Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic the most pressing social issue is the degree of household debt and the frequency of debt-related property seizures, which affects more than 8 percent of the population. Aggressive by private collection agencies, initiating actions for often minor sums have deprived hundreds of thousands of people of their property and often forced them to the edge of the society or even into homelessness.

Nevertheless, Ondřej Lánský and Tomáš Tožička report on behalf of Social Watch-Czech Republic that “the conservative and liberal political right that dominates the public discourse keeps repeating that we are living in the best of times and that everybody’s well-off. It therefore forgets a large part of the society that lost in the transformation towards a market economy. They lost in the sense of lacking economic securities that used to be in place, and as a result of direct social degradation. But the major part of academia and the cultural elites refused to pay attention to social issues. Most of the churches and NGOs focused on providing paternalist assistance to the most vulnerable while keeping with the logic of individualistic responsibility. ‘New politicians’ coming from oligarchic circles are preying on such sentiments, promising more dignity to the low and middle classes, often outside of the urban centres.”

The Czech Republic (CZE) is divided. The liberal political right, which has more or less dominated public discourse since 1989, reiterates that we are living in the best of times. It forgets that a large part of the society gained little from the transition to a market economy, or was put directly at a loss. The loss is mainly connected to the erosion of social security and a fall into social degradation. A large part of the scholarly and scientific community and the cultural elites have been unable to pay attention to growing social problems. The church organizations and key non-governmental organizations mainly focused on giving paternalist assistance to the most vulnerable in the population and did not contests the view of social problems as a phenomenon that is determined individually. Such a reality of socially unequal development was also expressed by a growing distrust of vast sections of the society towards politics in general. This reality is exploited by a number of so-called new political movements that are closely connected to the oligarchic circles. On a programmatic or ideological level, they mostly promise guarantees – or mere promises – of a more dignified status of the lower and middle classes while increasing their attention to the population living outside of the main cities.
Jana Smiggels Kavková.
Photo: Jan Sklenář / Czech Radio

Could it be the case that the Czech Republic has reached the Scandinavian level of development in terms of equality of men and women? If not, the planned transfer of resources from the field of gender equality makes little sense. Yet, the statistics and our position in international comparison indeed tell us the very opposite. Our society has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. But the leadership of Ministry of Labour and Social Affair is obviously quite content with the current state of affairs, since it plans to withdraw financial support for the promotion of equality of women and men in the labour market.

Jana Smiggels Kavková.
Photo: Jan Sklenář / Czech Radio

Despite the Czech Republic stagnating in the worldwide effort to bring about gender equality, the country’s government plans to cut funding for equality projects significantly in the coming years. That’s according to the Czech branch of the international NGO network, Social Watch.

Eurostat data sets the country’s pay gap at more than 20 percent, while at the same time the difference between men and women being able to find employment lies at 15 percent. 

Despite the Czech Republic stagnating in the worldwide effort to bring about gender equality, the country’s government plans to cut funding for equality projects significantly in the coming years. That’s according to the Czech branch of the international NGO network, Social Watch.

When the democratization process started, quarter of a century ago, the Czech Republic hoped to raise its social, environmental, economic and legal realities to “First World” standards. The Czech Social Watch coalition concluded in its alternative report to the United Nations that “we are back in the Second World”. The chapters on People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Justice and Partnerships provide evidence of an increasing gap between East and West in Europe.

“Apart from indisputable internal responsibility, international cooperation has been lacking and it is not surprising that trust in the EU is decreasing in new member states”. The report complains about underrepresentation of Eastern Europe internationally and sees “ethnically motivated murders of Czech and Polish workers in Great Britain by neo-Nazis in connection with Brexit” as “only the tip of the iceberg”.

V rámci Politického fóra na vysoké úrovni o udržitelném rozvoji (HLPF) představily organizace občanské společnosti své kritické připomínky k implementaci Cílů udržitelného rozvoje (tzv. SDGs). Hlavní zjištění monitorovací zprávy Česká republika: opět druhý svět prezentovala v New Yorku i česká koalice Social Watch.

The Czech branch of the social watchdog group, Social Watch, has given a mixed appreciation of the Czech Republic’s moves to foster a more equitable and fairer country and world over the last year. The grouping of NGOs praised moves to increase the minimum wage and to take some steps to dealing with those profiting from citizens falling into the debt trap. However, it also highlighted the government’s failure to push through a bill on social housing, the continued wide gender gap on pay, and the high level of Czech arms exports to dubious regimes and low levels of development aid. The assessment was carried around in the context of the United Nations’ 2030 strategy for sustainable development.

One of the important issues in the transition of Eastern European countries from central planning to market economies was the lag behind the then so-called First World, especially behind the states of Western Europe. Unfortunately, even after 26 years, this lag persists. Attempts to develop civic structures and to integrate them into international networks have largely failed, though in this respect the Czech Republic has advanced further than most of the former Eastern Bloc. A sustainable development agenda might help to change the situation, if it were treated seriously by all participants. As for now, however, it remains unclear whether the interests of a decent standard of living and environmental protection will prevail over the interests of selfish profit.

Czech women are two times more likely to fall into poverty than men. This gap is particularly pronounced among the elderly and single-parent families, notes the Czech branch of the Social Watch network in its report published on the occasion of the International Women's Day. In the Czech Republic, women are responsible for 87 per cent of single-parent families, with an estimated total number of 180,000. Nearly 20% of these families with one parent are at risk of poverty. Mothers without a spouse often have low incomes and are twice as likely to be unemployed than the national average.

The Social Watch Coalition in Czech Republic launched the report on gender equality concerns itself with two of the most serious issues of today – firstly, the feminization of poverty (the status of single mothers and female pensioners) and secondly, the violence suffered by women and migrants.

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