Only one parliamentarian succeeds in challenge to live on minimum wage

Petr Bratsky, photo: CTK

Inspired by a Slovak station, a Czech commercial radio station together with a daily newspaper challenged members of the Czech Parliament to try to live on the country's minimum wage for a whole month. Most of them refused, claiming it was only an empty populist gesture, but four parliamentarians did accept the challenge. Of the four, only MP Petr Bratsky managed to survive on the minimum wage until the end of January.

To give some idea of how he ate during his month on the legal minimum wage, MP Petr Bratsky on Monday served journalists with an array of cheap dishes, dishes which he and his family had to get used to eating during January. Happy that his month of scrimping was over, Mr Bratsky said he was now convinced that living on the minimum wage was just impossible.

Petr Bratsky, photo: CTK
"It made me think about prices, which I usually don't have to do. And also about the situation of people who live on that little money. I have been thinking about how to help them. I have come to the conclusion, that we must propose laws, which would address only these people, not give out social benefits to everyone."

Living on minimum wage severely limits people's options, and making a weekend trip to the mountains, or even going to the cinema, is out of the question. However, Mr. Bratsky believes that whoever tries hard enough can always improve their situation. With a little bit of imagination, he says, you can find ways of earning extra money or cutting down expenses. In January, for example, he visited the public library to read the newspaper instead of buying his own copy.

Mr. Bratsky is member of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party and his political views seem to remain unchanged after his month of poverty. He criticizes the lack of cheap or free retraining courses. Based upon his experience, he wants to deliver a new proposal to the Parliament this month. This would introduce a social benefit for people with low income assuring that they don't have to spend more than 15 % of their salary on the rent.

Finally I asked Mr. Bratsky what will this experiment change in his political career.

"It will not mean that my political ideas are taken more seriously, people now know me. As I will be putting forward some new proposals, such as rent benefits, people will at least know who Bratsky is. And that is definitely a positive outcome of this experiment. "