Who Is Poor in the Czech Republic? The Changing Structure and Faces of Poverty after 1989*

Jiří Večerník
2004 Czech Sociological Review   unpublished
The article provides a summary of evidence on the development of poverty in the Czech Republic since 1989. First, the new sources of poverty after 1989 and the new measures introduced to prevent or combat it are described. Second, the relative ease with which it is possible to leave the labour force and the impact of departures on household income is considered. Third, a variety of measurements that reveal different faces of poverty, comparing so-called objective and subjective indicators, are
more » ... resented. Fourth, the working poor are examined and compared with the non-working poor. As a comparison of Micro-census data demonstrates, more change occurred in the composition than in the amount of poverty. Before 1989, poverty was caused mainly by demographic factors. In contrast, unemployment became the strongest factor of poverty under the market economy. This largely manifested itself after 1997, when there was a rapid increase in unemployment in the Czech Republic and the numbers for long-term unemployed grew even faster. Simultaneously, the problem of 'the working poor' appeared, but it is far less acute in the Czech Republic than in other EU countries. In conclusion, drawing sociology more into poverty research is stressed as a necessity. Under the communist regime, various circumstances meant that poverty remained mostly invisible. First, ideology rendered it taboo, and all manifestations of poverty were deliberately concealed. Second, owing to the general equalisation of living conditions , disparities in income were quite small and the living standard of the majority of the population was not far from the minimum. Third, owing to compulsory employment, there was no poverty caused by labour market failures. In the end, by impoverishing and subordinating the entire population, the regime managed to conceal poor individuals and groups.