18 June 2018

Second day in Ostrava. Although it is a Sunday, we decided to go to a shopping center to advocate for the right to a decent minimum income. Whilst we are collecting signatures for our petition, we often learn about the reality of ordinary people here in the Czech Republic. Although the economic situation in this country looks bright, the future is not always equally brilliant for all its citizens. The good economic performances and low unemployment in Czechia give the impression that it is easy for all people to get a job. That leads to a situation where obstacles for vulnerable people to re-integrate in the labour market are not adequately addressed. Employment services are not well connected with the services that provide social assistance. The Minimum Income System in the Czech Republic is very complex and needs simplification to be more effectively addressing people’s needs. The level of social assistance has not been increased since 2012 and is still at 7500 CZ Krone (around 300€) for a family with two children. That is 60% of the at-risk-of-poverty rate. The reason for this stand-still is that the out-going government believed that there should be a considerable gap between minimum wages and minimum income, to facilitate labour market participation.  But experience in some other countries in Europe shows that there is no clear-cut relation between the income differencial between minimum wage and minimum income.

As is the case in many countries we have visited, housing costs are high and the housing supplement has been reduced. Notwithstanding the high employment rate, many families have debts as they aspire to purchase goods and services that they actually can’t afford to buy. Our Czech EMIN team has established good cooperation with support services for people with low income, who provide individual counseling. The team plans to discuss all this with the new government, once it will be formed.

The local volunteers from the Czech EMIN group enthousiasically discussed with the people around the shopping mall. Since we were all wearing the blue T-shorts that were produced for our campaign, this resulted is some nice and   sometimes funny pictures 🙂