When it comes to equality between men and women, the Czech Republic is not bad at accepting various commitments and strategic documents. The problem is that there is little success in making gender equality more than just talk and putting it into practice. Women receive salaries which are one fifth lower than men’s. They are also much more at risk of poverty. Unequal remuneration at work correlates with lower pensions for women. On the one hand, women are still expected to care for others, and on the other hand, this care is not valued by Czech society. Last but not least, women face obstacles when attempting to enter politics and their political participation remains low.
The Czech Republic has one of the highest differences in the EU between the salaries of women and men.
The Czech Republic ranks below the European average in remunerating women and men and in comparison with other EU countries it is third from last. “The difference in salaries is one of the causes of the discrimination of women, but is also the result of a whole set of obstacles that women specifically have to face. The fields into which women are pushed are underfinanced – for instance, education, healthcare, social care”, says Tomáš Pavlas from the NGO Open Society. Unequal pay is partially caused by the disproportionate ratio of women and men in decision-making positions.
At the same time, it is interesting to look at the age group in which the pay gap between men and women is the greatest – thirty-five to forty-five years of age. That is the time when mothers of small children tend to return from maternity leave onto the job market.
We cannot avoid the question of what value we attribute to taking care of others, if we basically penalize women for taking care of children.
We automatically expect that women will care for children or older and ill people as part of their unpaid work, which is not socially appreciated in any way. Women thus work two shifts and their free choice is limited by social expectations. A project of the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs called “22% Towards Equality” represents a step towards addressing the unequal remuneration of men and women. With its name, it refers to the difference between the average hourly wage of women and men. The aims of the project are summarized by the aforementioned Pavla Špondrová: “An online wage calculator will be available, which employees will be able to use to calculate the usual wage, and they will then be able to use this data when negotiating their salary at work”.
Greater risk of poverty
Czech women are also more at risk of poverty and social exclusion. As mentioned, women’s pensions are lower by almost one fifth and female pensioners are twice as likely to live below the poverty line than men. The reasons are explained by Tomáš Pavlas: “Pensions are calculated based upon hours worked. They do not take into account that women dedicate many more hours to taking care of children and senior citizens. The pay difference accumulates over the years and results in a difference in pensions”. The European women’s lobby Equal Pension Rights for Women, of which Czech feminist initiatives are also part, draws attention to this gender pension gap, which amounts to 40% at the European level.
Another group that is enormously at risk of poverty and social exclusion are single mothers. The editor of the Czech Social Watch report Tomáš Tožička said in an interview for the online television channel DVTV that “a third of incomplete families are at risk of poverty. The greatest problem for them are unexpected expenses”. The risk of poverty is furthermore increased by unpaid alimony. For this reason, the Czech coalition Social Watch welcomes proposals of introducing upfront alimony coverage by the state. Finally, a group at risk of material shortage are families with multiple children.
The absence of women in politics
The Czech Republic is also behind when it comes to the representation of women in politics.
Even though women constitute half of the Czech population, only about one fifth of them are represented in politics, a significant democratic deficit.
In world rankings of the representation of women in parliament, the Czech Republic is in 88th place. The Czech political sphere thus remains the domain of men. But since political decisions affect both men and women, female experiences and perspectives should not be lacking in politics. The problem lies not so much in the indifference of women towards politics, but rather in political parties, which place women in unelectable places on their electoral lists.
The influence of political parties on the current situation is illustrated by Jana Smiggels Kavková, director of the NGO Fórum 50%: “An analysis of the Czech Statistical Office shows that in the elections to the lower chamber of Parliament in 2013, women often ran from the twenty-first or even lower position. For example, only men got into Parliament and occupied all fourteen seats for the Christian Democratic Party, which actually has 52% of women amongst its members”. Measures to ensure the greater political representation of women met with great resistance in the Czech Republic. Proposals to introduce legislative quotas for the share of women on electoral lists were rejected, despite the fact that one of the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is the introduction of quotas. The present disgraceful practice when it comes to the equality of men and women in the Czech Republic shows that we still have a long way to go.
This text was written in cooperation with Social Watch and was originally published on A2larm.cz.