The Czech state is failing on several fronts but only has itself to blame

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Czech politicians are racing to solve the pension crisis and the declining situation regarding a lack of school places, which has seen some children offered a place at educational facilities more than 80 kilometers from their homes.

But these issues have only arisen due to a sustainable period of complacency by those in office. The authorities were caught off guard by the huge interest in early retirement, which has been fueled by the Ministry of Labor itself, and thousands of people are now waiting in vain for their pensions.

Similarly, politicians have been surprised by the number of angry parents with frustrated children due to a lack of places in primary and secondary schools, which the state should have seen coming. The state has failed in regard to problems it has known about for a long time.

Over 18,000 retirees have been waiting for their pensions for months, and they now risk losing both their income and health insurance.

How did this problem arise?

Last year, the Department of Labor surprisingly sparked unprecedented interest in early retirement when it told people they would get thousands more and wouldn’t even have to stop working immediately. It prompted thousands of middle-aged workers to request a recalculation of their pensions, with more than 120,000 applications for early retirement recorded in the last quarter of 2022.

According to the government, one of the stumbling blocks is the lack of digitization – the current pension processing system is 40 years old and only a small group of employees can operate it. A system upgrade is reportedly in the works; however, this will not be fully functional for 10 years.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has apologized to the waiting pensioners, but it is difficult to quickly solve problems that arose several years or decades ago. The current crisis has exposed the dismal state of affairs, which until now has been overlooked or postponed. The state has been able to calculate for decades that the pension system is heading for problems, but any changes implemented have always failed.

The current school crisis is similar. The conflict between the government and parents, which has now turned school capacity into a significant political issue, was known at least 15 years in advance. Available places are a problem at all levels of education, and students today only have a chance to enter a capacity-ready system at universities.

Unfortunately, any real solution is years away. Significant relief for secondary schools is expected next year thanks to the digitization of the admission procedure, which currently relies on a rather confusing system of announcing second rounds and filing appeals that overlap. This only once again highlights a long-neglected system, which is behind the considerable frustration of children and parents.

For elementary schools, local mayors often explain the lack of capacity by saying that there was spontaneous housing construction, with population growth exceeding estimates, without thinking about the construction of kindergartens or schools.

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