Photo: Juraj Bartoš

Socialism guaranteed jobs for everyone. Everyone enjoyed security as to employment, there was no unemployment

 “Thanks to the planned economy, there were sufficient useful work opportunities for everyone and therefore there was no unemployment”,

is the claim that 77% of respondents participating in the April 2018 poll carried out by the FOCUS agency agree with.

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

Formally, there was no unemployment during the socialist era but to be employed was not a right but an obligation subject to the threat of imprisonment. Everyone was legally obliged to be employed and those avoiding employment were considered to be parasites and were sanctioned by imprisonment. Working people were not able to decide absolutely freely about their occupations or enterprises and positions in which they would like to work. This was more than true for those who demonstrated disagreement with the party´s policy or regime ideology. Thus, socialist Czechoslovakia became, similarly like other East Bloc countries, an imaginary forced labour camp or a cage full of compulsorily employed people. 

Following the power-based theft of property through “nationalization” and “collectivization” and gradual liquidation of trades and other small enterprises, the regime rendered it fully impossible to carry out business activities in any form although in 1930, craftsmen and trade licence holders along with entrepreneurs and freelance workers accounted for 14% and small and medium farmers accounted for 22% of the economically active population in Czechoslovakia. The aim of the regime was to transform all economically active inhabitants into wage workers who would depend on the state. 

Formal employment did not mean meaningful and productive work. The pressure on formal reporting of almost 100% employment rates resulted in overemployment and artificial maintenance of jobs which meant a significant financial burden and other negative impacts for the society, manifesting themselves through preservation of non-productive activities to the detriment of productive ones. 

One of the consequences of the senseless employment obligation was a low labour productivity. For instance, our industry reached, by the beginning of the seventies of the 20th century, only 80% of the labour productivity of the French industry that did not even ranked among the most efficient ones when compared to the other developed countries of the West. The overemployment and low productivity within the socialist system were confirmed by the rapid unemployment rate growth after November 1989 (more in the chapter Labour and employment).