Divided by Freedom – Large-scale Czech Radio survey finds six social classes in Czech society

Illustration: Toy Box

What is the makeup of Czech society 30 years after the Velvet Revolution? That is the question which Czech Radio tried to answer by commissioning a large-scale sociological survey across the Czech Republic. The results show that rather than a simple division between the haves and have-nots, Czech society is made up of six social classes. One is quite unique in the European context.

Illustration: Toy Box
The survey is based on the 2013 Great British Class Survey, which defined one’s class according to the amount and kind of economic, cultural, and social capital at one’s disposal.

Sociologists working with Czech Radio used the same indicators, but adjusted these to local conditions while also adding knowledge of foreign languages and computer skills as a capital asset in today’s globalised and rapidly shifting society.

The resulting study, which analysed the survey, found that, unlike in Britain, there is no sizeable established elite class with high levels of capital in all measured criteria.

Sociologist Daniel Prokop, who worked on the study, explains.

“In the Czech Republic the size of an elite class would lie at around 0.5 to 1 percent of the population.

“In our country you either have people with a high income and property wealth, who score low in the other categories, or the opposite, people who have the latter, but not yet the wealth. There is not a significant group that has it all.”

The two groups he describes make up 36 percent of the population, nearly two-thirds of which are termed the “secured middle-class” with above average income and property wealth.

Source: Czech Radio

The other 12 percent is defined as the “emerging cosmopolitan class”. This highly educated and well connected group tends to reside in the centres of large cities and works in sectors such as IT, or finance. Its main hindrances in life are high property prices and mortgages.

Source: Czech Radio
Nearly half of Czech society is made up of what the study defines as the lower middle-class. The “traditional working classes” who tend to possess an average income and some property wealth, but score low in the other categories, make up 14 percent of this segment.

Another group, which Mr. Prokop says is quite unique to the country, is the “class of local ties”. It makes up around 11.8 percent of the population and its members offset their low incomes by a well-established web of contacts.

“This class, I believe, is also a result of society before 1989, when this sort of social capital was very important. The fact that we have a large number of small villages given the size of our country also plays a role.

“These people often live in the Vysočina Region or parts of the Central Bohemian Region. You can’t say that they are rich or poor, because they have other resources rather than just income.”

Just over 22 percent of society is a made up of what sociologists working on the study have defined as the “endangered class”, 62 percent of them are women. This sizeable group, which is defined by below-average incomes and property ownership is particularly endangered by job loss and divorce.

Source: Czech Radio
At the bottom of Czech society lies a group defined as the “impoverished class”, which the sociologists working on the study have likened to the precariat group of society defined in the Great British Class Survey.

This group is made up of all generations and is often threatened by property seizure. They do not possess the economic or social capital resources with which to improve their situation. According to Mr. Prokop the study has exposed the diversity of the Czech population, which cannot be accurately divided in half by their political opinions.

“It shows that everyone has different types of resources and that we should be more complex when describing society.

“It is good news in the sense that society is not so split as some election results may indicate…It is bad news in the sense that Czech society is increasingly dividing and that the Czech education system is solidifying this situation rather than helping social mobility.”

The study is based on a survey, which was conducted by the agencies MEDIAN and STEM/MARK for Czech Radio in June 2019. It gave 4,039 respondents in more than 1,300 cities and villages across the country 200 questions. You can find out which group you belong to here: www.irozhlas.cz/zpravy-domov/ceska-spolecnost-vyzkum-tridy-kalkulacka