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February 24, 2018
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Czech institute reminds President that welfare restrictions have applied for more than a decade now

29.12.2017 20:28
Czech President Miloš Zeman during his Christmas speech in 2017. (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Czech President Miloš Zeman during his Christmas speech in 2017. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

The Institute for Social Inclusion (IPSI) has responded to the Christmas speech made by Czech President Miloš Zeman, especially the part where he discusses so-called "inadaptables". Zeman said that social benefits should be restricted for persons who refuse jobs offered to them through the state's Labor Office.

As IPSI has reminded the President, that practice has long been at work in the Czech Republic - since 2004. News server publishes the IPSI statement in full translation here.

IPSI response to the 2017 Christmas message of the President of the Republic, Miloš Zeman

To quote the President of the Republic's Christmas message:  "However, there continues to be a group of people here whom we call the inadaptables. I recently spoke with the new Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and we agreed that it is necessary to limit social benefits for those who refuse to do the jobs offered to them."

The expression "inadaptables" is only used by people who, due to their own limitations, are incapable of distinguishing causes from their effects, but for people who are thoughtful, we firmly hope we can clarify matters (including for TV Barrandov viewers), as follows:  The limitations on welfare benefits for those who refuse to take the jobs offered to them by the Labor Office has been fully underway ever since the Employment Act took effect on 1 October 2004, i.e., for 13 years. Those restrictions are not the only ones in effect, either - persons who decide not to apply for the jobs available also lose their ability to apply for aid to those in material distress for a six-month period.

Here is the relevant legal statute:  Section 30 paragraph 2 letter a) and its repercussions in paragraph 4 letter b) -

"(2) The job applicant SHALL BE REMOVED from the list kept by the Regional branch of the Labor Office by a decision if, without providing a serious reason, a) the applicant refuses to take appropriate employment (as per Section 20), [...] (4) The job applicant who has been removed from the list for any of the reasons in b), in paragraph 1 letter e, or in paragraph 2, may be REINSTATED AFTER SIX MONTHS AT THE EARLIEST from the date on which the applicant was removed, on the basis of a new application in writing."

During this period of being removed from the lists, the "offender" who has refused the job offered by the Labor Office is excluded from the circle of persons receiving aid to those in material distress (according to that law) - a restriction that has been in place rather a long time (11 years now). From the day that law took effect on 1 January 2007, Section 3 has essentially not changed, which defines the persons who are not entitled to aid to those in material distress.

That legislation is even more strict than the Act on Employment, and under its terms all one has to do is refuse to take short-term employment (not just "appropriate" employment), or refuse to participate in a work-readiness project, and one loses one's benefits for three months, although one is entitled to remain on the unemployment rolls. Here is Section 3 paragraph 1 letter c) of Act No. 111/2006 Coll., on aid to those in material distress: "(1) Unless this law states otherwise, a person in material distress is not a person who [...] b) is listed on the rolls of job-seekers and who, without serious reasons, has refused to perform short-term employment or to participate in a targeted program for addressing employment, and shall not be considered in material distress for three calendar months following the month in which the person made such a refusal."

As far as the amount of welfare goes, that is currently up for consideration, and anybody who, after six months of poverty, does not demonstrate sufficient effort to increase his or her income by working and who is not a second or third-degree invalid (but might have a first-degree disability), who is caring for healthy children under the age of 10 (none of whom has at least first-degree dependency, i.e., a long-term unfavorable state of health), or who is not yet entitled to an old-age pension but who is "just" 68 years of age, must demonstrate his or her effort to work by performing community services while wearing a nice, numbered vest (for an image, see here) and being paid CZK 20 [EUR 0.78] per hour - even though the minimum wage will be CZK 73.20 [EUR 2.87] per hour as of January 2018, and as long as they perform this work for 30 hours a month. So what can the new Labor Minister offer that would be more convincing?

Maybe grocery tokens like we had in the 1930s? The Labor Office has already been offering those as per the amendment to the law on aid to those in material distress as of this very month - instead of money, it is distributing grocery tokens to the long-term poor!

TOKENS according to Section 43 paragraph 5 letter a) of Act No. 11/2006, Coll., on aid to those in material distress:  "Welfare recipients who draw benefits longer than six months out of the preceding 12 will receive their benefit such that at least 35 % and not more than 65 % of the benefit shall be paid in tokens authorizing the purchase of goods at an established value." So, let's look at this again.

What innovation could there possibly be for this new period of administration? How about A BETTER ACTIVE EMPLOYMENT POLICY, based on motivation by means of increasing the income of the impoverished through a proper wage for the APPROPRIATE EMPLOYMENT offered, if the difference between effort and idleness is meant to be distinguished.

Since February 2017, thanks to the unsuccessful reintroduction of community services, the requirement to "work off" welfare benefits has already been in effect, and there is nowhere else to go to reduce benefits if, after falling to the existential minimum of CZK 2 200 [EUR 86] per month, as a consequence of two-thirds of the benefit being disbursed in tokens, a state-recognized "idler" is supposed to survive on CZK 770 [EUR 30] per month. How and whether this is functioning is something the new minister can investigate for herself of when she visits the regions.

ryz, Institute for Social Inclusion, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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