Czech Republic: Gender equality targeted by a confidence-lacking government

Jana Smiggels Kavková.
Photo: Jan Sklenář / Czech Radio

Could it be the case that the Czech Republic has reached the Scandinavian level of development in terms of equality of men and women? If not, the planned transfer of resources from the field of gender equality makes little sense. Yet, the statistics and our position in international comparison indeed tell us the very opposite. Our society has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. But the leadership of Ministry of Labour and Social Affair is obviously quite content with the current state of affairs, since it plans to withdraw financial support for the promotion of equality of women and men in the labour market.

The Czech Republic ranked 88th among 144 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2017. Compared to 2006, when the World Economic Forum first introduced the index and the CR ranked 53rd, this is a major downfall. The results are primarily due to the unequal position of women in the labour market. Women on average earn 21,8 % less than men, which is the second worst score of all the EU member states, the worst being Estonia. We also record the highest level of unemployment of women with children up to 6 years of age, which has a lot to do with the lack of schools and a lack of flexible and part-time contracts. Due to lower wages and unequal participation of men and women in unpaid housework and care for children, women tend to have lower pensions and to suffer a greater threat of falling into poverty. In incomplete families – and we’re usually speaking of single mothers with children – poverty has, naturally, a strong negative effect on children.

The presented data, however, met with little understanding from a part of the political representation. It was late last year that Jakub Janda, an MP for the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and a former ski jumper, submitted a proposal to transfer 7 million CZK from the field of gender equality to sport, which – it should be noted – received more than 4 billion CZK only from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports in 2017. Although the proposal was rejected, we now see it was not the last attempt to undermine the importance of financing equality of women and men. 

Where do we allocate the funds for free legal assistance for victims of discrimination due to sex or parenthood – either at job interviews or in the workplace? What enables women on parental leave, women over 55 and other disadvantaged groups to undergo free courses aimed at their professional fulfilment? How does the pay calculator, an instrument for equal pay for women and men, come into being? What source is there to support single parents who receive no alimony? The answer to all these questions is that the funding comes from the European Social Fund, the Operational Programme Employment.

Yet, the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (MPSV) plans to withdraw most of its submissions to the fund and to use it exclusively for funding children groups. Although they are clearly important, children groups alone can hardly rid us of the existing inequalities on the labour market and in the society in general. Also, the groups are by no means a systemic solution to the issue of pre-school care; that should be dealt with by public nursery schools financed by the state. A publication by OECD reminds us in this context that the Czech Republic, compared to other countries, invests very little in pre-school education – only 0,5 % of the GDP.

The situation is all the more paradoxical that the government taking such radical steps is, incidentally, a government that lacks confidence of the Parliament. It also ignores the Government Strategy for Gender Equality for 2014 – 2020 and its international obligations in this field. Does the political representation at the Ministry plan to join the SPD party (Czech xenophobic far-right party) in its hateful rhetoric against the so-called gender ideology? Let us hope it does not and that rational arguments will prove stronger than populist soundbites.

By Markéta Mottlová.


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Source: Social Watch Czech Republic.