Planned Lowered Welfare Benefits May Harm Unemployed Roma in Czech Republic

According to a report by Radio Prague on July 20, 2005, the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs introduced a bill to lower social benefits for the unemployed by lowering the subsistence level. Until recently, the subsistence level was composed of two elements: expenditures made in connection with the needs of the person (such as food, clothing etc.) and expenditures to sustain the household (housing included). The new scheme will consist of only one element as the amount paid in connection with maintaining the household will be removed. Through this change, the Czech government reportedly seeks to stimulate active pursuit of employment amongst those relying on social benefits. The bill also decreases financial aid to large families in hopes of reducing dependency upon children for income. Several Romani organisations have protested the proposal as being racist and discriminatory against Roma who, in many cases, experience greater difficulty finding work. Similar changes made to the social welfare system in Slovakia in 2004 have had adverse impacts on the Romani population and led to social unrest. (ERRC, Radio Prague) According to a December 21, 2005 news announcement posted on the website of the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the bill has passed in Parliament and is being reviewed by the Senate. Should the bill pass in the Senate, it will take effect January 1, 2001.

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