Czechs support for a universal basic income among the lowest in the EU

A petition to urge the European Union to establish mandatory basic income garnered less than a third of the signatures it needed.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 09.08.2022 13:23:00 (updated on 09.08.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The idea of unconditional basic income proved to have very little support in the Czech Republic. A petition aimed at establishing free monthly payments to people across the European Union gathered only 719 signatures from Czechs in two years. The petition is now closed and was declared a failure as of the end of July.

For the petition by the European Citizens’ Initiative to have been successful, it would have needed a total of 1 million signatures from at least seven countries across the EU, and in the end, it had only 296,365, less than a third of what was needed.

The idea of unconditional basic income, also called universal basic income (UBI), was popular in Spain, Slovenia, Italy, and Germany, where the number of signatures exceeded 100 percent of the target set by the European Citizens’ Initiative. In the Czech Republic, the number of signatures was only 4.86 percent of the target of 14,805. The only EU member with a lower level of interest was Malta, at 4.85 percent of the target of 4,230.

Ronald Blaschke, one of the people behind the European Citizens’ Initiative petition, said UBI would help to eliminate poverty and social exclusion, minimize social division, and increase the health and well-being of citizens.

Jiří Mertl from the Faculty of Arts of the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň told daily Deník that UBI would also contribute to reducing crime, as the vast majority of crimes are economic, such as theft or fraud. And released convicts wind up in a cycle of economic crime, as they have a hard time getting a job after they complete their sentence.

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

Under the plan, the amount of money that people would get each month would be equal to about half of the median income of the country where the adult person lives. In the Czech Republic, this would have been about CZK 16,000. According to the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ), the median wage in the first quarter of 2022 was CZK 31,923.

Unlike other forms of social benefits, there is no means test. People do not need to show a special need such as a disability. The money would go to every adult on a monthly basis.

The idea was first brought to attention in the Czech Republic in 2007 with the book “Universal basic income: The right to laziness or to survive?” (Všeobecný základní příjem. Právo na lenost, nebo na přežití?) by Martin Brabec, Marek Hrubec, Philippe van Parijs. The book explored the concept from several points of view but had little impact. It is currently out of print but can be downloaded, in Czech, as an e-book.

On the current Czech political scene, the idea has been supported by the Pirates. In March 2021 they floated the idea of a monthly CZK 5,000 payment and proposed paying for it by closing tax loopholes, improving tax collection, stopping companies from using tax havens, and other changes.

In July, the Pirates said the idea was no longer part of their policy due to the current economic climate and the energy crisis.

There have been several pilot projects to test UBI, but they have been limited in scope. Spain had one of the most extensive, implemented in 2020 in response to Covid, but it only reached 2 percent of the population. Germany and Wales also had limited projects.

The most extensive long-term project has been in the U.S. state of Alaska, where most state residents receive around $2,000 a year from the state’s oil income. The amount of money is not enough to cover basic expenses, though, so it is not considered UBI in the true sense.

Currently, the majority of Czechs are able to make ends meet with their salaries. A survey by the Public Opinion Research Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CVVM) conducted between May and July found that 53 percent of Czech households find their incomes sufficient. Pensioners, manual laborers, and housewives were most likely to be in a more difficult economic situation.

Almost three-quarters of households with monthly incomes below CZK 20,000 state that they are barely getting by. About one-third of households with incomes above CZK 40,000 a month also said they face financial problems.

Over 90 percent, though, stated that their household incomes are enough to cover their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and ordinary household supplies. A similar amount of people have no problem with their expenses on health care and medicines. A majority of the respondents also said their incomes are enough to cover their hobbies, high-quality groceries, and savings.  

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more