Czechia

   

Social Policies

#21
Key Findings
With a generally effective social system, Czechia receives middling scores with regard to social policies (rank 21). Its overall score on this measure remains unchanged relative to 2014.

Educational outcomes are good overall, though Roma children are often shunted to lower-quality schools. There is a shortage of qualified teachers. While income inequality and poverty rates are low, the Roma population is marginalized overall. The lack of affordable housing is becoming a problem, with the number of people without homes growing.

The healthcare system, based on universal compulsory insurance, offers high-quality services. The system for medical-device reimbursement changed significantly in 2019, to the benefit of patients. Women’s employment rates are below the OECD average, especially for women with small children. Child-care provision is a problem, exacerbated by the growing number of unmarried parents.

The pension system is in surplus, with only moderate sustainability concerns. While the inflow of asylum seekers has been modest, the EU refugee crisis has triggered a highly polarized debate on migration, with very few citizens supporting rules that would allow refugees to settle permanently in the country.

Education

#27

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
6
Educational outcomes in Czechia are good, graduates with a secondary-level education are quite employable and the employment premium to tertiary-level education is among the highest in the EU. However, the Czech education system faces challenges in terms of producing an adequately skilled labor force and ensuring equity among social groups. These two issues are in fact linked, as the low levels of educational attainment among some people implies a loss of potential. The shortage of qualified teachers has been identified as a key problem, which the government promised to begin addressing with a 15% pay increase in 2018. However, this was postponed, eventually to November 2019, and then reduced to a 10% increase, with teachers’ resulting strike dismissed as showing them to be “ungrateful and unreasonable.” While still relatively low from an international perspective, the school drop-out rate has continued to rise, with the national target of 5.5% for 2020 unlikely to be met. Socioeconomic inequalities in school outcomes are also rising. There are wide regional disparities, and educational inequalities are quite often passed through the generations. For example, only 18% of children whose parents did not obtain tertiary education obtain a tertiary degree themselves. Roma children continue to be marginalized, and are disproportionally educated in special schools (Roma children represent about one-third of the pupils; 10.3% of Roma children are educated in special schools, compared to 2% of overall children). Participation in early childhood education has increased, but some conservative political forces are opposing measures that would enable enrollment for two-year olds, arguing for the “indispensability of maternal care.” Tertiary-education attainment rates continue to rise, but completion rates remain low. Financial support is limited, with only 1% of students receiving financial aid. The share of publicly funded Ph.D. fellowships is also below the EU average. The rate of absorption of EU funds within the education sector is excellent. However, implementation of some programs (e.g., digital literacy) has been delayed, mainly because school equipment is outdated, and many teachers lack relevant skills and training.

Social Inclusion

#18

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
6
Due to a favorable employment picture and a still rather redistributive social policy, income inequality and poverty in Czechia remain among the lowest in the OECD and the European Union. However, the differences between regions and ethnic groups are relatively high, and have continued to increase. About half of the Roma population, which constitute an estimated 2% of the overall Czech population, suffer from social exclusion. A further pressing problem of social inclusion is the lack of affordable housing and the growing number of homeless people, with estimates of 200,000 not having their own home. A law on social housing in Czechia, requiring municipalities to provide adequate housing to those who lack it, was already under preparation during the Sobotka government (2013 – 2017). However, while the Babiš government has promised to address this issue, it has failed to do so. Another problem is the high number of people who cannot pay their personal debts. As of 2019, more than 700,000 people in Czechia faced legal obligations that extended to the confiscation of personal property and compulsory deductions from earnings due to their debts. Nearly a fifth of the population is affected. Some debtors have left the legal labor market due to these threats, which in turn reduces tax and social-insurance payments. A newly amended law, applicable from 1 July 2019, offers some relief for those with multiple court orders that they cannot be expected to honor.

Health

#20

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
7
The healthcare system, based on universal compulsory insurance, ensures a wide range of choice for both providers and consumers of healthcare and provides a level of service which is high by international standards. Life expectancy slightly increased in the review period; however, there are regional differences. Czechia has long shown very low neonatal mortality rates. Czech healthcare has been financed primarily through a public health-insurance system. Public sources account for about 85% of healthcare financing in Czechia. The aging of the Czech population will have a significant impact on the growth of healthcare and social care costs in the coming years, placing the current financing system under strain. In 2018, only minor healthcare policy changes were made. The year 2019 brought more significant changes, with the amendment of the Health Insurance Act. This entailed the biggest changes in 20 years in the system of reimbursement for the use of medical devices, to the benefit of patients. Spending on preventive health programs has increased, and health-insurance funds’ coverage of dental care and home-based palliative care has improved.

Families

#26

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
6
Parents’ freedom to decide whether or not to work is limited by the quite limited provision of care for very young children, the availability of which declined significantly during the 1990s, and has shown only a little improvement more recently. The ability to reconcile parenting and labor-force participation is addressed by the Committee on the Reconciliation of Working, Private and Family Life, a body advising the Government Council for Gender Equality, but is limited in practice. The employment rate among women in Czechia is below the OECD average. This problem is especially difficult for women with children under three years of age. The rate of childcare availability for children up to two years of age is the OECD’s third-lowest, and affordable after-school care offered by preschools and schools is insufficient. The number of single mothers has stabilized, but is still very high – around 48.5% of all children are born to unmarried parents. This places increased demands on childcare, especially preschool care. However, public support for alternative forms of childcare, most notably so-called children’s groups, has expanded. Kindergarten attendance during the last year of preschool has been mandatory since 2017, putting additional pressure on preschool facilities. Czechia is the EU’s second-worst performer in the European Union with regard to the range of nurseries and kindergartens available for children under three years of age. Differences in the regional availability of kindergartens persist. In May 2019, the government presented an updated version of the family policy, focusing on four fundamental objectives: 1) the well-being of the child, 2) equality between women and men, 3) the ability to reconcile work and family life, and 4) intergenerational solidarity. A government proposal that would increase the parental allowance has yet to go through the entire legislative process.

Pensions

#7

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
8
The Czech pension system has developed through gradual and partial reform of the pay-as-you-go system that existed before 1989. The pension system is currently in surplus and the medium-term sustainability gap associated with the aging population is relatively limited. While pensions have increased more slowly than wages, pensioner poverty remains relatively low, partly reflecting the levels of pension afforded by the old system. In 2019, the average monthly old-age pension stood at CZK 13,319 (€ 512), an increase from 12,347 (€475) in 2018. However, there is a roughly 20% difference between the average pension for women and men. The official retirement age, which has been gradually increased since 1996, is still different for men and women. In the case of women, this age also depends on the number of children reared. In 2017, the ceiling for the maximum retirement age was set at 65 years.

The Babiš cabinet set pension reform as the first of its six main priorities in its government manifesto, emphasizing the need for a clearer separation between the public pension scheme and the regular state budget. In February 2019, led by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, a new pension commission was established, bringing together representatives from each of the parliamentary political parties, the social partners, the academic community and other relevant interest groups and pro-retiree organizations. In October 2019, the commission reached agreement on a model that would separate the current public pension pillar into two components. One would be a solidarity pillar, paid from the budget. The second would be paid though contributions. While details yet have to be hammered out, the expectation is that the delineation of the two pillars would come with an increase in the share of tax financing. Currently, 80% of all pension spending is financed by contributions, while 20% of funding comes from the state budget. After some debate, the government decided in autumn 2019 to keep the current retirement age for the next five years. Pension growth in 2020 was set above the standard indexation formula, generating additional costs of 0.1% of GDP.

Integration

#31

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
4
Since Czechia’s accession to the European Union in 2004, the number of foreigners holding permanent or temporary residence permits has increased threefold. As of the end of April 2019, this total stood at 571,214. Within this group, those with permanent residence permission slightly outnumber those with only temporary residence. Among the immigrant population, there are more males than females. The largest immigrant group consists of Ukrainians (135,000), followed by Slovaks (117,000), Vietnamese (61,000) and Russians (38,000). Those that come to work, especially if they originate from outside the EU, are often recruited in their home countries. Reports from the Labor Inspectorate confirm that many are paid less than Czech employees in comparable jobs, and their employment conditions often fail to comply with the law. Although Czechia is not located on one of the major routes used by refugees for coming to Western Europe, the European refugee crisis stirred an intense and highly polarized debate on migration and integration. The Czech population is generally quite closed to foreigners, and this attitude has been slow to change. In opinion polls taken in July 2019, 63% of respondents stated that Czechia should not accept refugees from the countries affected by war, a five percentage point decline relative to the previous year. Less than a third of respondents – 31% (as compared 24% in 2018) – said the country should admit refugees until they could return to their country of origin. Only 2% of respondents stated that Czechia should accept the refugees and let them settle there. There are relatively few asylum applications; in 2018, a total of 1,702 were submitted, with 47 cases granted asylum, and 118 cases granted supplementary protection.

Safe Living

#17

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
7
Crime figures in Czechia are unremarkable. The police have recorded a drop in crime rates for the fifth consecutive year, and more than half of all cases are cleared up. Citizens feel secure, and mostly indicate satisfaction with the performance of the police. Levels of trust in the police and the army are high. In September 2019, 69% of citizens indicated that they trusted the police, the highest such level since the mid-1990s. However, regional differences in crime activities are increasing, and there are tensions in regions featuring a relatively high concentration of marginalized groups.

Global Inequalities

#19

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
7
Czechia is not a significant player in the international development and devotes a relatively low share of GDP to development aid. However, it has pursued a relatively coherent strategy of development cooperation with a clear focus on countries where its own experience of transition can be helpful. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the primary coordinator of bilateral and multilateral development cooperation, a large number of private, public and non-governmental actors are also extensively involved in the selection of program countries and the identification of priority sectors, as well as in on-the-ground activities in partner countries. Bilateral development cooperation focuses primarily on priority partner countries selected by Czechia based on internationally recognized principles. For the 2018 – 2023 period, cooperation programs focus on six top-priority countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Georgia, Cambodia, Moldova, and Zambia). In addition to geographic priorities, Czechia also sets thematic priorities for its foreign development cooperation, namely agriculture and rural development, sustainable management of natural resources, economic transformation and growth, inclusive social development, and sound democratic governance.

In 2019, Czechia launched a new development aid program aimed at promoting investment by Czech companies in developing countries. Moreover, the budget for humanitarian aid, which complements the long-term programs, was increased by 20% compared to 2018.

Citations:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2018): Development Cooperation Strategy of the Czech Republic 2018-2030. Prague (http://www.czechaid.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CZ_Development_Cooperation_Strategy_2018_2030.pdf).
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