Returning to work after maternity leave is difficult, the state has failed, says Eva Zamrazilová, chairwoman of the National Budget Council

Source: with the consent of ÚNRR, photo: Tomáš Nosil Economia

Eva Zamrazilová has chaired the National Budget Council since 2018. In the past, she served as a member of the Bank Board of the Czech National Bank, Chief Economist of the Czech Banking Association and macroeconomic analyst of Komerční banka. In 2021, she ranked at the top of Forbes magazine’s list of the most influential women.

What was your career path as chair of the National Budget Council? Have you ever considered performing such a post?

While working at the Czech National Bank, I attended a number of professional seminars organized in connection with the preparation of the law on budgetary responsibility rules. Even later, when I worked as the chief economist of the Czech Banking Association, I was interested in the issue of the long-term sustainability of public finances, after all, it is about the future of us all. However, it never occurred to me that I could perform this post.

How did you get a job at the CNB?

After graduating, I started working at the University of Economics and then accepted a research position at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences. Since 1994, I have worked as a macroeconomic analyst in the team of Chief Economist of Komerční banka. During this period, I raised three children and also began attending seminars at the Václav Klaus Institute, which I was probably so interested in that he appointed me to the CNB Bank Board in 2008.

You talked about children. How do you manage to balance your time with family and professional life? Is it working at all?

Probably every woman will tell you that reconciling family and work life is not easy. My children are now adults, so the balance is currently shifting in favor of working life. However, especially at a time when they were still young, my family came first, which meant part-time work. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to balance it evenly, you always have to take it somewhere. You can’t be one hundred percent in everything.

Source: pwith the consent of ÚNRR, photo: Honza Mudra, Economia

Can you take a break from work?

Although I enjoy this job, I will not lie that it is not demanding. I always cleaned my head best with sports. Although I had to limit some sports at a young age – people would probably think I was crazy to meet me on inlines. But I still go swimming and I like to take long walks with my dog.

What do you think it means to be one of the most influential women in the Czech Republic? What does this mean for you?

For me personally, it doesn’t change anything, I just feel more responsible for how and where I act and what I say there. My position also includes representing the Council and the Office externally, ie communication, whether with government representatives, legislators or the media. So I cannot afford to say unbalanced and ill-considered things that can lead to misleading considerations. I’ll tell you an example – even if I wasn’t a fan of vaccination, which I am, but even if I wasn’t, I would never dare say it to the media. I know that what I say can affect many people, so I try to approach my function and what I say in public with humility.

In your opinion and your experience, what difficulties do women face in working life?

The biggest obstacle in women’s working life is maternity, resp. parental leave. Babysitting is very financially demanding and the state has completely failed to support mothers who would like to work, but whether for organizational or financial reasons. In the end, it pays off for women who have very high salaries, or for women like me who have taken it as an investment in the future. I went to work part-time and paid for babysitting quite often, and I spent almost 5 years on that. But I suspected that if I stayed at home for those 5 years, I would find it difficult to return to the work process. And it wasn’t fun after a year. Everything is accelerating. Technologies and processes are changing rapidly. From this point of view, long maternity, and therefore parental, leave is actually a trap for women.

Source: with the consent of ÚNRR, photo: Tomáš Nosil Economia

What could the state or companies do to improve the situation?

The situation is slowly moving forward, but we still have the smallest share of women working part-time, perhaps across the EU. Unfortunately, the situation is better due to the pandemic, when managers are beginning to realize that they cannot evaluate employees on the basis that they sit for eight or even more hours at work or at home. This is especially true of male managers, who are not used to switching not only between projects but also between people who are and are not at work with them. Women have better abilities. Technically, this is called multitasking. For me as a manager, it is not a problem if employees work from work or from home, whether I discuss face to face, or whether we share screens and discuss details online. I try to cater to everyone, because people are different. Some are afraid of illness, have small children or commute from afar. I have noticed that if they work from home, they are more comfortable and their work performance will increase. A quality manager must be able to recognize and reconcile this.

What do you think about fashion and style? Do you have a favorite designer or brand?

I’ve always been interested in fashion. I’ve always enjoyed shopping. I have two daughters who are the same in this, and we enjoy it when we go shopping together. When you say fashion, it means a quality thing for me that makes you look good. For a long time I try not to be subject to what is worn, but I buy what I look a little good at. Some cuts and news just don’t fit you. Certain “inventive elements” can disgust me the whole model. I am very conservative in this regard.

Do you have a favorite brand that meets these rather conservative attributes?

I used to travel a lot and I liked the Cinque brand, for example, which is very well sold in Germany or Austria, but has only one store with a very limited offer in Prague.

Are you inspired by the clothes of any of the influential women in history?

Of course I like Cocco Chanel, but she had completely different proportions than me. Her classic costumes are unbearable for me, but I admire this style. Another icon for me is Audrey Hepburn.

Why do I ask. When I focus on your outfit, you often wear pearls, so I thought that you may also be inspired by the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in terms of conservative dress.

These pearls have a story. I received them from my son’s ex-girlfriend in 2008. She brought me two pearl necklaces from India and I have been changing them for the last 13 years. One is shorter and the other longer. In my opinion, pearls are a classic that can’t be looked at. I only need to add earrings to them once every few years, but it takes more time to choose. Otherwise, I don’t need to change jewelry. I’m just a conservative. I have the same with handbags. I have about 3 of them from Michael Kors, but I usually wear one for a long time, because if I changed them, my things would be lost (laughs).

Source: with the consent of ÚNRR, photo: Tomáš Nosil, Economia

What exactly is the role of the chairwoman of the UNMR and the office itself?

The role has several levels. On the one hand, it is a communication role. In this, I consider the media to be a key channel of our work. Expertise is fundamental, but if we want public finances to be sustainable in the long run, we must inform the public about their state of affairs. The voter is the one who decides what will happen to our money that we hand over to the state in taxes. If the public does not understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, what we are saying and why we are saying it, then it is wrong and we have not worked it out. The media can help us in this. In 4 years I have mostly good experience with the media. Then there is the professional role where I participate in the preparation of studies. Last but not least, there is a managerial role. In 2018, we built the ÚNNR practically from scratch with minimal support from the public administration. Now it’s important for me to move it forward.

In your opinion, is the voter sufficiently educated and does he have enough insight in a confusing time to be able to make a responsible decision?

Usually not. When I started working for the CNB, I advocated that financial education in all age categories be expanded. At that time, for example, we sent financial literacy textbooks to schools and organized seminars for teachers on how to teach according to these textbooks. I dealt very often with staff from the Ministry of Education, because I was sad to see the cumbersomeness of the school curriculum and the reluctance to change anything. Financial literacy is now a compulsory curriculum, so hopefully young people will be financially more literate. Moreover, the moment one understands the principles of domestic budgeting, there is only a small step left to understand the functioning of the state budget. Institutions and households work very similarly – they have certain incomes and expenses. One then realizes that even the state cannot get into debt indefinitely. Therefore, we cannot resign ourselves to the educational role. Economic theory speaks of the problem of the median voter – the larger the share of non-working seniors in the entire population, the higher their pressure on pension growth may be. If these people do not care enough about the future of their children and grandchildren, there will be a big problem with the national debt in the future.

Source: with the consent of ÚNRR, photo: Tomáš Nosil, Economia

Did the functioning of the office change during the Covidu-19 pandemic?

We have always been one step ahead of the measures. Very soon we set up hygiene measures and a more flexible regime, including a home office. In my opinion, however, a full home office is not a long-term sustainable solution, personal contact is irreplaceable, people have to meet at least occasionally.

Where is the Czech economy at the moment and how has the pandemic changed us?

In the corporate sector today, Czech companies have only a half share in the total gross value added, or product in the corporate sphere. People often do not realize that our prosperity is largely derived from the prosperity of foreign companies that are beyond our control. Our ability to influence the economic situation has thus rather decreased in the last few years. We depend on exports, ie foreign demand and on the strategic decisions of the managers of the parent companies regarding the operation of their daughters operating in the Czech Republic. The further development of the economy will strongly depend on the development of European economies, especially Germany. On the domestic scene, let’s hope that the CNB manages to curb inflation.

Of course, the UNSR takes care of the budget in the first place. This topic is widely discussed in the context of the planned deficit and the arrival of a new government. What is the current situation?

The new government will not have it easy. She converted all the money that came into the hands of the government in good times into a social expenditure, she did not create reserves. With the advent of COVID, revenue suddenly dropped, but spending remained. But I believe that the new government will be able to consolidate public finances. At least not enough to run into the so-called debt brake. This is due to extensive measures to “strangle” the economy. I also believe that the new government will work on pension reform. In the 1930s, the retirement of the strong 70s awaits us. The Czech population is generally aging, which is good news, because this demographic change is due to the country’s maturity. People have a better environment, a better diet and excellent health care at the highest level, which is why they are living to an ever-increasing age. At present, there are three working citizens per citizen in the post-productive age – from the 1930s, this ratio begins to change relatively quickly, falling to two and a half, and later below two. This will be a major challenge for the Czech economy. The financial burden must be evenly distributed so that it does not hit your generation and your peers.

Source: MODA.CZ – Pánská móda, dámská móda a vše ze světa módy by

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