Košice is the second largest city in Slovakia, and the economic, social and cultural centre of Eastern Slovakia. With a population of around 238,000, it also attracts many visitors from neighbouring countries as it is close to the borders with Hungary, Ukraine and Poland. In Soviet times, the city was a large centre of steel production, and the biggest employer today is U.S. Steel, which bought the factories after 1989. However the current economic crisis led to the loss of many of these jobs and the number of people employed in the steel sector has recently dropped from 30,000 to 14,000. The city’s unemployment rate is 20%.
IT is the second most important sector, employing 5,000 people, and the city hopes it will become a cornerstone of the future economy. Major companies are T-systems (a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom), with a workforce of 2,000, and the Israeli Ness Technology, which provides jobs for 300 software developers. Foreign companies are attracted by the well-trained workforce, low labour and living costs. The city has developed an IT Košice Valley to attract investment and cluster local technology companies.
In recent years, Košice has started to transform from a post-industrial city to a creative one. It was a European Capital of Culture in 2013. The multicultural city is an important centre of entertainment and education for around 1.5 million people, including those in neighbouring countries. It has some 30,000 students in three universities, the Technical University of Košice, which is strong in IT, the University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy and Pavol Jozef Šafárik University.