Profits or Human Rights

Editor: Jiří Silný

Authors: Ilona Švihlíková, Tomáš Tožička, Dagmar Žitníková, Václav Drozd, Radek Kubala, Milan Smrž, Josef Patočka

The complete version of this report is available here and the pdf version is here.

This year's report of the Social Watch for the Czech Republic focuses on three areas: the economy, health and care and socio-economic transformation. The report responds to the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also reflects on issues related to the conflict in Ukraine, in particular the impact of rising energy prices and inflation. In the report, economist Ilona Švihlíková criticises the absence of national economic policy and chaotic conduct of the governments (there was a change in administrations after last year’s October elections) throughout the pandemic, as well as its unsystematic and antisocial tax policy. "Probably the most telling aspect of the efforts of the previous and current governments in response to the pandemic is the lack of any comprehensive summary - a review of failures, why some processes took too long, what will be the long-term effects of the pandemic etc." It is clear that even in the current crises related to the Ukraine conflict the new government does not intend to approach the growing social issues systemically and does not have the resources to do so, because both the previous and current governments have failed, in particular with regard to tax policy: “The common feature of these measures is the fact that they are not systemic; tax policy is made like ‘cutting a salami’, without regard to the needs of the state, the amount of the tax quota etc. The issue of tax justice is being ignored entirely. It is clear that the majority of tax policy changes have been made to benefit the wealthiest demographic". This increases social tension - protests and warnings from the unions are on the rise in early summer. “The Czech society is psychologically and socially exhausted after the pandemic; the issue of social peace is more pressing than ever before. Unfortunately, the government so far does not seem to understand the gravity of the situation and makes no effort to face the dynamically evolving inflation, e.g. by the way of pricing legislation.”

An expert on development and a long-time coordinator of the Czech national Social Watch coalition, Tomáš Tožička, also discusses the taxation issue. From the viewpoint of tax justice, he criticises the efforts of the current government to abolish the legislation on cash registers, which was only introduced in 2016, as well as its inaction on the issue of tax evasion. As for development cooperation commitments, their fulfilment by the Czech Republic is completely insufficient and has a declining tendency. After the government of prime minister Fiala took office in 2021, the international economic cooperation between the Czech Republic and economically less developed countries was reduced again. In total, humanitarian aid and development cooperation was slashed by as much as 30%.1 In the DAC OECD group, the Czech Republic ranks second to last in solidarity.2 Tožička also points out the shocking disparity between attitudes towards war refugees. "In contrast with the strong rejection of refugees from war-stricken areas of Asia and Africa, the current level of solidarity and support offered to Ukrainian refugees is shocking. The politicians and society of the global south are rightfully asking why has no conflict, often even bloodier, illicit such a wave of solidarity and support for the targeted country or even remotely comparable sanctions against the aggressor."

The section on health and care echoes the voices of union leaders: The chairwoman of the Healthcare and social care union of the Czech Republic, Dagmar Žitníková, poses that the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was handled well, but that has changed in the subsequent period.

As the primary reason why the Czech Republic suffered one of the highest number of causalities per capita (“Nearly 40 000 confirmed COVID-19 fatalities and other fatalities clearly linked to the pandemic. In comparison to a regular year the mortality in the Czech Republic rose by almost a third."), she identifies the chaotic behaviour of politicians. “Even at the time of the greatest pressure on the hospitals, the healthcare system held up and did not collapse. However, this is not thanks to the government, but health care professionals and other hospital staff." Information systems in healthcare were improved and additional sources of financing were secured, but a shortage of workers remains a limiting factor. Another union representative, Václav Drozd, reports on the state of the social services; this area is also suffering from a chronic lack of workers and room for clients due to low wages and poor working conditions. The system is not prepared for the population ageing, and creeping privatisation is further decreasing the availability of the services. The report proposes significant investments, better employee protection and support of non-profit forms of social care (community, co-operative etc.).

In the section on socio-ecological transformation, journalist Radek Kubala, who works with the Re-set initiative, critically evaluates the European Green Deal as a programme going in the right direction, but with insufficiently ambitious goals and undeveloped measures. “Previous experiences with the Just Transition Fund, which is intended for the renewal of coal regions, as well as other European funds, have so far been tragic. The European Commission is unable to prevent the funds from falling into the hands of big corporations who want to bend the rules of climate policy in their favour”. Overall, there is not enough attention paid to the social impact of the planned changes on the EU level. However: "A serious debate is yet to be had in the Czech Republic on the topic of future energy and climate policies."

Environmental expert Milan Smrž from Eurosolar criticizes the lack of government support for renewable energy sources in the face of rising energy prices and impending energy poverty and emphasises the potential of these sources. Almost anywhere in Europe (except for large cities) there is sufficient solar and wind potential available to satisfy energy demand entirely from renewable sources. The report is critical of plans for future development of nuclear energy and demonstrates that “nuclear energy is three to five times more expensive today3 than renewable wind and solar energy and the gap will continue to widen. This is compounded by the unsolved problem of spent fuel storage.

The report concludes with information on the New Deal initiative. It is a twelve-point “Programme of socio-ecological transformation for the Czech Republic, which aims to find a path to a good life for all within the limits of our planet and offers concrete policy recommendations to achieve it. It includes a call for a society-wide dialogue on how to face the current issues together and in solidarity." The programme was developed during the years 2020 and 2021 by dozens of experts representing "environmental movements, unions in both industrial and care sectors, organizations promoting affordable housing and initiatives fighting poverty and social exclusion." Such wide cooperation is unheard of in the Czech Republic and the initiative continues to promote public debate on the direction of society. Czech national Social Watch coalition supported the programme as well.


1 FoRS, FoRS – Fiala's government continues the policy of cuts in humanitarian aid and foreign development cooperation, 10 February 2022 - Available online:

3 Levelized Cost Of Energy, Levelized Cost Of Storage, and Levelized Cost Of Hydrogen, OCT 28 2021 01. 03. 2022, available at:

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