For many, welfare pays more than work, study finds

Foto: Barbora Kmentová / Radio Praga

For many unemployed people in the Czech Republic, getting a job is not an option. A new study by the government Agency for Social Inclusion found that accepting a low-paying job in some cases lowers the overall income of the family. That’s why many people on welfare feel little motivation to get a job. I spoke to the agency’s Alena Zieglerová.

Photo: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International
“The motivation for people living in poverty to take up a legal job depends on how much they are offered in wages rather than on how much they get in social benefits.

“For example, social benefits for a family with two adults and one child are about 18,000 crowns, or some 810 US dollars; that means that if both of the parents work and get only a minimal wage they still stay under the poverty level. So if the family gets out of the poverty level it can lose some of the benefits and their family budget will be in insufficient.”

So you are basically saying that the difference between the minimum wage and the social benefits suggest that people are not motivated to take the job. Is that correct?

“That is correct. Some of the low-educated people have a very low motivation. And it is a good strategy and not laziness on their part to count whether it pays off to start a legal job with a low income or to stay on the social benefits.”

Alena Zieglerová,  photo: Czech Television
Some people argue that if the state lowers social benefit people living off the state will have to reconsider their position. Would you agree with that?

“No, I don’t agree with that, because the social benefits are very low, around 117 crowns, or 5.3 dollars, per day. The problem is the illegal job market. It is better for the people to take up illegal job and keep the social benefits.”

Some experts have also proposed introducing stricter conditions for qualifying as unemployed. What do you think about that?

“That’s very similar. It is not a question of restrictions and sanctions against poor and unemployed people. It is about helping them to take up a legal job and increasing their motivation, which is not so complicated.”

So what measures can be taken to motivate the people?

Photo: Eva Odstrčilová
“We need to help the people to overcome the hard beginnings in income jobs. And by the hard beginnings I mean that it costs them more than if they actually stay at home.

“It is the meals outside of home, it is the costs of the kindergarten, it’s the need to have more clothes and other things they didn’t need before. If this is covered under the state employment policy, people are able to stay in their jobs and eventually start earning more money.”