The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Czech Republic:
- Waste Management
Like many countries in Europe, Czech Republic too has a substantial waste and recycling problem. On average Czechs produce 280 kilograms of the mixed non recyclable waste per capita per year.
There are municipalities in Italy that produce about 20 kilos of such waste per person per year. They managed to reduce the amount to less than a tenth of what is produced in Czechia, a result which has been achieved after decades of sustainability practices. A lot of its waste still ends up in landfills as municipalities earn money on them, with about 20 euros per ton of waste disposed.
In 2017 alone, every Czech citizen produced more than 550 Kg of total municipal waste on average. The causes for this are that although they are quite good in sorting waste, the recycling capacities are insufficient. Recycling is expensive and like other countries, this is an issue for Czech Republic.
The minimum wage in Czech Republic is about 11,000 Koronas, translating into about 385 pounds per month. Most are afraid to speak out for fear of losing their job. The transformation of the economy after 1989 was based on cheap labour and incentives for foreign direct investment. There has been an unwillingness to address the growing number of problems this brings. In the media, it is often said that people should take care of themselves – never that someone else should help them. But this is a serious issue if the majority of the population does not have a decent standard of living and struggles with repaying debt and meeting their obligations for rent and feeding their children. Social housing is practically nonexistent, and the state contributes only a little towards housing costs. At present, there are 750,000 people in long-term debt, and the bailiffs, private individuals with a licence for debt collection, take so much from their monthly earnings that they cannot afford to pay rent. Also, many poor people live in unhygienic temporary accommodation. Furthermore, Czech Republic has one of the highest proportions of homeless people in the European Union (0.65 % of the population). Debt enforcement and its impacts on poverty and deprivation is a particular manifestation of income inequality. It is further a consequence of bad political decisions made by previous governments. In 2017, 863,000 citizens faced enforcement proceedings (a year-on-year increase of almost 3.5 %), with 493,000 people facing three or more enforcement proceedings. 6,000 children under 18 have been subject to enforcement proceedings as well as more than 120,000 older persons over 60 leaving receiving minimum income despite the fact that it is stipulated by law they cannot be subject to enforcement.
- Gender Pay Gap
Women are worse off than men in almost all aspects of life – with the exception of longevity. Women in the Czech Republic earn on average 21.8% less than men; 64% of women are in paid work, compared to 79% of men. Women take on a disproportionate share of caring responsibilities, accounting for nearly three quarters of persons who are economically inactive because they are caring for someone else. Very few men stay at home to look after children or other family members. In addition, women are more likely than men to be in part-time employment – 11% of employed women work part-time compared to 2% of men. Women have smaller pensions than men – CZK 10,756 compared to CZK 13,076 (82%). Men outnumber women by five to one on the boards of publicly owned companies. There is a slight imbalance in education with 95% of men having completed upper secondary level education compared to 92% of women. Female university graduates find it harder to find work than men – in 2017 85.5% of female graduates were in employment compared to 95.2% of male graduates.
- Health and Well-being
Czech men have a life expectancy of 76 years on average, but the last 15 years of their lives will involve tackling serious health problems, which arrive soon after they turn 60. While Sweden has raised the healthy life expectancy of its population by nine years, the Czech Republic has only managed to increase the life expectancy of it’s ailing population. The Health Ministry says this is linked to high-risk factors such as smoking, drinking and fatty foods that are typical of the Czech national cuisine. The majority of Czechs don’t eat enough vegetables, don’t drink enough non-alcoholic beverages, and don’t move enough. The high tolerance for smoking and the nation’s love of beer all contribute to serious health problems in the over 60 age bracket. Surveys show that although Czechs put good-health at the top of the ladder of values they do very little to promote it. Sixty percent of the population is overweight and 30 percent is obese. Moreover few people bother about prevention. Statistics from WHO shows that only 66% of adults in the Czech Republic perform the sufficient amount of physical activity. What is alarming is that 40% of adults do not regularly engage in any sports or recreational physical activity, and are at greater risk of obesity. 21.4% of the Czech population eat fruits every day, but only 12% of men, which is another risk factor. However, men are more active in terms of sports and fitness. They spend an average of 3.6 hours per week on physical activity, while women only spend 3.2 hours.
- Education Standards
General government expenditure on education as a share of GDP was 4.6% in 2017, similar to the EU average. The increase in government expenditure on education over 2010-2017 was comparatively high at 3.4% (EU average: 0.2%). This increase happened over a period of particularly strong GDP growth and the share of government expenditure on education did not evolve much, oscillating between 11.3% and 12% in 2013-2017. Government expenditure on education as a share of GDP decreased from 5.1% in 2013 to 4.6% in 2017. The 2019 budget for the reform to make education more inclusive increased from 2018. Participation in quality education remains highly dependent on children’s socio-economic background, with large regional disparities.
The reform of the funding system for regional education has been delayed again until 2020, aiming at a better preparedness. The European Commission is waiting for improvements.