Country Listing

Czechoslovakia Table of Contents



In 1985 Czechoslovakia's total labor force amounted to about 7.6 million persons. Of these, 46.1 percent were women, giving Czechoslovakia one of the highest female labor rates in the world. Almost 88 percent of the population of working age (between 15 and 59 years of age for men and between 15 and 54 for women) was employed in 1985. About 37.4 percent of the work force was in industry, 13.7 percent in agriculture and forestry, 24.3 percent in other productive sectors, and 24.6 percent in the socalled nonproductive (mainly services) sectors (see table 7, Appendix A).

During the first two decades following World War II, redistribution of the work force, especially movement from agriculture to industry, had provided an influx of workers for the government's program emphasizing heavy industry. Women also had entered the work force in record numbers. But falling birthrates in the 1960s, noticeable first in the Czech lands but subsequently occurring in Slovakia as well, gave reason for concern. During the 1970s, the government introduced various measures to encourage workers to continue working after reaching retirement age, with modest success. In addition, the large number of women already participating in the work force precluded significant increases from this source.

By the mid-1980s, the labor supply was a serious problem for Czechoslovakia. During the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1981-85), the work force increased by less than 3 percent. Because Czechoslovakia's service sectors were less developed than those of the industrialized countries of Western Europe, during the 1980s employment in services continued to expand faster than employment in the productive sectors. The expansion placed additional constraints on industrial enterprises seeking to fill positions. Some Western observers suggested that the labor shortage resulted in part from the tendency of many industrial enterprises to overstaff their operations.

Party and government officials set wage scales and work norms. As part of reform measures effective after 1980, incentive rewards represented a larger share of total pay than had previously been the case. Work norms also increased. Officials were clearly soliciting a greater effort from workers, in terms of both quantity and quality (see Workers , ch. 2).

In the mid-1980s, most of the labor force was organized and was represented, at least in theory, by unions (see Auxiliary Parties, Mass Organizations, and Mass Media , ch. 4). The party controlled the unions, and a major task of the unions was to motivate workers to work harder and fulfill the plan goals. The unions served as vehicles for disseminating desired views among the workers. The principal activity of the trade unions was the administration of health insurance, social welfare, and worker's recreation programs.

Data as of August 1987