Work-Life Balance Options in the Czech Republic in the View of Statistics
At a press conference on June 2nd, 2011, the Czech Statistical Office and the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic co-presented the results of a study titled Work-Life Balance in the Czech Republic. The study includes both "hard facts", derived from statistics of the years 2002 through 2010, and qualitative data from interviews with women on parental leave conducted by Lenka Formánková of the Institute of Sociology.
The study shows that the economic activity of Czech parents is determined by the age of their youngest child. Up to the age of three, Czech families follow the traditional model. In 80% of families with children under three, the father works and the mother stays at home and looks after the children. In families with children three to five years old, only 40% continue with this model while in 55% of families both parents work for pay. Both parents work in 80% of Czech families with children 6 to 14 years of age and in 10% of Czech families with children in this age category, women are homemakers.
The availability of flexible or part-time work options affects how well families, particularly families with children up to 6 years old, can manage to find a work-life balance. In 2010 in the Czech Republic, only 6.6 % of the working population worked part-time. This proportion has remained more or less the same in the last ten years. Such alternative work arrangements are typically utilized by mothers of small children under two years old, although women with small children usually do not work for pay in the Czech Republic. Among mothers of children up to 14 years old, alternative employment options are much less common. Similarly, employers tend to be most flexible with young women with children under five. Finally, women make up the absolute majority of workers with alternative work arrangements. In the last ten years, men have used them so rarely that the proportion of men is statistically insignificant in regard to part-time or flexible work.
Overall, the rate of economic activity among women on parental leave is low. The factors behind this pattern are the lack of flexible employment options, the fact that it is not possible to receive parental benefits on a part-time leave and traditional notions about the essential role of mothers in child raising. In the Czech Republic, it is widely believed that mothers should stay at home with their children for as long as possible. On the other hand, research by the Institute of Sociology indicates that many women would like to go back to work before their children reach the age of three. They mentioned several reasons: they need the money, they would like to continue career growth and they would appreciate the company of their adult colleagues again. Employees who stay in contact with their colleagues in the course of parental leave can return to their jobs relatively easily. Their employers, on the other hand, win by having the staff quickly resume their old jobs. In other words, offering part-time employment options contributes to staff retention.
In terms of statistics on flexible employment, the Czech Republic falls far behind northern and western European countries. 75% women work part-time in Netherlands and about 40% of women do so in Scandinavia, Germany and Austria.
Families with small children are not the only ones who need to balance life and work. People who take care of dependent family members have similar needs. In the Czech Republic, these are typically women 30 to 39 years old, making up 36% of caregivers. The demographic most in need of care are children over 15 and people who are ill or elderly.
68% of families with children between three and five use the services of child care providers (nurseries, kindergarten, after-school programs, commercial caregivers). This trend corresponds with the statistic that most mothers with children under three stay at home. Only 10% of families with small children (three to five) use institutional childcare services. The study also suggests that the supply of professional childcare services is insufficient in the Czech Republic, which affects the low rates of economic activity among mothers. According to the study, 11.5% of women feel there is a lack of programs for children up to two years old and 6.2% of women the same for children three to five.
Contrast of Slovakia and Czech Republic
The statistics on care for children or other dependent (ill, elderly) family members in Slovakia are similar to Czech figures. However, differences can be found in regard to work organization patterns among mothers with small children. In Slovakia, only 2.7% people work in flexible work arrangements (10% in the Czech Republic). In the Czech Republic, people also officially take a day off work for family reasons more frequently than in Slovakia. In Slovakia, only 17% of the population were able to take advantage of this benefit, in contrast to 45% of people in the Czech Republic.
In the Czech Republic, an entire third of the population 15 to 64 years of age look after children or other family members. Since 2004, the fertility rate has grown from 1.2 to 1.5 children per woman. Aging of the population is an important demographic factor. Life expectancy is longer and people have children later than they used to, often because they wish to complete their education. Finally, more and more young people in their productive age are single.
People living longer will require more care both by family members and by institutions. While care is currently provided predominantly by family members or friends in their younger and middle productive age (30 to 49) and their children, many of these caregivers have indicated interest in professional care services and their demand is only going to grow.