Filip Šimandl, a representative of Czechia’s endangered class

25-09-2019

An in-depth survey commissioned by Czech Radio suggests that Czech society is divided into six social classes that differ in terms of resources and status. The study defines two types of upper middle class, the wealthy and emerging cosmopolitan, three types of lower middle class and an impoverished class. Czech Radio found a typical representative of each social class. Gardener and clinic administrator Filip Šimandl is a member of the endangered class.

Filip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech RadioFilip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio Filip Šimandl was just in the middle of cutting a hedge when Czech Radio caught up with him. Freelance gardening is a vital supplement for the 42-year-old divorcee, whose main employment is a part-time position as an administrator at a clinic.

“The times of my job shifts are firmly set. During my free days I do the gardening job. I wouldn’t be able to just have one part-time job like the one I have at the clinic now. I would not be able to make it.”

Although no longer living with his wife, Mr. Šimandl is still bound by the obligation to pay off the mortgage they took for their flat and the shared guardianship over their two children. The recent divorce means that it may have to be sold, because neither of them is able to pay the other off.

Filip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech RadioFilip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio His problems are typical for the group which a recent Czech Radio survey identified as the endangered class, who make up more than a fifth of the population.

People in this group often have the necessary education base to earn a reasonable income and accumulate property, but they are hindered by low economic capital, frequent cases of divorce and unfavourable circumstances on the job market.

Nearly a third of the endangered class is made up of women, often single mothers. However, sociologists say that a wide range of individuals fits into this group.

It can include divorcees just scraping by, like Mr. Šimandl, or pensioners who have to look for part time employment in order to pay for their medication.

Because of the low income combined with costs relating phenomena such as divorce or mortgages, a single unexpected bump on the road can lead to members of this group being struck by job loss, long term unemployment and property seizure.

As for Mr. Šimandl, he says that for him no such threat is currently looming on the horizon.

“Right now I still have resources. I have work, I do earn something and I have also always kept a healthy reserve in my bank account, so I could access that if there was a sudden need.”

Filip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech RadioFilip Šimandl, photo: Khalil Baalbaki / Czech Radio One pleasure in the life of Mr. Šimandl is his guitar, which he sometimes plays when out with friends.

A web of social contacts is quite common among members of the endangered class, many of whom have acquaintances in high positions and friends to turn to when they need help.

However, sociologists say that the endangered are the country’s forgotten class, which does not profit from the effects of globalisation and digitalisation, nor is it likely to accustom itself well to upcoming social and technological trends.

25-09-2019