A survey released by the Czech Statistics Office released this week has shown that the standard of living in the Czech Republic continues to lag behind western counterparts. Although salaries have gone up, so have expenses and in real terms many households are earning less. Meanwhile, roughly 1.5 million people are living on – or well under – the poverty line. The only good news there is that the number there has gone down by one percent year-on-year.
Czechs are making more but affording less due to higher expenses. In 2012 and 2013 the average monthly earnings for four-member families was just under 50,000, yet even there, they are having trouble setting money aside. Taxes, mortgage and car payments, utilities, and generally higher living expenses, all play a role. Even those who are better off are having trouble setting aside savings. One soon to be second-time mother, in a household with an above average income of 65,000 crowns per month, told Czech TV this:
“We consider ourselves lucky and we realise that we have reason to be happy… but we were surprised that [at the end of the month] we hadn’t saved as much as we thought. We were left wondering where the money went.”
Putting aside funds is one thing, but of course there are many who are far worse off: on the cusp of poverty or well below the poverty line. Out of a population of more than 10 million in the Czech Republic, 886,000 live below the poverty threshold. Some 700,000 are so-called ‘materially deprived’ and can’t afford common material goods such as a telephone, washing machine, TV or car. Vacations are unheard of while the very poorest have trouble making basic payments – trouble shopping for food. Meat three times a week is a problem, and families instead buy only cheaper items at the market, as this mother explains:
“It is a lot cheaper to make a pot full of soup or risotto or potatoes than to buy fresh rolls with cheese.”
Officially, how is poverty threshold defined? Anyone single earning only around 9,600 crowns a month qualifies; for a family of four the number is just over 22,000. Paradoxically, many, even those who have to go without, remain positive, or are perhaps just putting a brave face on reality. One elderly woman told Czech TV she most missed not being able to afford cultural events. Asked if she ever went on vacation, she replied first “No.” then quickly modified her answer to “only once in while”.