Publication details

ESPN Thematic Report on access to essential services for low-income people [Czech Republic] (ESPN)



Year of publication 2020
Description In the Czech Republic, the concept of essential services is not part of the policies to fight social exclusion. There is neither a national definition of essential services, nora universal definition of “low-income people”in the context of access to services. Currently, the only special case ishousing, as described below.Access to water, energyand sanitationis partly addressed under a more general category of services –housing. There are two different (means-tested) cash benefits that, at least formally, include costs of water supply, sanitation and energy up to the limit of “approved housing costs”. The Czech Republicuses different measures in order to ensure and regulate access to certain goods and services (including most of the essential services). General price regulation is implemented in specific cases. Some of the essential services are indirectly supported through cash housing benefits. Reduced rates are applied to some services (such as public transport) for specific groups of people (typically elderly people, children and students).However, social aspects are not identified as a reason for applying price regulation. As concerns the commodities and services underinvestigationhere, regulatory authorities regulate the prices of water, transport, energy and digital communications. There are no ongoing or announced reforms regarding measures aimed at enhancing effective access to the six essential services under scrutiny for low-income people. The concept of essential services is included in neither the Social Inclusion Strategy 2014–2020 nor the newly proposed Social Inclusion Strategy up to 2030. Data are not collected and nor are any studies available in the Czech Republic on access to particular services for low-income people. We can, however, provide some evidence –with the use of a special EUStatistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC)2012 module and our own computations based on recent data –that low-income people do face barriers in access to these services.To provide a specific illustration, data from EU-SILC 2018 indicate that (when using the EU at-risk-of-poverty threshold) 11.2% of poor households cannot afford to pay for the internet, 8.6% cannot afford to pay for water and wastewaterdisposal, 8.2% cannot afford to heat their homes adequately and 5.6% cannot afford to pay for heating at all. Next, access to banking services isvery difficult for 15.4% of poor households;access to postal services is very difficult for 14.4% of poor households;and access to public transport is very difficult for 12.7% of poor households.To sum up, accesstothe essential services in focus is aproblem for a certain proportion of people at risk of poverty in the Czech Republic for reasons of affordability. A general neglect of measures that would facilitate access to the essential services for low-income people represents a significant policy deficit that contributesto this unfavourable situation.

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