Czech women on the labor market

28-02-2001

"A 1991 employment law bans discrimination on the basis of sex; however, in practice employers have remained free to consider sex, age, or even attractiveness when making hiring decisions." That statement refers to the Czech Republic and is taken from a report on human rights in the Czech Republic published by the US State Department earlier this week. Olga Szantova reports.

Yes, the State Department report deals with human rights in the Czech Republic in the year 2000, and although it is more favorable than the report for 1999, it highlights some shortcomings, including the rights of women - for instance, sexual harassment. Nearly fifty percent of working women have been subjected to sexual harassment at work and the issue is only gradually receiving attention, the American report states. Women apparently just don't complain. And this also affects their other rights. Zdenka Hajna, who heads the largest Czech women's organization, says the main problem is a lack of self confidence amongst women.

As a result women, who represent fifty percent of the work force, have, on average, salaries 20 percent lower than men. That's not because they are entitled to less, but because they ask for less than men when being hired. But, above all, with very few exceptions, they rarely get well-paid, upper management jobs. A recent survey shows that women simply don't apply for these jobs, because they believe their main role is at home with the family. Czech women refuse promotion opportunities if they threaten the family and their time at home. While the law bans sexual discrimination when hiring workers, a woman is always asked if she has children, and if not, when she intends to have them - as it is a given that she would stay home with them if they fell ill. But what is worse, women don't object to such questioning, even though it's illegal. Women's organizations are fully aware of this problem.
But, while Czech women's self confidence certainly needs boosting, Czech men, too, need to change. According to a survey published on Tuesday, fifty percent of Czech men do not want their wives to gain a higher education, a better job, or a higher salary than they themselves have.

28-02-2001