* Public opinion and unemployment in the Czech Republic

Unemployment undoubtedly belongs among the most significant phenomena as well as the problems of the modern world. First of all, it has a number of negative socio-economic consequences, both for directly affected individuals, their families, households, and their environment, which is affected, among others, by reduced purchasing power of the unemployed, and for the whole society, which has to bear both the direct and the indirect costs connected with unemployment and with the struggle to overcome it.

Unemployment has a significant effect on politics and political decision-making processes both on the part of civil society and political elites as well as on people’s minds and on the solidarity of the society. Long-term unemployment in particular belongs among the factors that contribute significantly to the origin and spread of a number of pathological phenomena including alcoholism, drug addiction, criminality, vandalism, suicides, apathy, but also racism and different forms of militant political radicalism. In the following text we will concentrate on the way in which unemployment is reflected in the public opinion in the Czech Republic.

As to unemployment itself, the Czech Republic is a very specific case in many ways. During a large part of the 1990’s the Czech Republic ranked among countries with unexceptionally low rate of unemployment, not only among the European post-communist states, but also within the whole European continent as well as in comparison with non-European OECD members. Before 1990, involuntary unemployment had not even existed as a socio-economic phenomenon. The state in then still Czechoslovak centrally planned economy provided full employment to whole population in economically active age without regard to the effectiveness of such an approach. It was supposed to fulfil the “right to work” declared by law, which was not only a political proclamation, but at the same time created one of the basic features of the state’s social politics. Voluntary unemployment was not tolerated by the state authorities and it was treated as a criminal offence of parasitism. Thus the Czech society, with the exception of the oldest generation, which had directly experienced the era of pre-war Czechoslovakia and especially the period of great economic depression of the 30’s, didn’t have any personal experience with unemployment and the unemployed in the beginning of transformation.

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