Wage gap continues widening


The average wage in the Czech Republic has been growing steadily over the past years, sometimes even faster than labour productivity. Yet two thirds of Czech workers earn less than the national average and the gap between the best paid and least paid employees continues to widen.

Wage differences between the capital Prague and other regions have always existed, likewise, differences between men and women have been an issue for a long time. However, according to the latest study by the Czech Statistics Office, Czech society is polarising. In 2002, the gap between the best and worst paid professions reached unprecedented levels.

The study showed that two thirds of Czechs earn less than the national average. Whereas the average was just over 18,000 crowns a month, the median, that is the middle value, was only 15,500 crowns. This suggests that the average is strongly influenced by a small group of employees with extremely high wages. And indeed, a small group earns the lowest wage hovering around the administrative minimum of less than 6,000 crowns, but another small group earns over a million a month.

The long perpetuated issue of wage discrimination of women seems to be rather exaggerated in the light of the latest data. Although the average wages of men and women differ significantly - with women's wages reaching about three quarters of men's, the median - or most common - values are much closer, the difference being less than 20 percent. The gap is caused by the fact that women typically occupy different professions, often in low-paid sectors, such as education and health care. At the same time, there are very few women in the top paid managerial positions.

As far as regional distribution is concerned, the highest wages remain in Prague. This is due to a different job market structure which requires many more people with high education.

Experts expect the wage gap between different professions to widen even further, as certain sectors will be catching up with the EU faster than others. Overall, though, the Czech Republic will remain below the EU average for at least another 25 years.