Meet Jana Molková, a single mother who’s been searching for work for the past six months. When her husband left a few years prior, Molková became the sole breadwinner and caretaker of her family, paying the bills and caring for her two sons. Molková used to work a cleaning job at in a local factory. She told the Equal Times, “I lost that job because they wanted me to work longer hours, and I couldn’t do it. I have to collect my son from school, cook the meals, and everything else. It wasn’t possible. So, now we survive somehow.”
Molková’s case should come as no surprise being that, in the Czech Republic, women are twice as likely as men are to be poor. According to a recent study by Social Watch, single-parent families in the Czech Republic are at a higher risk of financial instability because two paychecks are fundamental to comfortably support a family with children. Because the parent in 87% of Czech single-parent households is a woman, the issue is reasonably viewed as female specific. To further illustrate the extent of this issue, the unemployment rate of single mothers is almost twice as high as the unemployment rate of mothers from two-parent households.
Although these single-parent families are at a greater risk of poverty, Social Watch’s report continues to state that these mothers are more engaged in business and the economy than mothers in two-parent homes. Still, the jobs these women take on tend to pay less. Social Watch mentions part-time jobs, reduced salary occupations, and work from home specifically. Single mothers gravitate toward these lower-paying jobs because the work permits them the flexibility they need in order to be present to care for their families.
A portion of the discrepancy between women’s and men’s economic power is attributed to the family roles that women and men take on in the Czech Republic. Director of the Czech Women’s Lobby (a network of women’s rights nonprofits) Hana Stelzerová explains, “Czech women often choose to be at home with the children for a long time and don’t anticipate the negative effect of it. If there’s a problem in the family, women become economically dependent on the men.” The time women spend on the unpaid work in their family units robs them of time they could be spending on building their careers in the workforce. Essentially, it gives men the economic advantage.
In efforts to spark economic change along gender lines, people are looking to the Czech government, which often hesitates to recognize gender inequality. Project coordinator at the Czech gender parity nonprofit Forum 50% Marketa Mottlová says, “There are now two measures that are on the political agenda that could help to address female poverty – social housing and substitute alimony for single parents. The authorities should also adopt concrete measures to close gender pay gap, for example gender audits in public institutions.”
Furthermore, the Czech government recently approved legislation to raise the national minimum wage. Since women are often taking on the lowest paying jobs, this increase has the potential to directly impact their lives and their families.
The Czech Women’s Lobby, Forum 50%, and similar organizations intend to keep pushing for improvements in women’s economic power because, as Mottlová said, “we still have a long way to go.”
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