Tomorrow 10 December, we will mark Human Rights Day. Poor and excluded people around the world are confronted with situations in which their human rights and their dignity are violated. This happens also in Europe. Iva Kuchyňková and Alžběta Karolyiová, from Caritas Czech Republic, portray the situation in their country to showcase this reality.
Iva Kuchyňková is a Social Policy Officer at Caritas Czech Republic and Alžběta Karolyiová coordinates the project "The quality of Caritas" at Caritas Czech Republic
The extended Křížek family living in a small town near Roudnice nad Labem is unable to manage the household expenses from their budget. One year ago, workers of the Parish charity in Roudnice nad Labem noticed that the children of the Křížek family were not taking snacks to school and were wearing just lightweight clothes during cold weather. Hence, they began helping the family. They provided clothes, paid the children's school lunches, and offered the family a washing machine.
The parents of the family, a calm and patient couple, are both working as gardeners. Yet, despite being both employed, the family lives below the poverty line. After deducting overhead costs, each member is left with CZK 74 (just under EUR 3) on average per day – for food, clothing, school supplies and hygiene products.
Their situation attracted the attention of the Czech TV, which made a reportage and broadcasted it on prime time on Sunday, November 20. The reportage raised awareness in the country of the fact that poverty affects not only "traditionally“ excluded families struggling with low education, addictions of all kinds or discrimination against specific ethnic origins, but also ordinary working families and individuals who just do not earn enough to make ends meet. According to recent surveys, 40% of Czech families are at risk of poverty.
On 2 February 2016, Caritas Czech Republic launched its Caritas Cares report, casting the spotlight on the threat of poverty and its consequences. Based on the experience of many field workers, Caritas identified the increasing debt of many families and the insufficient statutory minimum wage as the most pressing problems.
Minimum wage is one of the tools for tackling poverty. In the Czech Republic, the minimum wage is often just slightly higher, if not comparable, to the social security benefits, which discourages potential wage earners from seeking employment.
In the Czech Republic, if a single mother of two children wanted to have a higher salary than the benefits, she would have to earn CZK 14,000 (approx. EUR 520) net. Although the minimum wage in the Czech Republic has been increasing, in 2016 it was set at CZK 9,900 (less than EUR 370) and in January 2017 it will increase to CZK 11,000 (around EUR 410). The mother in our example would still be CZK 3,000 short at the end of the month. She would still be living on the brink of poverty, like so many are doing today in the Czech Republic.
Caritas Czech Republic proposed a raise in the minimum wage to CZK 12,000 (around EUR 445) and a gradual annual increase to match step-by-step the neighbouring countries where the minimum wage is not only higher but also more adequate than in the Czech Republic. Caritas Czech also advocated to address the lack of legislation in the area of social housing and the difficulty in enforcing child support in cases of single-parent families.
In the spirit of championing the poor, Caritas serves on many fronts to prevent and mitigate the impact of poverty and defend the human rights and the human dignity of people living in poverty. Human rights are increasingly being violated as poverty expands across social classes and steadily more workers are falling into in-work poverty. Anyone caring about human rights should be aware of the interconnection between increasing poverty and decreasing respect of these rights.
Austria has no set minimum wage.