Czech women are more threatened by poverty than men

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. These two issues are also part of the list of the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) – specifically, goal 1, ending poverty and goal 5, gender equality.

Poverty of single mothers

One-parent families are one of the groups most likely to become victims of social exclusion in the EU. In the Czech Republic, a single parent is financially disadvantaged, as two paychecks are fundamental to sustain a family with children. According to the SLBD, single mothers comprise 87% of single parents in the Czech Republic, so therefore the issue of one-parent families is often linked to women.

Despite prejudices, Czech single mothers are more economically active (i.e. they are employed or active in business) than mothers with a partner, 57.7% v 49.1%. But they are at a higher risk of unemployment, 15.8% v 8.8%. Although the Czech Republic claims that their citizens are least likely to experience poverty or social exclusion in the whole EU, the data of the SILC collected in 2015 tells a different story. Single parents living with children are less likely to receive welfare than others and some indicators show that Czech single parents often fare even worse than the EU average. In the Czech Republic, single parents are 2.8 times more likely to be threatened by poverty despite being employed (13.6% v 4.9%) than complete families. By the standard of the EU, this puts them at a 1.8 higher risk.

In practice, we can see that the cause of poverty of single mothers is most often precarious employment (part-time jobs, reduced basic salary, disadvantageous work from home), horizontal and vertical gender segregation and the associating gender pay gap. Although single mothers need the money for their livelihood, they look for jobs that will coincide with childcare and where an absence, for instance, when the child gets sick, is tolerated. Poverty is a major stressor which causes parental depression and has direct effect of parenting competence. Poverty not only excludes the child from its peers (the child does not participate in extracurricular activities, does not have the clothes that others do) but can also lead to behavioral disorders, worsened school performance, mental or physical problems and a worse perspective in future establishing of one’s self in adulthood.

A possible solution to the poverty of single mothers is prepaid maintenance. For this to be effective, it is essential for it not to be a replacement for social welfare, but to really help increase the number of those who are at risk of poverty.

Poverty of pensioners

Pensioners are another female group threatened by poverty and social exclusion. The size of their pension is influenced not only by structural factors (social politics of the country, the state of the labor market, the establishment of men and women) but also by cultural factors, such as gender stereotypes, standards, values or male and female roles in society. Women are expected to take care of the home and children which causes their careers to grind to a halt. The necessity to reconcile both family and career has effect on women in the labor market, especially on women that have not worked for a while because they had a family to care for. This also has effect on the lower salaries of women – today, women make on an average 22.5% less than men in monthly wages. It is obvious that the size of the pension is connected with the labor market and that these factors are responsible for the lower wages of women and the higher risk of poverty in old age.

The risk of poverty of pensioners is a pressing issue. It is most visible in households of one, which concerns mainly women. Eurostat states that as of 2015, in these cases there have been 20.7% of women over 65 threated by poverty and 9.3% of men. As for the risk of poverty of those granted a pension, there have been 10.5% of female pensioners and 3.7% of male pensioners at risk in 2015.

This data clearly shows that poverty is a serious problem. When considering a solution, it must be kept in mind that the size of the pension is closely linked with many structural and cultural factors. Generally, it can be said that the size of the pension is directly linked with previous work experience and unfortunately, with the disadvantages throughout their working careers, such as lower salaries which are usually a female issue. One of the possible solutions can be focus on the equality of salaries in the first place. This solution could help women save money for their retirement and evade poverty in later life.

Violence against women

Violence against women is another pressing issue in the topic of gender equality. In the Czech Republic, 27.7% of women questioned above the age of 18 have experienced domestic violence which adds up to 1.2 million women in the country’s overall population. FRA has showed that as of 2014, 32% of women above the age of 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence. The report of Amnesty International has predicted that as of 2015, there have been 7500-20 000 cases of rape and only 3-8% of them have been reported. The role of gender in violence cannot be overlooked. In cases of domestic abuse, more than 90% of the victims are women and the majority of the convicted perpetrators are men. In order for prevention and eradication to be effective, it is paramount for it to be seen as a result of gender inequality in society.

In May 2016 the Czech Republic has signed the Istanbul Convention. It was the next-to-last state to do so and the convention has not yet been ratified. The reason for this delay of accepting the agreement is the lack of willingness to accept the gender question when it comes to the issue of violence.

The education in the issue of violence against women, domestic violence included, is unsatisfactory. Those who work in specialized jobs, especially those working in court or the Public Prosecutor’s Office or social workers, do not possess the qualification to handle such cases. Their ignorance when it comes to the development and dynamics of domestic violence and the basic needs of the victims can lead to secondary victimization. Besides educating these workers in these matters, we can take some inspiration from abroad. In Spaiin or Great Britain for instance, there are specialized courts that concerns themselves with violence aginast women. Therefore, it is ensured that only professionals who understand the issues and the needs of the victims, will be responsible for such cases. When it comes to our countries, the most realistic would be the Austrian model, where every Public Prosecutor’s Office has a special department with a certain number of employees which specializes in domestic violence against women and children. In the Czech Republic, there in an insufficient number of reception centers, especially those for women who are victims of abuse and have a secret address. Those victims who have other difficulties, such as those who are handicapped, are overlooked entirely. Because of their disability (such as blindness or reduced mobility), they often cannot be admitted to the reception center because it does not cater to their needs.

Violence against migrants

An often overlooked issue in the public eye is violence against migrants. Women and girls fleeing war to Europe are at a very high risk of various forms of violence throughout the course of their journey to peace. There are no specific security measures which would take into consideration the circumstances and needs of female migrants. Due to turning a blind eye to the issue of gender, the protection of migrants against violence is often nonexistent, despite the position and vulnerability of the migrants and the goal to “eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls”, according to Agenda 2030.

The joint investigation of the EWL (European Women’s Lobby), the ENoMW (European Network of Migrant Women) and the WRC (Women’s Migrant Commission), mapping the situation of the migrants directly in the field, shows that women and girls often flee their home countries because of their fear of gender-motivated violence (including sexual violence in time of conflict or forced marriages). The constant risk of being threatened by violence follows them on their way to Europe and later to the migrant facilities where there are not separate toilets or bathrooms. Many women have claimed that they did not feel safe and did not eat or drink so they would not have to use the bathroom. Others have claimed to being sexually abused by the employees of the facilities but they were too afraid to report the incidents, since it could have had negative effect on their application for international protection. The asylum procedures and admission procedures of the EU should reflect the specific needs of the migrants. A step that could reduce the risk of violence is definitely the establishment of separate sanitary facilities and rooms. For the victims of assault there should be psychological or legal counselling available, as well as social support and medical assistance. The aforementioned report also claims that the employees of these facilities should be educated in the politics of gender. And last but not least, the ratification of the Istanbul Convention is paramount, as it concerns itself with violence against migrants.

Download here the report in Czech.

Social Watch’s monitoring report concerning gender equality

Social Watch 2017
Editor: Markéta Mottlová
Published by Social Watch, Czech Republic
Prague 2017

Social Watch is an international network of civilian organizations with the aim to eradicate poverty and its causes, to stop all forms of discrimination and racism, to ensure a just distribution of wealth and to support human rights. Social Watch promotes peace; social, economic, environmental and gender equality and highlights the right of every human being for a life free of poverty.

The project has been supported by the Rose Luxembourg foundation.

The project has been supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic within the framework of the Program of Transformational Cooperation.

Editor: Markéta Mottlová

Authors: Eliška Kodyšová (Aperio), Markéta Mottlová (Fórum 50%), Petra Hokr Miholová (proFem), Romana Marková Volejníčková (Gender & Sociology SOÚ AV ČR)

Translator:  Sára Zeithammerová