Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs - RILSA, Prague
Výzkumný ústav práce a sociálních (VÚPSV) (Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs, or RILSA) would like to introduce itself by means of this newsletter and present both its long-term research orientation and the topics which are currently in the focus of its attention.
The Institute was established in 1992 as a contribution organisation. This means that it obtains its funding partially from the state and partially via donations coming from local and international entities interested in social and economic research. Nevertheless, the Institute dates back to the beginning of this century when the first research body in the Department of Labour and Social Affairs - Sociální ústav Ceskoslovenské republiky (Social Institute of the Czechoslovak Republik) (1919) had formed. The research work of the contemporary VÚPSV is based on these traditions as well as on the activities and research orientation of similar institutes and research centres in European countries and of similar institutes and research centres associated with international institutions (the International Labour Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Union).
The main object of the work of the Institute is to organise and develop research projects, to produce expert opinions, analyses and policies in the field of labour and social affairs on the regional, national as well as international level, formulated according to the current needs of Parliament, of governmental bodies and state authorities or of other non-profit or private entities. Moreover, the Institute offers consultancy services for users of the research projects and organises workshops and international conferences, in particular for the representatives of the above-mentioned institutions. The annual plans for research work are prepared by the Institute itself in co-operation with interested bodies and take into account the continuity of the development of science and research in the specified fields.
One of the main research foci of the Institute is the field of changing conditions on the labour market, including specific features of employment of individual groups of economically active citizens, particularly of those who are most at risk, such as handicapped people. Research on international labour migration has become an important object of research: research in this area seems to be highly significant in view of our future membership of the European Union. The inter-relationship between different factors influencing the labour market should lead research in this field to finding a solution concerning the links between the labour market and the development of human resources, especially regarding the level of education, re-training, flexibility, mobility and their specific regional features.
Another sphere of research is the field of social security. The demographic development, the health condition of the citizens and other factors have proven to be very important in the field of social security, be it the field of security for the elderly, the area of work disability or the need for health care. The existing systems of social security are often considered to be insufficiently flexible and expensive. Therefore research in this field monitors the financial flow within the individual social programmes, minimal and actual values of benefits, the structure of recipients and the institutions engaged in the field of social security. Apart from this, it is necessary to monitor the level of readiness of society to accept the individual social security measures or to accept their non-traditional forms, and the possibilities of implementation from the social point of view.
The economic changes are accompanied by significant changes in the patterns of family behaviour and in the forms of family life. Due to an increase in the number of single households, incomplete families and various alternative forms of family life the social system is facing new claims. Changes within families also affect the roles of the individual members of the family, above all the roles of men and women. A description of the forms of family behaviour and family life and its individual characteristic types is essential for the construction of social programmes and for their optimisation. Different types of families require different approaches. Therefore it is necessary to engage in research on their specific features. In particular, research must include families who are socially at risk, families with a handicapped member and families with children in custodial care.
The social and socio-economic transition since 1989 has brought significant changes regarding the dynamics of the structure and differentiation of the incomes, wages and expenses of citizens. The description and analysis of these changes provide important conclusions for the economic and social policy. An important point is research on the mechanisms for the development of wages, either contractual or mandatory, including an assessment of the effectiveness of wage systems. Directly associated with these problems are the problems of poverty, minimal income standards determination (subsistence minimum, living wage, etc.), their testing under the conditions of the Czech Republic and the definition of the socio-economic limits on the one hand and the risks of demotivation on the other hand. In this context, research on the socio-economic prerequisites of housing also plays a significant role.
A further concern of the Institute is informing the local and international professional public about the results of the transition process. VÚPSV has been developing its activities in this direction for several years. It issues, for example, a bulletin which regularly publishes the development of basic economic and social indices. This bulletin, published in three languages (Czech, German and English), has documented the development within the period of transition in a series which started in 1990.
Another integral part of the Institute is the Ceské informacní centrum sociální ochrany (CICSO) (Czech Social Protection Information Centre), which was established with the financial support of the PHARE programme in co-operation with Leuven Catholic University. CICSO is a new department of VÚPSV and, consequently, builds on its philosophy of extensive support for research on social protection in the Czech Republic. Its task is to systematically support international co-operation and the exchange of information. Thanks to its large professional library with many foreign books it is possible to make international comparisons, to produce the necessary information and to support the individual teams of experts. Among other things, it also offers a database with information on the institutions and experts in the Czech Republic and in the EU member countries in the field of social protection. The library and the documentation centre within this centre collect and prepare professional publications, research reports and periodicals which are available to a wide circle of users. Apart from a virtually complete collection of material in Czech it also offers a vast collection of foreign literature. It is planned to link the Centre "on-line" with other documentation centres and libraries of similar orientation.
The work of the research institute is based on what is known as the project form organisation, i.e. the Institute is not made up of departments, but of teams with their individual research themes and projects with their individual schedules. This is a prerequisite for a flexible organisation that allows the solution even of very complex and exacting tasks. Excellent local and international experts come together in teams created for important projects. At the same time, VÚPSV tries to create teams for important projects carried out by experts in various professions (economists, sociologists, jurists, psychologists, etc.); this approach allows a multidisciplinary approach to the problems.
Currently, VÚPSV has 45 permanent employees, including 29 researchers, 10 employees in the documentation department and the library, and 7 managers. The research institute is managed internally by a closed management that includes the manager, the deputy manager and the scientific secretary of the Institute. The annual research plan is developed by the wider management and leading members of the research teams.
From the point of view of the current state of affairs in the fields of labour and social affairs and of the previous orientation of the research institute we consider the treatment of the following subjects to be important tasks for the future:
Labour market and employment policy
Social protection systems
Family and social assistance
Incomes and wages
Economic and social development, GDP, productivity
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Today, the Czech Republic is already an inseparable and important part of Europe. Therefore it must use modern social policy approaches which react to the new conditions of European societies at the end of the 20th century. The public discussions concerning the formulation and implementation of social policy in the Czech Republic which are in progress and which will certainly continue in the future need suitable quantities of theoretic, comparative and empirical material. This material should enable these discussions to be kept on a pragmatic, professional level and facilitate a search for ways to achieve a social agreement concerning the form of Czech social and economic policy.
The experience obtained in our applied research and the synthesis of its conclusions, recommendations and proposals will be invaluable regarding the formulation of theoretical models and policies in the Department of Labour and Social Affairs which could themselves contribute to the enrichment of the spectrum of opinions both in the field of social sciences and in the practical use of social policy.
List of projects in 1997
For further information please contact:
Výskumný ústav práce a sociál-ních vecí VÚPSV
Mgr. Martin Mácha is Director of the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs.