EMPLOYMENT: Gap between salaries widens
The Czech Bureau of Statistics has published a study summarizing the annual results of research conducted in cooperation with the labor and social affairs ministry. Prague leads the other regions with the highest gross average salary, CZK 21,682. When broken down by fields, the best pay goes to people working with loans and insurance (CZK 57,432), finance, and air transport, while the lowest salaries are in the textile and leather industries (CZK 9,946). Employees with high school diplomas earn an average of 50% more than those without, and college graduates earn as much as 155% more. In 2001 women earned on average 75% of what men earned. The average salary was skewed by the highest earners, with nearly 65% earning less than the average (CZK 16,358).

Karel Šanda, Týden

HOUSING: Disputes over rent increases
Long-running disputes on rent levels and regulation in the Czech Republic are growing sharper. According to the finance ministry, in 2002 rent accounted for roughly 20% of total household expenditures, i.e., the percentage typical in western Europe, so the possibility of raising regulated rents is nil. However, the Civic Association of Building Owners does not agree with the continued rent freeze. The owners point out differences between market rents and regulated ones, which, they say can reach 400% in some cases, and claim that their rent revenues are insufficient for building maintenance. If all 25,000 members of the owners’ association take part in the planned law suit for compensation for lost profits, the sum for 2002 will reach CZK 7.5 billion. ODS senators are planning a complaint against the rent-freeze to be lodged with the Constitutional Court, which has already twice taken up the issue of rent regulation, deciding to the benefit of the owners. This situation should be resolved by the law on rents, which the government is planning to adopt by the end of June 2003.

ECONOMY: Economic competition authority demonstrates its clout
The markedly increased power of the Economic Competition Authority in the Czech Republic is confirmed by the rising number of cases solved and financial sanctions imposed. In 2001 the power company ČEZ was assessed CZK 7.5 million for abusing its dominant market position. Penalties imposed in 2002 were substantially higher, with the authority imposing the highest penalty in its history. Six vendors must pay over CZK 300 million for a cartel agreement on fuel prices (this decision has yet to take legal effect, and an appeal is under way). Eurotel and T-Mobile were fined (CZK 48 million and CZK 15 million respectively) for misusing their dominant market positions, as they charged customers more for a one-minute call to the Český mobil network than for a similar call between their own networks. The situation is improving, thanks to legislation, companies’ willingness to cooperate, and greater decision-making transparency, one of the authority’s priorities.






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