Labour ministry unveils poverty reduction plan
Approximately 1.5 million Czechs are living below the national poverty line. In line with their election promises, the Social Democrats have now unveiled a long-term poverty reduction plan aiming to improve their lot. But with money in short supply, the leading party in government will need to convince its own coalition partners of the need to spend tens of billions of crowns on higher pensions and social housing.
The long-term strategy, drafted by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry envisages a growth in the minimal wage from the present 8,500 crowns a month to 9,000 in 2015 with the aim of reaching 12,000 in 2018. The Social Democrats argue that it is essential for people who work to have a higher income than those who live off social welfare, since a meagre minimal wage only encourages people to sponge off the state.
There are also plans to raise pensions –which this year grew on average by 45 crowns –i.e. just over two US dollars. The ministry says a 200 crowns pension hike next year is an absolute minimum and would like to see pensions valorised regularly to cover inflation.
And, last but not least, the government wants to address the problem of social housing. According to government data compiled in cooperation with the Czech branch of the Salvation Army there are now approximately 30,000 homeless people in the country and another 70 thousand people are at threat of losing their homes. Providing social housing, which people on a minimum income could afford, is high on the list of government priorities and part of its strategy against homelessness. The prime minister, who is the driving force behind these plans, says he would like to see legislation on higher pensions approved by mid-summer and a clear outline of plans for social housing before the end of the year.