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Slovakia

Basic Information

Area: 49,035 km²

Calling code: +421

Population: 5,379,455

Official Language: Slovak

Time zone: CET (UTC+1), Local time: 09:50

Overview

Slovakia was formed in 1993 with the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into two independent republics. The country is situated in Central Europe, sharing borders with Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine and has a population approaching 5.4 million people. It is a member of several international bodies including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organisation. Slovakia also became a full member of the European Union in May 2004.

Economy

Since independence Slovakia's economy has grown steadily and figures published by the Slovak Investment and Trade Agency put the country's GDP at 19.9 billion USD in 2001.

The country has received considerable investment from the EU to aid its transition from the centrally planned economy it had as part of communist Czechoslovakia, to a modern market economy. Institutional and legislative improvements to the business environment have been introduced, the vast majority of Slovakia's economic activity is now in private hands and there are no major constraints to foreign investment.

The Slovakia region became heavily industrialised under Czechoslovakia's Communist government and manufacturing remains an important sector in the Slovak economy, although many of the former state own industries have now been closed down. Some of the most important products produced in the country include ceramics, chemicals, machinery, petroleum products, steel, and textiles. The service sector has developed quickly over the last decade and now accounts for nearly half of all employment.

Foreign trade is increasingly important to the country's economy, with export earnings growing consistently. Principle trading partners include the Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Russia.

Infrastructure

Slovakia has a well developed transport infrastructure that has undergone significant development in recent years and provides good road, rail and air links with both eastern and western Europe. With the help of the European Investment Bank the country has undertaken an extensive road building project that is due to be complete in 2005, while Slovakia's rail system should be completely electrified by 2010.

There are several airports located throughout Slovakia, with the country's principle international airport being located in Bratislava. It serves other major cities in Slovakia, as well as flights to several destinations throughout Europe. Vienna airport is less than a one hour journey from Bratislava and offers flights to well over 100 worldwide destinations.

Workforce

Slovakia has a well educated, efficient and productive workforce. The country's school system is one of the most modern and well-developed in Central Europe and there are a number of specialised secondary schools geared towards specific fields and industries. Productivity levels are good and, according to the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency, have been expanding significantly since the mid 1990s. This is despite the fact that employment levels have been growing relatively slowly.

Unemployment levels vary quite dramatically between regions in Slovakia. The closure of a number of inefficient former state industries had a significant impact on job opportunities, especially in the east of the country, and the majority of job creation is taking place in the capital region in the west. Figures published by the British embassy in Slovakia show that the unemployment level in Bratislava is approximately 5 per cent while elsewhere in the country this figure is as much as 40 per cent.

Business Costs

According to the Slovak Investment and Trade Agency, labour costs in Slovakia are extremely competitive, with average monthly wages some 50 per cent lower than in the neighbouring countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Figures from the Statistical office of the Slovak Republic put average monthly wages in Slovakia at just $273.60 US per month in 2001.

New Technologies

Slovakia benefits from a number of projects set up by the European Commission aimed at the dissemination and exploitation of new technologies throughout Europe. For example, the country is part of the Innovation Relay Centre network, which was established by the European Commission in 1995. The network consists of dozens of centres in various European countries, which have been created as a means of transferring innovative technologies between European companies and research departments.
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