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The Czech Republic performs favourably in several measures of well-being, and ranks close to the average in a large number of topics in the Better Life Index.
Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In the Czech Republic, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 16 957 USD a year, less than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn four times as much as the bottom 20%.
In terms of employment, some 66% of people aged 15 to 64 in the Czech Republic have a paid job, in line with the OECD employment average. Some 74% of men are in paid work, compared with 57% of women. People in the Czech Republic work 1 774 hours a year, slightly less than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. Some 8% of employees work very long hours, just below the 9% OECD average, with 11% of men working very long hours compared with just 3% for women.
Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In the Czech Republic, 92% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, well above the OECD average of 74% and among the highest rates in the OECD. This is truer of men than women, as 95% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 89% of women. This difference is higher than the OECD average and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. In terms of education quality, the average student scored 490 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in the Czech Republic, girls outperformed boys by 16 points, a far wider gender gap than the OECD average of 9 points.
In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in the Czech Republic is almost 78 years, two years lower than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 81 years, compared with 75 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 17 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. The Czech Republic also does well in terms of water quality, as 84% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, in line with the OECD average.
Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in the Czech Republic, where 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, slightly less than the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 63% during recent elections; this figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is 72% and for the bottom 20% it is 52%, a considerably wider gap than the OECD average gap of 12 percentage points.
In general, Czechs are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 75% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 80%.
OECD in Action
OECD Economic Surveys: Czech Republic 2014
OECD's 2014 review of the economy of the Czech Republic examines recent economic developments, prospects and policies. Special chapters cover completing the transition to a competitive domestic economy and strengthening skill use and school-to-work transitions.Read this report
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Czech Republic in Detail
Housing – Czech Republic expand
Living in satisfactory housing conditions is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives. Housing is essential to meet basic needs, such as shelter, but it is not just a question of four walls and a roof. Housing should offer a place to sleep and rest where people feel safe and have privacy and personal space; somewhere they can raise a family. All of these elements help make a house a home. And of course there is the question whether people can afford adequate housing.
Housing costs take up a large share of the household budget and represent the largest single expenditure for many individuals and families, by the time you add up elements such as rent, gas, electricity, water, furniture or repairs. In the Czech Republic, households on average spend 25% of their gross adjusted disposable income on keeping a roof over their heads, more than the OECD average of 21%.
In addition to housing costs it is also important to examine living conditions, such as the average number of rooms shared per person and whether households have access to basic facilities. In the Czech Republic, 85% of people say they are satisfied with their current housing situation, slightly less than the OECD average of 87%. This reflects the Czech Republic’s mixed performance in objective housing indicators.
The number of rooms in a dwelling, divided by the number of persons living there, indicates whether residents are living in crowded conditions. Overcrowded housing may have a negative impact on physical and mental health, relations with others and children’s development. In addition, dense living conditions are often a sign of inadequate water and sewage supply. In the Czech Republic, the average home contains 1.4 rooms per person, less than the OECD average of 1.6 rooms per person. In terms of basic facilities, 99.3% of people in the Czech Republic live in dwellings with private access to an indoor flushing toilet, more than the OECD average of 97.8%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Income – Czech Republic expand
While money may not buy happiness, it is an important means to achieving higher living standards and thus greater well-being. Higher economic wealth may also improve access to quality education, healthcare and housing.
Household net-adjusted disposable income is the amount of money that a household earns each year after tax. It represents the money available to a household for spending on goods or services. In the Czech Republic, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 16 957 USD a year, lower than the OECD average of 23 047 USD.
Household financial wealth is the total value of a household’s financial worth. In the Czech Republic, the average household net financial wealth is estimated at 14 749 USD, lower than the OECD average of 40 516 USD. While the ideal measure of household wealth should include real assets (e.g. land and dwellings), such information is currently available for only a small number of OECD countries.
Despite a general increase in living standards across OECD countries over the past fifteen years, not all people have benefited from this to the same extent. In the Czech Republic, the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is an estimated 30 190 USD a year, whereas the bottom 20% live on an estimated 8 466 USD a year.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Jobs – Czech Republic expand
Having a job brings many important benefits, including: providing a source of income, improving social inclusion, fulfilling one’s own aspirations, building self-esteem and developing skills and competencies. In the Czech Republic, 66% of the working-age population aged 15 to 64 has a paid job, in line with the OECD average. Employment rates are generally higher for individuals with a higher level of education; in the Czech Republic, an estimated 82% of the top 20% of individuals with at least a tertiary education have a paid job, compared with an estimated 22% for those without an upper secondary education. This 60 percentage point difference is much larger than the OECD average of 37 percentage points and suggests the job market in the Czech Republic is highly restrictive.
Women are still less likely than men to participate in the labour market. In the Czech Republic, 57% of women have jobs. This is less than the OECD average of 60% and much less than the 74% employment rate of men in the Czech Republic. This 17 percentage point gender difference is larger than the OECD average of 12 percentage points and suggests employment opportunities for women could be improved in the Czech Republic.
Young Czechs aged 15-24 also face difficulties, with an unemployment rate of 18.0% compared with the OECD average of 16.2%.
Unemployed persons are defined as those who are not currently working but are willing to do so and actively searching for work. Long-term unemployment can have a large negative effect on feelings of well-being and self-worth and result in a loss of skills, further reducing employability. In the Czech Republic, the percentage of the labour force that has been unemployed for a year or longer is currently at 2.8%, slightly lower than the OECD average of 3.1%. There is little difference on average between men and women in the OECD area when it comes to long-term unemployment. In the Czech Republic, however, the difference is relatively high with an unemployment rate of 2.4% for men and 3.3% for women.
The wages and other monetary benefits that come with employment are an important aspect of job quality. In the Czech Republic, people earn 19 312 US dollars per year on average, less than the OECD average of 34 466 USD. Not everyone earns that amount however. Whereas the top 20% of the population earn 23 141 USD per year, the bottom 20% live on 11 276 USD per year.
Another essential factor of employment quality is job security. Employees working on temporary contracts are more vulnerable than workers with an open-ended contract. In the Czech Republic, close to 7% of total employees have a contract of 6 months or less, lower than the average of 10% for 30 OECD countries. This figure suggests the Czech Republic has been successful in stabilising working contracts and encouraging open-ended contracts.
Better Policies for Better Lives
A more flexible labour market to become more competitive
The Czech Competitiveness Strategy is a recent structural reform programme with one target: to place the Czech Republic amongst the top 20 countries in terms of economic competitiveness by 2020. On the labour front, the Strategy includes many recommendations provided in recent years by the OECD, and builds on the recent Labour Code which contributed to higher employment flexibility by allowing more adaptable working hours.
The Competitiveness Strategy strongly increases the offer of part-time jobs. Other actions favour the integration of groups such as those over 55 and women with young children. In the case of young mothers, concrete solutions include increasing the availability and quality of preschool education.
This Competitiveness Strategy responds to the medium term challenges faced by the country, which is highly commendable.
More ResourcesWell‑being in the workplace: Measuring job quality
Community – Czech Republic expand
Humans are social creatures. The frequency of our contact with others and the quality of our personal relationships are thus crucial determinants of our well-being. Helping others can also make you happier. In the Czech Republic, 34% of people reported having helped a stranger in the last month, less than the OECD average of 48% and suggesting an increased risk of social isolation.
A strong social network, or community, can provide emotional support during both good and bad times as well as provide access to jobs, services and other material opportunities. In the Czech Republic, 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in a time of need, slightly lower than the OECD average of 90%. There is a 3 percentage point difference between men and women, as 87% of men believe they have this kind of social support, compared with 90% of women. While on average in the OECD there is a clear relationship between the availability of social support on the one hand, and people’s education level on the other, in the Czech Republic there is little difference: around 91% of people who have completed primary education report having someone to count on for help in times of need, compared to 89% for people who attained tertiary education. The Czech Republic is one of four countries where people who have completed primary education report more social connections than people who attained tertiary education.
A weak social network can result in limited economic opportunities, a lack of contact with others, and eventually, feelings of isolation. Socially isolated individuals face difficulties integrating into society as a contributing member and fulfilling personal aspirations.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Insights: Human Capital
Education – Czech Republic expand
A well-educated and well-trained population is essential for a country’s social and economic well-being. Education plays a key role in providing individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences needed to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Most concretely, having a good education greatly improves the likelihood of finding a job and earning enough money. Across OECD countries, 83% of people with university-level degrees have a job, compared with just below 56% for those with only a secondary school diploma. Lifetime earnings also increase with each level of education.
Following a decline in manual labour over previous decades, employers now favour a more educated labour force. High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In the Czech Republic, 92% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much higher than the OECD average of 74%. This is truer of men than women, as 95% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 89% of women. This 6 percentage point difference is higher than the OECD average of 2 percentage points and suggests women’s participation in higher education could be strengthened. Among younger people – a better indicator of the Czech Republic’s future – 94% of 25-34 year-olds have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, also higher than the OECD average of 82%.
Czechs can expect to go through 17.8 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, more than the OECD average of 16.5 years. This high level of education expectancy echoes the Czech Republic’s good performance in the educational attainment of its 25-34 year-old population.
But graduation rates, while important, speak little to the quality of education received. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reviews the extent to which students have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. In 2009, PISA focused on examining students’ reading ability, skills in maths and level in sciences, as research shows that these skills are more reliable predictors of economic and social well-being than the number of years spent in school.
The average student in the Czech Republic scored 490 in reading literacy, maths and sciences close to the OECD average of 497. On average, girls outperformed boys by 16 points, more than the average OECD gap of 9 points.
The best-performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all students. In the Czech Republic, the average difference in results, between the 20% with the highest socio-economic background and the 20% with the lowest socio-economic background, is 96 points, slightly lower than the OECD average of 99 points. This suggests the school system in the Czech Republic provides relatively equal access to high-quality education.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Environment – Czech Republic expand
The quality of our local living environment has a direct impact on our health and well-being. Having access to green spaces for example, is essential for quality of life. An unspoiled environment is a source of satisfaction, improves mental well-being, allows people to recover from the stress of everyday life and to perform physical activity. In the Czech Republic, 17% of people feel they lack access to green spaces or recreational areas, more than the 12 % average of OECD European countries.
Outdoor air pollution is one important environmental issue that directly affects the quality of peoples’ lives. Despite national and international interventions and decreases in major pollutant emissions, the health impacts of urban air pollution continue to worsen, with air pollution set to become the top environmental cause of premature mortality globally by 2050. Air pollution in urban centres, often caused by transport and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems, from minor eye irritation to upper respiratory symptoms in the short-term and chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer in the long-term. Children and the elderly may be particularly vulnerable.
PM10 – tiny particulate matter small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung – is monitored in OECD countries because it can harm human health and reduce life expectancy. In the Czech Republic, PM10 levels are 17.1 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 20.9 micrograms per cubic meter and lower than the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization.
Access to clean water is fundamental to human well-being. Despite significant progress in OECD countries in reducing water pollution, improvements in freshwater quality are not always easy to discern. In the Czech Republic, 84% of people say they are satisfied with water quality, in line with the OECD average.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030
Governance – Czech Republic expand
A cohesive society is one where citizens have a high degree of confidence in their governmental institutions and public administration. In the Czech Republic, 44% of people say they trust their political institutions, less than the OECD average of 56%. High voter turnout is another measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process. In the most recent elections for which data is available, voter turnout in the Czech Republic was 63% of those registered. This figure is lower than the OECD average of 72%.
Even if the right to vote is universal in all OECD countries, not everyone exercises this right. There is little difference in the voting rates of men and women in most OECD countries. This is the case in the Czech Republic, where the voter turnout of men and women is similar, at respectively 62% and 63%. While on average there are few differences between men and women concerning participation in elections, income can have a strong influence on voter turnout. In the Czech Republic, voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 72%, whereas the participation rate of the bottom 20% is an estimated 52%. This 20 percentage point difference is higher than the OECD average difference of 12 percentage points, and points to shortcomings in the political mobilisation of the worst-off.
Ensuring that government decision making is not compromised by conflicts of interest is key to maintaining trust in government. Transparency is therefore essential to hold government to account and to maintain confidence in public institutions.
Freedom of information laws (FOI) allow the possibility for individuals to access undisclosed information. For such policies to be successful, the public should have a clear understanding of their rights under the law, should be able to file requests with ease and should be protected against any possible retaliation. People in the Czech Republic can file a request for information either in writing or online, but not yet by telephone or in person. In addition, there are no provisions for anonymity or protection from retaliation.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Health – Czech Republic expand
Most OECD countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in the Czech Republic is 78 years, two years below the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 81 years, compared with 75 for men, in line with the OECD gender gap of six years, with a life expectancy of 83 years for women and 77 years for men.
Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyle, education and environmental factors). Total health spending accounts for 7.5% of GDP in the Czech Republic in 2010, lower than the average of 9.5% in OECD countries. The Czech Republic also ranks below the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 1884 USD in 2010, compared with an OECD average of 3268 USD. Between 2000 and 2009, total health spending in the Czech Republicincreased in real terms by 6.2% per year on average, a faster growth rate than the OECD average of 4.7%, but it decreased by 4.1% in 2010.
Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. While the percentage of adults who smoke every day has come down in the Czech Republic from 26.1% in 1993 to 24.6% today, it is still above the OECD average of 21.1%. In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In the Czech Republic, the obesity rate among adults is 21.0%, above the OECD average of 17.8%. Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma), and higher health care costs in the future.
When asked, “How is your health in general?”, 59% of people in the Czech Republic reported to be in good health, lower than the OECD average of 69%. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question. On average in OECD countries, men are more likely to report good health than women, with an average of 71% for men and 66% for women. In the Czech Republic, the average is 62% for men and 57% for women. Not surprisingly, older people report poorer health, as do those who are unemployed, or who have less education or income. About 75% of the top 20% of the adult population in Czech Republic rate their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, compared to about 48% for the bottom 20%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Life Satisfaction – Czech Republic expand
Happiness or subjective well-being can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings. Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Czechs gave it a 6.3 grade, lower than the OECD average of 6.6.
There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men and women across OECD countries. This is true in the Czech Republic, where men gave their life a 6.4 grade and women 6.3. Education levels strongly influence subjective well-being in many OECD countries but in the Czech Republic the difference is relatively small, with people who have only completed primary education reporting a life satisfaction level of 6.6, and people with tertiary education a level of 6.9.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings. In the Czech Republic, 75% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is lower than the OECD average of 80%.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Safety – Czech Republic expand
Personal security is a core element for the well-being of individuals, and largely reflects the risks of people being physically assaulted or falling victim to other types of crime. Across the OECD, assault rates have generally declined in the past five years. In the Czech Republic, almost 3.0% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, less than the OECD average of 4.0%. There is a difference of more than 2 percentage points between men and women in assault rates, at respectively 4.1% and 1.9%.
The homicide rate (the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants) is a more reliable measure of a country’s safety level because, unlike other crimes, murders are usually always reported to the police. According to the latest OECD data, the Czech Republic’s homicide rate is 1.7, lower than the OECD average of 2.2. In the Czech Republic, the homicide rate for men is 2.1 compared with 1.3 for women.
Fear of crime is another important indicator as it can constrain behaviour, restrict freedom and threaten the foundation of communities. Despite a general reduction in assault rates in the past five years, in many OECD countries feelings of security have declined. In the Czech Republic, 57% of people feel safe walking alone at night, lower than the OECD average of 67%. While men are at a greater risk of being victims of assaults and violent crimes, women report lower feelings of security than men. This has been explained by a greater fear of sexual attacks, the feeling they must also protect their children and their concern that they may be seen as partially responsible.
More ResourcesHow's Life? at a Glance
Work-Life Balance – Czech Republic expand
Finding a suitable balance between work and life is a challenge for all workers, especially working parents. Some couples would like to have (more) children, but do not see how they could afford to stop working. Other parents are happy with the number of children in their family, but would like to work more. This is a challenge to governments because if parents cannot achieve their desired work/life balance, not only is their welfare lowered but so is development in the country.
An important aspect of work-life balance is the amount of time a person spends at work. Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. People in the Czech Republic work 1 774 hours a year, close to the OECD average of 1 776 hours. The share of employees working more than 50 hours per week is not very large across OECD countries. In the Czech Republic, almost 8% of employees work very long hours, slightly less than the OECD average of 9%. Overall, men spend more hours in paid work: in the Czech Republic 11% of men work very long hours, compared with 3% for women.