Social Workers Confront Social Issues but Face Their Challenges in the Czech Republic

Social workers in the Czech Republic are grappling with significantly below-average wages, impacting their quality of life and contributing to high turnover rates in the profession. This poses a considerable challenge for government agencies and non-profit organizations that struggle to attract and retain new talent. Moreover, in regions where social workers are scarce, there is a potential for increased unemployment and crime rates.

According to a study conducted by the “Invisible” project, professional social workers who assist socially and economically disadvantaged groups earn an average monthly salary of around 32,103 Czech korun, approximately 7,500 korun less than similarly educated individuals in other fields.

The study also reveals that nearly 22,500 social workers find themselves in a financially precarious situation. Aleš Rod from the Center for Economic and Market Analysis points out that this issue has been exacerbated in the past year, particularly in major cities with high living costs. Housing, including mortgages and rental properties, has become practically unaffordable for many social workers.

This is not a short-term problem caused solely by inflation but rather a persistent and ongoing situation. Rod, also a member of the National Economic Council, recently presented a consolidation package of tax changes and savings to address this issue alongside government ministers.

Tereza Ševčíková, the head of the Pod křídly Civic Advice Center in Valašské Meziříčí, personally experienced the consequences of low financial compensation. She expressed her frustration, citing instances where supermarket cashiers earned higher starting salaries than experienced social workers with decades of experience. The work carried out by social workers involves highly specialized and complex tasks, such as guiding debt management, executions, rental issues, and social benefits.

Markéta Školoudová, the House of Three Wishes director, disclosed that two employees resigned this year due to low wages. The organization provides essential social, psychological, and educational support to at-risk children and their families, often in collaboration with government bodies and the city of Prague. However, funding shortages and delays have been a persistent challenge. As recently as April, Školoudová was uncertain about how much she would receive to cover employee salaries, resulting in financial strain for the organization.

The absence of sufficient financial resources and low wages in the social work sector makes it increasingly difficult to attract new professionals. Hynek Kalvoda, the Association of Civic Advice Centers chairman, warns that when social field services are absent in a city or region, it can have far-reaching consequences, including increased unemployment rates, higher crime levels, and heightened drug use. Kalvoda highlights that inquiries for assistance with social benefits in civic advice centers have risen by over 90 percent.

In addition to the economic challenges, social workers often face a lack of social recognition and experience psychological strain due to the demanding nature of their work. The “Invisible” project suggests that raising wages for social workers, with possible contributions from municipalities that currently hold significant reserves of approximately 300 billion korun, could alleviate some of these difficulties. Additionally, providing subsidized housing for social workers would help address the housing affordability issue faced by many in the profession.