Three decades on from Czechoslovakia's split, Czechia sees more prosperity

While the living standards improved in both countries since 1993, Czechia's economy grew at a faster pace.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 02.01.2023 13:30:00 (updated on 02.01.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czechia and Slovakia marked on Jan. 1 exactly 30 years since the so-called “Velvet Divorce,” which saw Czechoslovakia break up into two separate states. Although the difference in living standards has narrowed between Czechia and Slovakia, the former outscores the latter in economic terms.

Stronger finances for the Czech Republic

Last year, Czechia’s GDP was 92 percent of the EU average, whereas that of Slovakia was 69 percent, Novinky.cz writes. The gap had been wider in 1995, when the difference stood at over 30 percentage points. Slovakia’s adoption of the euro in 2009 helped bridge the difference to 6 percentage points in 2012, but Czechia’s economic growth has since outpaced Slovakia’s.

In terms of salary, Czechs also enjoy better pay. The average monthly gross wage in the Czech Republic last year was almost CZK 40,000, compared with EUR 1,300 (about CZK 31,000) in Slovakia. Salaries in Czechia have risen significantly in the 21st century: the average monthly salary in 2000 was just CZK 13,219 (the equivalent of CZK 24,000 today when adjusted for inflation). 

Czechia and Slovakia: A brief comparison

  • In the 2022 Human Development Index, Czechia ranks 32nd and Slovakia 45th.
  • Average public debt is 42 percent in Czechia and 63 percent in Slovakia.
  • Annual household net-adjusted disposable income per capita was about CZK 602,982 in 2021. In Slovakia, this figure was about CZK 478,580.
  • Average life expectancy at birth in Czechia is now 77.4 years, in Slovakia it is 74.8.
  • In a 2021 ranking of the world's major economies, Czechia is ranked 47th and Slovakia 59th.

    Sources: OECD Better Life Index, Trading Economics, WorldData, and Human Development Reports

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

Unemployment has historically also been lower in Czechia than in Slovakia. Currently boasting the lowest unemployment rate in the EU, the Czech Republic managed to bring down its joblessness rate from a high of almost 10 percent in 2004 to the current figure of 3.5 percent. Slovakia at present has a respectable unemployment rate of 6 percent, but had previously registered levels of around 20 percent in the early 2000s.

Historian Michal Stehlík writes in Seznam Zprávy that both countries have faced populist waves, evidenced by former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government last decade and that of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who was in power from 2017 to 2021. He also alludes to the fact that the government of former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar constrained Slovakia’s relations with the West, with Czechia joining NATO five years before Slovakia.

Mixed feelings about the split

At the time of dissolution, public opinion had generally been against separation. An opinion poll from December 1992 shows that just 36 percent of Czechs and 37 percent of Slovaks favored the break-up: a decision (labeled by a major Slovak newspaper today as fueled by "national passions") that was taken without a public referendum. Czechs and Slovaks generally evaluate the split more positively today, but the dissolution is seen more favorably by Slovaks.

An opinion poll from December 2022 shows that 47 percent of Czechs saw Czechoslovakia’s break-up as the right move, compared with 62 percent of Slovaks. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said earlier this year that the division was the “right decision” and an “inevitable step,” claiming that a common state would “only cause more tension and disagreements,” ČTK writes.

Former Prime Minister of Czechia Václav Klaus, credited with spearheading the dissolution, continues to affirm that it was the “best solution,” Aktualne.cz reports.

Buildings in Prague such as the Rudolfinum lit up in the colors of the Czech flag yesterday to commemorate the formation of the new Czech Republic. A dinner will take place this evening between former prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger. Fiala is also due to deliver a speech on the 30th anniversary of the dissolution later this afternoon.

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