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The Richest of the Semi-Rich: The Slovak Middle Class

Though Slovaks’ living standards are improving, their financial planning lags behind, with most opting for property ownership but not for any additional investments.

9 November 2018

Slovakia’s middle class owns more wealth than their counterparts in any of the other 35 mostly high-income countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to The Slovak Spectator, citing the daily Hospodarske noviny.

 

The lower 60 percent of the population owns one quarter of the country’s “wealth.”  

 

Although in Slovakia the average income is $20,265 a year, lower than the OECD average of $30,563, more than two-thirds of households own property, and do not have a mortgage. The Slovak Spectator writes that this is largely a result of Slovaks’ reluctance to invest in financial assets, preferring to put their money into real estate instead.

 

In contrast to the U.S., where the stock market greatly contributes to the fortune of the wealthiest, in Slovakia, financial assets make up close to zero percent of wealth. A large part of the Slovak skepticism about investing in financial assets can be tied to the failures of post-communist privatization, writes The Slovak Spectator. In the early 90s, many of those who bought shares in companies saw them vanish in the corruption and chaos of that era.

 

Another factor is that rental housing is unpopular in Slovakia, and the rental apartments that are built are intended mostly for social housing. Private investors have shown little interest in rental communities, undoubtedly a result of the preference of Slovaks to buy instead of rent. Even developers are solely interested in selling newly built properties as soon as possible instead of considering the possibility of renting, as the return is “not effective,” The Slovak Spectator writes in a different article, citing Daniela Danihel Razova, director of the real estate agency Bond Reality and head of Slovakia’s Association of Real Estate Brokers.

 

A 2017 OECD economic survey of Slovakia noted that the “economy continues to perform extremely well both in terms of macroeconomic outcomes and public finances,” with an average GDP growth exceeding 3.5 percent in 2015 and 2016, stable prices, and unemployment below 10 percent, the lowest it has been in seven years. Still, the survey reads, “the benefits of growth have not been equitably shared,” noting the weak integration of the Roma minority in society, and the shortcomings of the education system, which does not adequately prepare graduates for the labor market. The latter contributes to the high rate of long-term unemployment, despite the strong labor market.

 

“The Slovak economy has been one of the most dynamic and competitive in the OECD for many years, and this performance is expected to continue. Despite the impressive achievements in creating jobs, maintaining low levels of poverty and improving environmental protection, challenges persist. There is still much that can be done to ensure a more sustainable and inclusive society for future generations, notably by improving educational outcomes and skills and boosting quality and efficiency of health care services,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said at the presentation of the study in 2017.  

 

 

  • In an article published in September, Business Insider wrote that “in most cases, stocks have outperformed housing prices over the decades,” using data from the last 27 years.

 

  • OECD research has also shown that 33 percent of all jobs in Slovakia are considered highly automatable – or having a 70 percent or more chance of being automated, placing the country first in the high-risk category regarding a potential robot job revolution, according to Fortune.

 

  • The Slovak Republic is one of the countries that signed the convention creating the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development in 2000, and has a permanent delegation of ambassadors and diplomats to the organization.

Compiled by Orsolya Liddiard

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