Cleaner Jaroslava Dušková, a representative of Czechia’s impoverished class

Jaroslava Dušková, photo: Jan Kolář / Czech Radio

An in-depth survey commissioned by Czech Radio suggests that Czech society is divided into six social classes that differ in terms of resources and status. The study defines two types of upper middle class, the wealthy and emerging cosmopolitan, three types of lower middle class and an impoverished class. Czech Radio found a typical representative of each social class. Jaroslava Dušková, a cleaner on a disability pension, is a representative of the impoverished class.

Jaroslava Dušková,  photo: Jan Kolář / Czech Radio

Jaroslava Dušková has no internet connection and is an avid reader of the latest flyers detailing the discounts offered at shopping centres. A description of her monthly finances reveals why.

“I take CZK 5,900 on my disability pension. Then I get about CZK 4,000 in social benefits for housing. Out of that I pay CZK 5,000 for rent, CZK 2,000 goes to debt repayment and the rest is spent on food and such. One must not waste money.”

Ms. Dušková is a representative of what Czech Radio’s survey has identified as the impoverished class, the lowest social class in the country.

Jaroslava Dušková,  photo: Jan Kolář / Czech Radio
Whereas members of the five other classes score well in at least one of the measured categories – economic, social, human and cultural capital - the impoverished score below average in all of them.

They make up 18 percent of the total population and tend to live in the country’s larger and middle sized cities, particularly in the north-east and north-west.

The impoverished tend to have a below average education and members of this class stretch across all generations. Women are slightly more represented in the group at 60 percent.

Ms. Dušková recently started receiving a disability pension, because she suffers from problems associated with her kidneys and spine.

However, it is not enough money and so she works 20 to 30 hours a week as a cleaner for the Salvation Army in order to get by.

A few years ago she had to find refuge in an asylum, after she decided to escape her abusive ex-partner.

The one bedroom flat she lives in now lies near a railway line, but apart from the occasional train she says it is quiet and a major improvement.

„For me, freedom means that you have your own flat, your own furnishing. You can invite people over, go wherever you want, take a rest whenever you need to and talk to your neighbours on the stairs.

Jaroslava Dušková,  photo: Jan Kolář / Czech Radio
"In the asylum house I used to live in this was not possible. You had to report whenever you left and no visits were allowed…Now I have my own flat and I am experiencing freedom.”

All of Ms Dušková’s children are now grownup, but she does keep in close contact with two of them, sometimes spending Christmas over at her son’s family. At home she also has a cat called Lily.

While she says her back problems prevent her from visiting the cinema or theatre, she is an avid reader of books. Politics interest her little, but she does occasionally watch the news on television.