Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic tops the charts in a number of areas: some are pretty intuitive, others more surprising. Here’s a quick overview of everything Czechs do much better – or worse – than most people in the world.
1. Having a job
No offense, but chances are you’ll be out of work before your Czech friends.
The Czech Republic boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the EU (3.5%), to such an extent that many companies are struggling to find people to fill their open positions. It’s estimated that around 220.000 jobs are just waiting for applicants, an unthinkable situation for many European countries where the unemployment rate remains at staggering highs.
Is it a sign of the Czech economy’s strength and attractiveness? Yes, undoubtedly.
But it’s also the symptom of a deeply rooted skills mismatch. The Czech economy, largely based on low-to-medium skilled manufacturing jobs, fails to attract high-skilled graduates and professionals who prefer to find better-paid opportunities elsewhere. Moreover, structural factors also threaten the labour market’s astounding health (demographic decline, job automation) while the pressure on wages might cripple its attractiveness for foreign companies.
A fair price to pay to keep tomorrow’s talents from leaving, one might argue…
2. Drinking beer
This might be their most famous area of expertise: Czechs are the biggest beer drinkers in the world, with an annual consumption of 140 litres per capita. Seeing as this also includes infants and children, you can easily guess that the average adult actually drinks more than that. Other contenders lag far behind: Poles (98 litres) come in second, followed by Germans (96 litres) and Austrians (95.5 litres). The first non-European country to make the list is the United States, with an honourable score of 75 litres per capita. If you took pride in your abilities to down a beer, now would be a good time to put things in perspective.
As the saying goes, “a fine beer may be judged with only one sip… but it’s better to be thoroughly sure”.
Saying that beer plays an important part in Czech culture and society would be an understatement. In the birthplace of the original Pilsner and Budvar beers, pivo is a national treasure, an authentic art de vivre inherited from centuries-old traditions dating back to the 10th century’s Benedictine monasteries’ first brewing attempts.
If we consider the overall alcohol consumption, however, the worldwide winner is Belarus, with an annual consumption of 17.5 litres per capita. Guess they really like their White Russians. Czechs are ranked 9th (tied with Slovakia), with 13 litres of pure alcohol enthusiastically gulped down every year.
3. Not believing in God
The Czech Republic is often described as the most atheist country in the world, a safe-haven for the unbelievers and heretics of all horizons. Truth be told, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Yes, the Czech Republic stands out as the most secular country in the world. In a recent study focused on youth (16-29 years old), 91% of respondents said they were not affiliated to any church or religious group. All generations included, around 72% of Czechs are unaffiliated, according to a thorough Pew Research Center paper: 29% say they believe in God (compared to 86% in Poland and 59% in Hungary), while nearly 80% of parents raise their children in a religious-free environment.
But depicting them as hard-core atheists would be a misguided assumption.
Only 25% of Czechs present themselves as such. The relationship of the descendants of Jan Hus with religion is somewhat more complex. Although most of them don’t believe in God and never go to church, they’re neither indifferent to these questions – more Czechs believe in the soul or in fate than in God, for instance, and many of them adhere to alternative forms of belief – nor aggressively anti-clerical – a vast majority of the population acknowledges that religious institutions have a role to play in society, towards marginalized people for example.
We should also add that it’s erroneous to blame the country’s communist past for its lack of religious belief. Just have a look at the map below… All scholars agree that the roots for Czechs’ “atheism” were there long before Czechoslovakia fell under communist rule.
4. Being educated… up to a certain point
According to OECD figures, the Czech Republic’s adult population is the most educated among developed economies. Well, kind of. Simply put, 93% of the working-age population has completed at least an upper-secondary education. This is higher than all other OECD countries, where the average secondary education attainment rate is almost 20 percentage points lower (75%).
Looking at the big picture, the situation is more nuanced and less cause for celebration: for 60% of 25-34 year-old Czechs, upper-secondary education is their highest level of education – which also happens to be the highest rate in the OECD (see graph below). Therefore, Czechs fare much worse when we consider tertiary education, with an attainment rate of 30%, compared to an OECD average of over 40%.
5. Paying women less than men
This article, sadly, ends on a sour note. The Czech Republic has one of the most important gender wage gaps among developed economies (22%), only outranked by Estonia (around 25%). This pay inequality is especially strong in the finance and insurance sector (40% wage gap) and for information and communications jobs (33%). Moreover, if the gap stands at less than 14% for young adults (25-34 years old), it increases two-folds (27.4%) for the 35-44 age group.
So what’s at stake? You guessed it: babies.
It’s no coincidence that both Estonia and the Czech Republic, apart from having the biggest wage gaps, are also the countries with the most generous parental leaves in Europe. Which would be perfectly all right if it was shared equally by moms and dads. Except it’s not. The Czech policy allows a 28-week maternity leave followed by a parental leave available until the new-born child reaches the age of three.
Even though these entitlements can theoretically be used by both parents, women are usually the ones who put their career on hold: the employment rate of fathers with children under 6 stands at 94% (UE average of 88%), while less than half of mothers in the same situation are employed (UE average of 61%). The graph below shows how much having children factors into the gender employment gap: while it’s almost equal to zero between men and women without children, it reaches more than 30% for parents.
A new measure, which came into effect last February and entitles new fathers to a 7-day paternity leave, is part of the government’s plan to curb this trend and ensure a more equally-balanced childcare policy.
This list is far from being exhaustive. For the sake of clarity, we had to select the areas which seemed the most illustrative and relevant, but Czechs are ranked #1 in a number of other areas: any ideas which ones?