just as it was during communism. They are simply inflexible when greater travelling for work comes into consideration. However, many people lose their objections when lucrative salaries are offered abroad," Danihel said.

"Many of those who would consider spending more than a month working abroad are young, flexible people in their twenties, people who are not used to social guarantees from the past and would take even temporary work abroad," Danihel added.

Company representatives also said that compared to older workers, young people were willing to travel greater distances to get a job, even inside Slovakia.

"We have over 100 employees from eastern Slovakia and they are mostly in their twenties. They come to work here because the economic situation back home forces them to do so. But we haven't seen anyone older with a family asking for a job in the company," said Ľubomíra Janicová, human resources manager at Johnson Controls, a car components maker in Lozorno, near Bratislava.

For older Slovaks with families and assets such as houses, huge economic disparities between western Slovakia on the one hand and the rest of the country on the other have themselves prevented greater labour mobility within the country.

Many older people in poorer parts of central and eastern Slovakia find it difficult to travel for work because they cannot afford housing or travel costs.

While Bratislava region produces a per-capita GDP almost on a par with the EU average, central and eastern Slovakia produce less than 50 per cent. This means that although the unemployment rate in Bratislava is around 6 per cent, compared to over 30 per cent in some central and eastern Slovak districts, few locals there can afford to set up house in the capital.

Bachelor flats in Bratislava rarely rent for under Sk6,000 ($135), a sum that would take a large flat in central or eastern Slovakia.

"When [older] people add it all together against their salaries, they come to the conclusion that it's better to stay at home," Novotný said.

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