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Study: One in 11 Czechs over 15 faces distraint

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Prague, April 4 (CTK) – One in 11 inhabitants of the Czech Republic aged over 15 faces distraint, while the average debt level is 75,712 crowns, according to a distraint map that its authors, from the Open Society and Ecumenical Academy NGOs, released on Tuesday.

The map shows the situation in Czech regions, districts and municipalities.

The worst situation is in the Most district, north Bohemia, where one-fifth of inhabitants over 15 face distraint proceedings. The highest average due sum that is subject to distraint is in Prague, 116,608 crowns.

There are many causes why people end up in a debt trap, for instance, if their partner dies, they get divorced, lose job or suffer a work-related injury and their income suddenly falls, project coordinator Radek Habl said.

Unpaid debts do not afflict the debtor alone, but they harm the whole society. These people often lose their housing and subsequently also jobs and the state revenues from taxes and other obligatory payments decrease, while expenditures on welfare rise.

A number of creditors do not manage to exact debts.

Highly indebted people often lose motivation to work officially as a major part of their wages goes to the debt payment. This is why they often work on the side. Crime rate has been rising in connection with unpaid debts as well.

The map authors point out that changes in the distraint and debt clearance rules would improve the situation.

“We are one of the countries with the strictest conditions of debt clearance. Western countries went through this many years ago. They found out that it was better to set people free from the debt trap than to keep them there,” Habl said.

According to the Distraint Officers’ Chamber of the Czech Republic, last year, 834,000 people were under distraint in the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million. They faced 4.5 million distraint proceedings in total.

The authors plan to update the map in the future once in three months.

The map shows that the highest share of people who face distraint is in the Usti (north Bohemia) and Karlovy Vary (west Bohemia) regions, while the lowest is in the Vysocina (south Bohemia and Moravia) and Zlin (south Moravia) regions.

The map should primarily serve the municipal authorities that could check the situation of their inhabitants and take measures accordingly, for instance, to introduce debt consultancy.

A survey conducted on 37 debtors from three regions proves that people in need appreciate such personal support.

“Most of them became paralysed. They said the were not able to psychologically deal with distraint and their seemingly inconclusive situation and that they would need accommodating assistance,” Edit Szenassy, head of the research project, said.

Some of the debtors have found aid in non-profit organisations whose workers accompanied them to authorities and helped them fill in forms.

The survey also shows that social housing as well as the creditors’ accommodating stance and agreement on instalments would help improve this situation of the people in destitution who have no money for commercial rent and security.

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