Czechs increasingly willing to commute long distances

While commuting long distances to work is a normal part of life in many countries, Czechs have traditionally been reluctant to commute. But the trend is now beginning to catch on in this country; and according to data released by the Statistical Office around 170,000 people commute to Prague every day.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Huge industrial plants built by foreign investors around the country attract thousands of people to commute to work every day. But social geographer Zdenek Cermak from Prague's Charles University says that high figures for people commuting to work are partly the result of people being reluctant to move away from their home town when they find work elsewhere.

"People are tied to the place where they live, they do not want to move to the place of their work, they prefer commuting even longer distances, they even stay at dormitories, but moving to the place where you work is much less common than in Western Europe. That is why the commuting figures are so high"

The recently opened car factory in Kolin, some sixty kilometres east of Prague, has attracted many commuters. But we don't have to go that far for an example. My colleague Jaromir Marek who works for Radio Prague's Czech section lives with his family in Brno and commutes to Prague, staying for most of the week in the city.

"Since I am living in a city 200 kilometres from Prague, I usually stay the working week in Prague and go back home just for the weekend. It's not very comfortable but it's not easy to change the address so fast, it's not cheap, it's very complicated for my family for instance."

According to Zdenek Cermak the reasons why Czechs are reluctant to move to places of their work are mainly given by recent history.

"The regional policy of the former regime was the so called system of bringing work to where people live, whereas the system that is currently promoted is the exact opposite. So in the old days the regime tried to distribute work opportunities evenly across the country, through central planning. Now that we have a market economy, the work opportunities tend to focus on the more attractive areas for investment. But even though the economy is changing quickly, people do not like to change their habits so fast."

Another factor which reduces labour mobility is the system of regulated rents. Because many rents are still regulated, prices in the rest of the housing market are relatively higher, and people tend to stay in an apartment where they do not have to pay too much. It is expected that as soon as subsidized rents are discontinued, more people will move to the place of their work.